“Why We Give”

Mark 12: 41-44, November 7th 2021,2021

Sermon by Pastor Tim Woodard


Communion

Stewardship Sunday

“Hear now these words from the gospel according to Mark, chapter twelve, verses forty-one thru forty-four.”

41 He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43 Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44 For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

“Having listen to these four short verses let us consider what Jesus is saying to us about how and why we give.”

“Why We Give”

So many in our society today take the subject of giving as a ‘negotiable’ privilege.  Consequently, many have come to believe that focusing on how a gift is used – is more important than the act of giving itself!  The tangible results of ‘ones giving’ is therefore secondary to the ‘gift itself’.  If one person gives ten dollars and another one, it is true the ten dollars has the potential of having more ‘impact’ on paying the rent or putting groceries on the table. Surely our finance committee is seeking the larger gift, yet that is ‘secondary’ to what Jesus is telling us about the widow – as she gives all she has to the temple treasury.  And this is what we need to come to grips with… if we are to fully grasp the enormity of Jesus’ message to us this morning.  When we learn to give as this woman did, then our stewardship campaign will be a fantastic success and we shall be a viable and a vibrant faith community well into the forthcoming generations – well into the future!  There shall be time enough to debate how best to use the treasures that do end up in the treasury of this fellowship.  The first step is to fully grasp why we give.  We first must grasp why the widow gave as she did.  Here in – ‘frames’ the point of our scripture.  And once we are able to understand this then our efforts to have what it takes to do the will of God will be within our reach!

It is a well-accepted concept that there are three basic avenues, three basic choices within our acts of giving, within every stewardship campaign. Look first to the gift of our personal time for the wellbeing of this faith fellowship called the Riviera United Church of Christ.  Over the last three weeks I had the opportunity to hear three testimonials from church members who spoke of why they give to this church.  Not one told us the dollar amount, yet they each spoke of their understandings of their moral responsibility to give back to this faith community, giving back some of what they have received over the span of time.  As I listened it occurred to me that these folks have put in a great deal of time and effort to form the words of their messages to us.  Time, personal time is a priceless gift!  One of the biggest challenges facing any church is to find people who are willing to give of their time.  Even our sister church, in Vero Beach, struggles to get all the needed volunteers to fill their committees and fill the slots of needed duties.  Yes, they have over three thousand attending their Sunday services during peak season here in Florida, but that just points to a need for increased numbers of volunteers to do all that needs to get done.  The gift of time is a priceless gift, especially when we offer it up – without expecting anything in return!

Another element in our testimonials was a reference to the generations before us and how they made the needed commitments to get the tasks at hand done.  Including, working within committees to help form the focus and help clarify some of the ways we can go about getting things accomplished.  I remember hearing a church leader, many years ago, back in my home church in Methuen, Massachusetts, where I was ordained, he stood up and declared that money was ‘not’ the problem!  I remember hearing a handful of church leaders gasp as they felt otherwise!  He went on to say that ‘communicating’ the ‘needs’ of the church; and ‘clarifying’ ‘what the ministries of this church are’, these are the crucial elements, which we all seek to grasp!  And getting folks ‘involved’, thereby helping get more members ‘participating’ and ‘believing’ in the ministry of this church.’  He clearly articulated that accomplishing this level of communications, this is and was, and always has been the challenge; and it always will be!  I did not hear all the testimonials, yet from what I heard those who spoke understood the concept of which we are discussing now, as their personal love and gratitude for the ministry of this church… is what they highlighted and accentuated in the testimonials they gave!

It is obvious to even a casual observer that there are a number of talented folks that use their attributes, their God given talents, and apply them to the needs of this church.  We even have friends of our church, visitors too who offer to help in creative and needed ways.  Thank God they do so, as they can often be seen as the backbone that holds us together.  Other than myself there are only four others who are compensated for our use of their talents; and all, including myself are only considered ‘part time employees!’  Most of the work that goes into putting together our Sunday service is done through volunteers.  If I were to start naming our volunteers and saying thank you, I would surely miss someone.  So, it is better that we all just say thank you for their gifts of their talents and the gift of the time they put into helping out around the church.  Each surely has a piece of what the poor widow had, as she gave her two coins to the treasury at the temple that day, so long, long ago. 

If she were here amongst us today, I wonder how many of us would even recognize her as the one to whom we speak.  Surely, such a woman would not seek to be recognized for her giving either.  Yet, thank you God, we have such folk in our community.  Humble, grateful, and willing to sacrifice for the greater good.  Of course, such humility comes from realizing that she could not give… as others have and do give.  Yet, she was willing to give what she could when she could.  I remember a speaker who was teaching new volunteers at the beginning of a stewardship campaign, telling her listeners that the challenge is not always to get folks to give abundantly or to increase their giving; it is to get them to merely put their giving in the household, the family budget!  (It is worth noting that for many, one’s church is like family.) Giving to one’s favorite charity, one’s family, needs to be on our list of important ways ‘in which’ we share our abundance.  When giving is an afterthought then we give only a portion of what ‘may’ or ‘may not’ be in our purse or billfold when the basket is passed.  The Apostle Paul said it this way in his second letter to the young struggling church in Corinth.  The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.  Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.  As it is written, “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.”  He who supplies seed to the Sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness

/2 Corinthians 9.6-15/

Giving is always from the heart and the Spirit of God knows your heart.  When an affluent man or woman puts a check in the collection only the financial secretary knows what amount is written and of course God knows.  No one will judge our giving except God.  Yet, we will know in our heart if we could do more than we are doing.  Today, we shall honor everyone’s gift, the gift of time, talent, and treasure, each shall be received.  Your “Rooted in Love”, commitment will help our Treasurer pay the bills and pay the employees, keep the lights, and air conditioning going.  If your gift is a can of vegetables or a box of cereal or even a jar of peanut butter for the food bank, it is greatly appreciated as we continue to keep our outreach ministries active; thereby helping our neighbors feed their families and themselves.  Give in response for your love of this ministry, give in response to how this church touches your heart. 

How you give is your business and your choice.  Why you give is an affair of the heart, between you and God.  If your heart has felt the love which exists within this ministry, this church, and within this faithful fellowship, this is your opportunity to give back in love; helping us continue to be viable in this community – well into the future going forward.  If you are new to our fellowship or just visiting today, we pray you will feel comfortable giving as you see fit and at your comfort level.  We welcome you and invite you to participate in our ritual of giving by coming forward when we receive our offerings this day.  If you are joining us today via our broadcast, we welcome your gifts.  You may contribute via mail and or via the on-line options found on our website, and if you live locally, you are always welcome to join us live as ‘more’ and ‘more’ of us have received the covid vaccine – as we strive to create a safe place to worship.

Let us always be reminded of the Widow who was willing to give all that she could believing her gift would make a difference.  All gifts, in whatever form – they do make a difference.  May the Spirit of God touch your hearts this day as the gift of Christ Jesus touches our heart this day.

Amen.        

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