Sermon: Thanksgiving Sunday
GIVING BACK TO GOD?
I suspect most of us might have heard this deep thought at least once in our life. We know it is “Important to give back to God”. I know that many folks around St Petri practice this very thing – giving back the God – with time, skills, money, effort, serving – and we are a thriving local church as a result!.
On the other hand, I also suspect that lots of folks, particularly of my generation and under, might sometimes struggle with giving back to God – not in terms of helping out, serving and giving of time and skills so much, but in terms of money. My generation and those later then mine do struggle with the Christian practice of giving the first fruits of our income – little or large, back to God. I reckon it may just be because we are not sure why this is important or how to do it. And this generation is always interested in why more than anything else.
It seems appropriate on thanksgiving day to talk about GIVING thanks, and to be quite specific about that much feared topic of money! – the Christian way to handle in giving back to God.
DUTY DEVOID OF HEART
“Deep thoughts from a shallow Christian” says that giving of money and time and talents is only about giving enough to avoid God’s wrath. Giving is a matter of merely following some tradition or family or church culture tradition out of sense of duty devoid of any real heart and commitment to the Lord.
If that is all giving is then we are merely being called to give of ourselves in some bare minimum way and for the reason of staying in the good books of church culture, family expectation or even God.
THE BARE MINIMUM
So with this depleted belief about giving, the idea is that we all actually giving something (the barest minimum) because you know it is “important” for some reason, but you don’t know or care why it is important.
Would we ask the Spirit of God to re-tune us not to only the duty of giving but our love and commitment to our Saviour and each other, and our common mission of sharing the love and hope Jesus with people around here?
To do that, let’s de-bunk a couple of myths to begin with…
THE CHURCH IS ALWAYS AFTER YOUR MONEY!
People say that the church is always after your money. Well, yes we are. Mission costs money. We as a local Christian community here are responsible for sharing and living the gospel here. Yes we do want and need money at St Petri because we are a community of Christ participating in his mission to bring his kingdom of the good news to bear on this community and takes more than just money – it takes heart, people’s heart and mind and talents and resources and love. And from the heart comes giving.
THE CHURCH IS JUST KINGDOM BUILDING
People say that the church is just “kingdom building” and so conclude that the local church that is their own home is not worth giving to.
People now often say we will only give to a good cause. They want a cause. “If the cause is worthy enough, then I will give”… In this belief the mission and ministry of the local church is not as important or worthy as other more immediate, more advertised and more easily seen things. Well to that I would ask…
Are you comfortable this morning? comfortable enough to engage your heart and mind in the Word of God as you sit here in this building? Could you see the song words this morning? Are things done in good order here? Can you hear things easily? Is there someone leading this morning? Is there a sermon proclaiming God’s Word this morning? Where did you park? What event have you been to recently? What was Easter like? Who contributes to make all this happen and should that also be part of my spiritual life for my spiritual home? But all of these are very secondary to the main thing. Did you hear of Jesus this morning? Did you hear of the grace of the God of all creation loving sinners and welcoming them into his holy presence to be with them and make us a community of grace and life reaching into this local community with that good news? Now we are talking THE motivation and the WHY of giving time, money and skills.
So, yes, we are. We are “kingdom building” at St Petri. Yes we do have buildings to maintain and staff to pay… but what for? Just for the sake of maintain a few buildings and giving a few people a job? No!
We do all we do for one high calling, one centre, one faith, on goal, one ongoing task – to share the love and the hope of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God with as many people as the Lord allows us to where we live. We are all about gospel kingdom building.
MAKE ETERNAL INVESTMENTS?
Why wouldn’t you want to make eternal investments in this gospel work right here? Why wouldn’t you want to be a Christian who puts your money where your mouth is and practise the biblical and spiritual discipline of giving your first fruits back to the Lord for the work of proclaiming Jesus to everyone in your home spiritual community? After all we are never giving OUR money – it is a gift from the Lord in the first place. And we are never only giving to “St Petri”, we are giving to the Lord and for each other.
Surely that is what the one single leper knew to his very core the day he came back to Jesus and worshipped him. Nine others did not get it. One did. Jesus healed that man and in doing so gave him a new life beyond his wildest dreams.
The man was free. The man was re-connected with his community, with his family, no longer resigned to a life of illness, segregation, alienation from friends, poverty and a living hell. He does what is the entirely appropriate response to this healing Jesus. He gives his heart, his soul, his life to Jesus. He worships this gracious God who loves and heals and gives life out of sheer grace and compassion for diseased, broken and lifeless human beings.
IT’S ALL ABOUT LOVE AND COMMITTMENT
That is why we give. Not to just keep in God’s good books or fulfil some family tradition but to show our love and commitment and loyalty to our Saviour.
