October 19, 2014

Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard

2 Cor. 9:6-15

“Are You Ready or Not?”

 

 

Are you ready for the season to begin? Well ready or not – here it comes! Here we are well into October, summer is over. Our Northern members and friends are coming home here to Florida, more show up every day and it is so good to see them on a Sunday morning! I already know we have a lot of activities in the works and many are already on the calendar and you are aware of them. Our Music Director and I started planning our Christmas Eve service before I went on vacation. By the way, thank you so much for the two weeks away. It was a joy to travel with my wife, Lois; visiting together ‘so many’ of our family and ‘so much’ of God’s splendor in New England, the foliage, the mountains. Ah, yes it was wonderful. I thank you.

Already, our Stewardship Committee has started their annual campaign and we are going to begin our four week series by delving into the land of generosity! And these last two weeks, have been weeks of preparation, you have been led by two very generous spirits. With a lot of help from our Music Director, the Sunday News, Our Choir and a multitude of volunteers and various acts of generosity you have done well while I was away; and in so doing you have already done a lot to prepare yourselves for the coming weeks. Thanks to all and especially our splendid Preachers: Pastor Bruce’s lesson encompassing the five dimensions of God’s vineyard, and Jay’s lesson on working and playing hard then resting easy. It is an honor to follow in the wake of their generous spirits as-well-as their teachings.

Our scripture passage this morning, from the Apostle Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, tells us that great generosity reaps dividends: “You will be enriched in every way for great generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.” /2 Corinthians 9:7/ Paul, as he often does in his writings, is thanking the church at the same time he is asking for something. In this instance he is asking for a donation and then goes on to give this wonderful exhortation on generosity. I am not asking you for anything this morning except to have an open heart to his inspiring and generous words surrounding the generous heart and the rewards one can reap when generosity is properly put to good use.

Paul begins by making the point that: “he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.” Just before I went on vacation I showed the children and all of you a picture of some seeds I had planted. Over the summer they grew to maturity. They were not roses but a very simple display of flowers. I did not spend the extra couple of dollars to buy the more exotic seeds. Thus I was left with a humble showing, yet, what I had planted and nourished over the summer – those simple seeds – they had indeed sprung forth from the ground and there was a harvest, thus the picture from my garden near the front steps of my home, that I shared with the children three weeks ago.

Just imagine what my harvest would have been if I had been more generous in my investment way back in July when I planted the seeds. You see, we all have the choice, when we make an investment, as to how generous we shall be. “For it is in giving that we receive.” /Francis of Assisi/ Though I gave but a little, I still gave. And I did receive the joy of seeing those seeds burst forth from the ground on which they had been planted. I was able to share a lesson with the children, not once but rather twice I spoke with them about the seeds and then the harvest of the flowering plants that emerged. And now today, for the third time my small investment has given me yet another small instrument to help hone and enhance Paul’s simple message urging us to sow and invest bountifully rather than sparsely!

Have you noticed not only how the children have responded to these simple lessons, but how much joy you and I get from seeing their response? The Apostle Paul says to us in verse 7 that “Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” When I see someone give with a smile or at least void of a frown I instinctively know that their heart is in the right place. Is your heart in it? Is your heart in the right place? Do you enjoy giving? I strive to not look so much to myself but focus onto that which I have invested in. Not all investments yield good returns. But if we never invest, if we never plant the seeds, we shall reap nothing.

We do not all need to do the same work. That is to say we can have someone else do the planting, another does the watering, and yet another to keep the garden weeded so that the new seedlings do not get chocked off from their new growth. The teacher plants the seeds. The parents, the child’s support network does the nurturing and gives support. They and others such as doctors, nurses or even a therapist, as-well-as grandparents, aunts and uncles may take part in the sorting and sifting of the good influences from the bad. No, we do not need to do this alone. And, yes we must always leave room for the grace and love of God into our efforts. When the farmer forgets that only his Creator God can truly nourish his crop, or the teacher forgets that only the Spirit of God can give her the voice that will teach and motivate the student, then both the farmer and the teacher will struggle deeply with their task. Yet when we open ourselves to the love and grace of God to enter into our lives then our efforts, well let us simply say the harvest will be ample!

