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Easter 4B Sermon
Matthew 6: 25-33;
2 Corinthians 9:6-15
April
22, 2018

 

Sermon Archives
 

 

May the grace, mercy and peace of God our Father be with us, in the name of his risen son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; Amen.

Do not worry, saying, “What are we to eat?’ or, ‘What are we to drink?’ or, ‘What are we to wear?’” In this excerpt from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Jesus almost makes it sound like food is not important to us, nor are drink or clothing. They all are important. Jesus knows this. A few verses before our Gospel reading, Jesus taught the crowds these words, which we still share today as part of the Lord’s Prayer: “give us this day our daily bread.” We walk a thin line between knowing the importance in having enough healthy food and water, and being warm and covered, AND not fixating on those things – or any other material desires - as of primary importance in our lives. Indeed, while Martin Luther in his explanation to the Lord’s Prayer recognizes that Daily Bread means more than just what we eat and drink (that it is everything that we need for life) he also recognizes that the reason that we pray for it is so that we recognize what our daily bread is, and so that we will receive it with thanksgiving. It is a way to recognize that nothing that we need for life comes to us because of our own working. It comes because of God’s generosity. Daily Bread; all that we need for life; receive it with thanksgiving; don’t worry about what you are to eat or drink or wear – God will care for you just as God has cared for you and all of God’s people for many, many years.

Probably the most difficult concept for us American Christians is the whole idea that being self-sufficient is not a Christian precept; but being God dependent is. That may be our stumbling block in today’s day and age. We do not want to put ourselves into the position where we have to depend upon anyone else to help us out in any way – whether it be with money or food, providing shelter or utilities, or even just giving a ride somewhere. So, we sow sparingly with what we have, so that we will always have enough to take care of ourselves. You just heard the phrase, “sow sparingly” in our second lesson. Sowing sparingly means to hold back on what you plant. It is obviously an image from farming and agriculture, and farmers will tell you that their entire livelihood is one of great faith and trust. What if a farmer thought that he had little chance of his seed growing, so he only threw about half of what he had into his fields. When the sun and rain come, his crops will not be as abundant or bountiful as if he would have thrown more seed there. Sowing abundantly trusts that God will continue to bless and provide all that the ground needs to germinate that seed, to grow and produce fruit. Withholding not only means less food for others, but ironically that the sower does not make as much of an income as he would have otherwise.
What does that have to do with stewardship? Well, Paul is writing to the Christians in Corinth for a number of reasons, one of which is to encourage them to give generously as he collects an offering for the Christian Church in Jerusalem. According to historians, Jerusalem and the area around it experienced quite a famine at around 50 AD. We already heard a couple of weeks ago about how the church in Jerusalem had tried to make it through that time – they sold all their belongings and held things in common so that everyone would be cared for. Now, Paul is trying to get the larger expression of the church to sow abundantly with what they have, so that their brothers and sisters in distress may eat and have all they need to live, and so that they may share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with people in Jerusalem as well.

One line in our second lesson is a powerful promise that speaks to us today: “You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints, but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God.” In other words, God will continue to give you much, not so that you can stow it all away for yourself; and when you share it, you not only take care of the needy, but you show God’s generosity and blessedness to all. It is THE way we are called to give thanks to God for all that we have.
Sometimes it seems that all is against us and that we would be foolish to share abundantly. Sparingly seems in our society to be the byword on how to commit both our time and our talents. And just as Paul was not comfortable coming right out and saying to the Corinthians, “You people really need to give more to the Jerusalem Church,” so also we modern day pastors are not comfortable blaring that same message to you and other congregations. Besides, I dare say that if I were to use my position as Pastor to intimidate you to give more, you would not be here next week, or probably ever. Tactics of the past like posting the amount of money that families donate to the church in the narthex may have been effective once; I would never think of doing it today.

My hope is that as we have these stewardship emphases periodically during the year, we remind you of the seasons of faith – the change that comes with fall, the sacrifice of winter, the growth of spring and the extended gift of the sun’s light that we have during the summer months. I am not promising you that if you give us a $50 love gift that somehow in some way you will find a certain percentage of your wealth miraculously put into your savings account. What I am saying is that God loves you and I am certain that you can recall just how generous God has been to you, even though you do not deserve that generosity. I can be confident of this because this is my own personal experience! Whenever I think that I cannot afford to be generous with others with my time or monetary gifts, I experience life just as sparingly as I sow it.

We have all sorts of opportunities to be generous with what we have. We have a chance to help four youth and two adults to have the experience of a lifetime with 30,000 other youth this summer. The items at their bake sale today have no price on them – it is a free-will offering. I challenge you to buy the most expensive cookie you have ever purchased! Whenever you have opportunities to give – maybe it’s your time in volunteering, or a donation to special ministries, your favorite charity, or just our regular weekly offerings – remember that when you sow abundantly, you reap abundantly as well. God loves a cheerful giver! As you give cheerfully prepare to be enriched in every way, so that you can be even more generous as God makes your life grow in love and faith. Amen.