Faith United Methodist Church
May 18, 2014
Confirmation and Commitment Sunday
Rev. Krista-Beth Atwood
Scripture: 2 Corinthians 8:1-9
Prayer of Illumination:
Give us grace, O Lord, not only to hear your Word with our ears, but also to receive it into our hearts and show it in our lives; for the glory of your great name. Amen.
Sermon: Always a Way
The Heart of Giving. This has been our theme for the past four weeks. We’ve considered our love for our church, our love for each other, and our love for God who guides our vision. And today we took the opportunity to express our thanks tangibly, through the dedication of our pledge cards. The Heart of Giving.
Earlier Alex read for us a Scripture about that very kind of giving, heart-giving. The entire teaching of the 2 Corinthians passage is about giving. In this Scripture Paul concludes that giving is proof ~ or evidence ~ of our love of God. God doesn’t require our generosity, but when we truly accept the generous gift of God’s love our only possible response is to live and give generously.
You see, as part of Paul’s missionary journey he collected money for the poor Christians in Jerusalem. In his letter Paul told the Corinthians about the experience of their sister churches in Macedonia. The Macedonians were not without troubles. Paul described them as “pushed to the very limit,” experiencing extreme poverty. But still, through their poverty, they gave generously…and, Paul said, they were never so happy.
They didn’t see themselves as poor Christians, but rather first saw the blessings they had. This made them want to share their blessings with others. Because of their faith in Christ, they saw life in a new way. They saw that they could give more than they could have ever imagined.
In his devotional guide Practicing Extravagant Generosity Robert Schnase reflected on the Gospel story of the poor widow who gave her last two coins for God’s work through the Temple, writing:
Some people perceive the tithe to be nothing more than a left over from an Old Testament law-based theology. They think it is an arbitrary rule with little relevance today.
And yet Jesus commended the practice, even among the Pharisees whom he criticized for making a show of their self-righteousness. The early church practiced the tithe, and so have Christians in every generation since. …. Name one person you admire and respect because of all they keep to themselves… Largeness of spirit leads to an eagerness to give our utmost and highest.
Despite the outward challenges and inner struggles, and the countercultural nature of generosity, where there is a desire to give, there is a way. The two coins dropped in the treasury from the hands of the poor widow, noticed by Jesus and recorded for all time as a model of Extravagant Generosity, forever reminds us that there is always a way. Giving helps us become what God wants us to be.
When we give to the kingdom, we can begin to experience kingdom living today. When we let go of our treasure for God’s good purpose in the world, we begin to live God’s purpose, like the churches in Macedonia who gave even in the midst of tough times. For me, giving to the church is one way I can participate in God’s eternal kingdom right here on earth. As Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Let us pray: God, accept the variety of our gifts. We can’t all give in the same way, but all of our gifts come from the heart. You remind us to be cautious with our money and to take seriously the relationship between money and our priorities. May our finances reflect those things that we care about most, and through all of our resources may we join your eternal kingdom. In the name of Christ we pray. Amen.