(2 Corinthians 9: 1-15)
While Teresa was in Texas last August she celebrated another birthday. She was down visiting her family and took our grandchildren along so they could spend time with their great-grandmother. As part of the vacation experience they all went to spend several days in Galveston. Peder knew it was Teresa’s birthday and he wanted to get her something with his own money. Teresa’s fear was that he would spend too much on her. His aunt accompanied him just to supervise and help out with any choices. Not necessary as he had a few things in mind and, I guess, he wanted to show his appreciation to his grandmother for all she has done for him during his first ten years. Nevertheless, he found what he was looking for and purchased not only a very nice Yeti drink tumbler but also a very nice purse. Yes, he did spend an appreciable amount on these two gifts not only for a ten-year-old boy, but also for a 66 year-old grandfather. But the point is, he was extremely thankful for all Teresa has done for him and he was happy to give her a gift, not because he had to, but because he loved her.
Thankful giving is what the Apostle Paul is talking about in his letter to the church in Corinth. In the previous chapter, chapter 8, he talked to them about the generosity of the churches in Macedonia. The churches in Macedonia were pretty poor yet, Paul points out, they gave more than they could afford for a struggling church and begged for the chance to give even more. Paul took the opportunity to remind them of a pledge they had previously made to support the struggling church in Jerusalem and that he was sending some men to collect the gift. He probably mentions this to avoid any embarrassment to the parties when they arrive, should the Corinthians forget about their pledge. He’s pumped up the Corinthian church to the men from Macedonia and doesn’t want a failure to come through to reflect badly upon him and the mission work he’s done in Corinth.
In any event, Paul starts out by saying it’s really unnecessary for him to write them about their service to and for God’s people as he is well aware of their willingness to help and that their enthusiasm has motivated the people of Macedonia to also step up and help above and beyond their capacity. To me, it’s almost like he’s apologizing for having to write this letter. You can almost sense the awkwardness in his words. Again, I’m sure he just wants to save everyone some embarrassment. Asking for money, for many pastors, is probably one of the more difficult parts of the job. It’s like, “Oh, oh, here comes the pastor. Hold on to your wallet.” I’m sure most pastors, especially in the United Methodist Church, can relate to this every year at this time when we launch the dreaded Stewardship Campaign. The key, is that if the person is happy to give, thankful for the opportunity to give, knowing the gift will help the church advance God’s mission, it is not only a painless experience, but one that brings as much joy to the receiver as it does to the giver.
Paul then talks of how he wants the gift to feel to the giver. He says, I want it to be a real gift from you. I don’t want you to feel like you are being forced to give anything. He explains that the one who sows a small number of seeds will also reap a small crop, and the one who sows a generous amount of seeds will also reap a generous crop. He says that everyone should give whatever they have decided in their heart. They shouldn’t give with hesitation or because of pressure. God, he says, loves a cheerful giver. I think what he’s saying, is that it’s not the size of the gift that matters, but the love and joy behind the giving of the gift that is important to God. A person may find themselves in a position where they can’t give as they used to, but if they’ve given generously of what they have, there is joy in the giving and the gift is thankfully accepted. To assure them, Paul says that God has the power to provide you with more than enough of every kind of grace. This way, he says, you will have everything you need always and in everything to provide more than enough for every kind of good work. It’s like Paul is saying not to worry about giving what you have. There’s plenty more where that came from. God will make sure you’re taken care of. It’s just stuff, and it’s God’s stuff anyway.
Paul assures his readers that the one who supplies seed for planting and bread for eating will supply and multiply your seed and will increase your crop, which is righteousness. He’s telling us that our generosity will come back to us in a manner greater than what we gave. Paul says, you will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous in every way. He’s saying that the more we give, the more we’ll be able to give. Now that’s a leap of faith. With that, Paul gets to his point. He says that such generosity produces thanksgiving to God through us. He says, your ministry of this service to God’s people isn’t only fully meeting their needs but it is also multiplying in many expressions of thanksgiving to God. This, I believe, is what we are experiencing here in our church. Through our many SODS (Somebody Oughta Do Something) missions we are meeting the needs of so many people. It is not only these people who are thankful, but thanks to God for what we do comes from people who see our selfless actions and are glad we exist and do what we can for the last, the least and the lost. Paul says these people who see what we do will give honor to God for our obedience to our confession of Christ’s gospel. They will do this, he says, because this service provides evidence of your obedience, and because of your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone. As an added benefit, Paul says that these people will also pray for us and they will care deeply for us because of the outstanding grace God has given us.
God himself is a cheerful giver. Consider all he has done for us. All he has freely given us, his children. God is pleased to no end when he sees us, who are created in his image, give generously and joyfully. God is the one who gives us the resources to use and invest for him. I believe that one of our greatest resources here at Community is our facility which we have been fixing up for expanded use in outreach. We’ve reinvested in our sanctuary and narthex to create a warm, inviting and worshipful space for those who come seeking a relationship with God. We’ve refreshed our Sunday School room which not only serves us on Sunday mornings, but also doubles as an extra meeting room. Now that Head Start has moved out, we plan on freshening up the Nursery and a remodel of the kitchen is on the horizon. We do this because other groups and organizations are using our space with greater frequency and are very grateful for the space. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-Anon, and the Alzheimer’s Care Givers support group.
I’ve previously mentioned that I’m reading another book entitled Canoeing the Mountains, Christian Leadership in Uncharted Territory. The author explains that our landscape has changed, that the world in front of us is nothing like the world behind us. Our mission field, the people right outside our door, don’t know who we are and what we stand for. He says, to continue the mission of God’s church, we need to preach a simple message and be involved in mission work. I firmly believe we are on the right path as my message every Sunday is pretty simple, and, without a doubt, we are engaged in the mission field. We just need to figure out how to take it to the next level.
To continue to do what we are charged with doing, we need your help. Financially, we are in good shape, but to expand our reach your continued giving provides us the capital to make needed improvements to our facilities and fund not only the missions we have, but more missions as they arise. But, to be truly successful, we need more than your money. We need your time and talents. We need volunteers to work in these mission fields, to volunteer with the missions we support like the Food Bank, ECHHO, OlyCAP and Bayside Housing. We need volunteers to do the work here at the church that gives us the infrastructure needed to do outreach, so people know who we are and what we stand for, and hear the simple message of God’s love for all and live a better life spent with him. We need you to seriously consider and pray about serving on any one of our many committees as we look for ways to be more effective and efficient in what we do. Most of all, we want you to be a thankful giver of yourself as Jesus gave himself for us.
Please pray with me.
Most gracious and loving God, we gather together as your people to ask your blessing on this congregation as we struggle and strive to do your work here in our community and wherever we may be needed. Make your will known, so that we may best use the resources you have so generously bestowed upon us so that we may be a beacon of light and hope to the lost and distressing. Place us in opposition to those who would cause your people to suffer and want. Stand beside us and guide us as we work to maintain your kingdom divine. Move us to extol the wonders of your infinite love and mercies. Defend your congregation from those who would seek to impair and disrupt the work we do in the name of your most precious and loving son, Jesus Christ. In the name of all that is good, great and just, we pray, Amen.