This is where we have arrived as a family on the whole thing of giving our money.
We have has the “three money box” way.
1. Saving, 2. Giving 3. Spending.
If you want to give of yourself in this ongoing mission journey we are now a part of in this local church then this is how to do it.
Practice the discipline of saving a portion of your income. I believe this is the first priority because I do not believe the Lord would ask you to give what you have not got or that he has not first given.
To be a person who has gives as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. (1 Corinthians 9:7) the first priority is to put some income in the ‘Saving money box’.
The second thing is to then put a portion of your income into the “Giving Money Box”. Here you give a portion of you income to the work of the gospel in your home community.
The Old Testament tradition was around 10% of your income. Some suggest somewhere around 7-10% is a good thing. This will vary on where you and your family are at as your life journey continues, but even a young child can put that “dime” in the offering bowl from the whole dollar he or she receives in pocket money.
Then lastly, there is the spending money box for all the daily/weekly needs of life for yourself and those around you. Eve in this money box there is a practice of giving to the Lord as you shout someone a meal or give to other very worthy causes and needs.
1. Saving, 2. Giving 3. Spending. The biblical way; the spiritual discipline of giving for the work of the gospel mission we all share as families, individuals and church…
LOCAL CHURCH – GOOD CAUSE
Friends, St Petri is a local mission post of the Saviour. It is a Christian community in the long standing stream of God’s ongoing work to draw all people to Jesus – to heal the lepers, call the blind and weak, baptise and nurture the sinner into God’s amazing grace and love for all of life – the grace that the one leper responded to and St Paul lived and Jesus gave continually.
This is your responsibility and mine. That is the way of it in the church. We are not here to maintain some club or keep all of our buildings and property in tip-top shape for no purpose but pride. We are here to share the love and the hope of the Risen Saviour with those the Spirit brings into our sphere of speaking.
For me any family, we would not find a better place and purpose in which or for which to give our time, talent and treasure to than the local mission outpost of the gospel – especially if it is a local church community who are seeking the Lord’s direction, willing to change, setting the priority of self-giving and engagement with the community in whatever ways. I can tell you that the Leaders of this community of Christ are doing that and he is speaking and we are doing our best to listen and respond.
Would you re-evaluate your giving practice and re-commit to it today? Would you commit your finances and your approach to giving of your money, your time, your skills that the Lord has already given to you for use in this very noble and needed cause of bring the kingdom of the God to bear in this place in ways we can’t even see….. yet…but that are becoming clearer all the time.
As you engage in giving of your heart to the Lord and his work in this community here, and then everything that follows, what St Paul says will be for you…
“You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God” among many here and beyond…(1 Corinthians 9:11)
Read both the gospel text and then the 1 Corinthians text noting things that stand out and sharing those together.
What questions do you have and what interests you in this whole area of “giving”? Share your thoughts….
How did you learn that “giving back to God” was important in the Christian life? Were you taught specifically by someone or learn it as you watched adults in worship giving or other means? Share your stories…
I suggested that people of the current middle aged generation and younger might know that it is important to give back the God in some way but they are not sure WHY or how? What do you think about that?
I suggested that the one leper who returned to Jesus to give thanks and worship Jesus did the entirely natural and appropriate thing for a saved sinner to do – give thanks not with a sense of duty only, but with the heart. What do you think about that?
Is giving from a sense of duty also valid? I believe both duty and heart are important. Duty is the discipline of it and heart is the motivation of it. What do you think?
I suggested that people often charge the church with “always wanting you money” and agreed with that – with one difference. The money is not mine to keep anyway! All good gifts come from the Lord in the first place. In giving we simply acknowledge that and give a portion back to the Lord for the wok of the gospel and the help of people in need. What do you think about this teaching on giving?
I suggested that the reason we give is to simply show our thanks, honour for and loyalty to Jesus, concern for each other and to ensure we take up our calling and responsibility to participate with him in his ongoing “kingdom building. Do you see this as valid as a Christian person and member of this local church community?
I encouraged people to ask the Holy Spirit to re-tune our hearts on this matter of giving and suggested that St Petri is a church that is indeed “kingdom building” – not to keep our buildings and other things looking nice to keep up with the Jones’s or look good in the public view – but essentially to fulfil God’s mission with him – the share the love and hope of Jesus with people around here. How does this sit with you and your journey of faith at the moment?
PRAY Spirit of the Risen Jesus, help me give generously and fulfil your calling on my life. Help us a a congregation to participate fully with you in your ongoing gospel kingdom mission to share the love and hope of Jesus with everyone. Amen.