Paul’s writing today speaks only of material giving such as gifts of clothing, food and yes actual currency. But, we can and we shall continue to expand our thoughts on this concept of generosity. I implore you, I beg of you to stay with me in this conversation whether you are ready or not to hear more, for there is still more to discuss. Generosity goes beyond the physical and into the spiritual as-well-as the emotional. It is hard to hold your emotions at bay when your spirit has moved you to make a generous act. In his book “The Prophet” Khalil Gibran tells us that “You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”

Debbie Macomber a popular American author speaks out on the subject. “You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.” Or as John Bunyan (he was an English Christian writer and preacher) who perhaps first said it back in the Seventeenth Century: “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.” Have you ever tried this? I have someone living in my neighborhood that anonymously weeded his neighbor’s flower garden while they were away for three weeks this summer. As most of you know it rained hard over the summer, the weeds grew fast, heavy and tall. The man spent a number of hours doing the work. When his neighbor returned there was not even one weed in the garden. Not only did he not tell of his deed, his neighbor never knew of the work as he did not know the weeds had over run the garden. I asked the generous man about it, he put me off, grinning slightly saying, “Oh it was nothing.”

I know of a few that spend a lot of time helping others. They give till it begins to interfere with things needed in their own personal lives. And when you approach these same folks offering to give them something, they accept less than they actually need. Simone de Beauvior, a French writer in the 1900s said it so well: “That’s what I consider true generosity: You give your all, and yet you always feel as if it costs you nothing.” We have members in this church that model themselves after these mottos. There are many such wise sayings. Even back in the Sixth Century (BC) Before Christ we have (Laozi) Lao Tzu who was a philosopher and poet of ancient China putting forth these words: “The wise man does not lay up his own treasures. The more he gives to others, the more he has for his own.” Then along comes Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, an American author who once said “Give what you have, to someone, it may be better than you dare to think.” Yes, there are many who tell us of the rewards of a generous spirit and a kind heart. Helping others is a motto worthy of being repeated.

Theodore Roosevelt our 26th President of the United States had a practical attitude regarding generosity. “Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars, but remember to keep your feet on the ground.” Yes we ought to be a generous people. Yet, those we are listening to this morning would not want us to be foolish. Do not weed your neighbor’s garden, expending time that you ought to be using doing other essential tasks. If you have the extra time, great – give time to helping another. However, be sure you have secured your own needs before you give away the resources needed to pay your own rent and buy the food for your own family. Paul tells us to give out of our abundance. Always bear in mind generosity starts at home. Be practical in this regard. Care for your needs, look after your family and their needs and then yes be generous to your church; then again out of your abundance help others in every way you can.

Paul’s letter, Paul’s exhortation, his appeal and urging on generosity continues with his words from verse 11 “You will be enriched in every way for great generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.” Be grateful for all that God has given to you. With a grateful heart generosity comes easily. In the same manner our God, your God will be grateful for your generosity and the Living Spirit of God, the Essence of our Creator and our Savior will sustain us in every way!

/Verse 15/ “Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!”

Amen.

Hear now these words from Pauls’ second letter to the church in Corinth: Second (2) Corinthians, Chapter 9, verses 6-15.

6 The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

7 Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

8 And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work.

9 As it is written, “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”

10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your resources and increase the harvest of your righteousness.

11 You will be enriched in every way for great generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God; 12 for the rendering of this service not only supplies the wants of the saints but also overflows in many thanksgivings to God.

13 Under the test of this service, you will glorify God by your obedience in acknowledging the gospel of Christ, and by the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others; 14 while they long for you and pray for you, because of the surpassing grace of God in you.

15 Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!

“May God bless our hearing and our understanding of these holy and ancient words.”

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