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Harvest Sunday Sermon
2 Corinthians 9: 6-15
November
24, 2019

 

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2 Corinthians 9:6-15

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 for ever.’
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. 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. Through the testing of this ministry you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others, while they long for you and pray for you because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!

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

One of the final church related things that I did before leaving for the Carolinas last week was to lead Bible Studies for our two women’s circles. The topic was joy – with an emphasis on differentiating joy from happiness. We discerned that the difference lies in the permanence of joy – how happiness is fleeting depending on the conditions around us, while joy abides deep within us as a gift of the Holy Spirit based on our hope for resurrected life in Jesus Christ. Joy is that which makes it possible for us to endure the times when happiness flees us, leaving only questions, exhaustion or even suffering. It is the foundation for our Christian life together, especially for our stewardship of God’s good gifts.

I shared with the group an article I read online about a study done by a Stanford University doctorate student on a region in northern Norway. One would think that the people who live there would be miserable, especially during this time of year when the sun barely cracks the earth’s horizon. But the incidences of Seasonal Affective Disorder are amazingly low there. The reason is because people refuse to let the lack of sunlight and freezing temperatures get them down. As a matter of fact, they love the activities that the winter months bring – like skiing and skating, drinking hot cocoa and tea, snuggling under a fuzzy blanket and taking sleigh rides. And the beautiful lights on the horizon when the sun sits there for hours on end is a spectacular show. They have adopted the attitude that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing. This mindset leads them to actually look forward to the winter months as much as the summer ones.

That article and the discussion that ensued reinforced the notion that the secret to a joy-filled life is gratitude. Giving thanks for the opportunities that one has even if they are different than what the world tells us are fun or happy or important. Being grateful for the opportunities that we have to live as we do, even when we might lapse into taking things for granted. If you tried to give thanks for every single aspect of life as you wake up in the morning, would it be possible to do, or would it be too overwhelming? Think about the roof over your head, your family and friends, the food that you eat and the hot or cool air that comes from your HVAC system. What about the opportunity that you have to flip a switch and turn on a light, to plug in a device and see it come to life, or to turn a handle and get fresh, clean water of any temperature right inside your home without having to put a jar on your head and walk to the well? How about the voice you use to speak or sing, the healthy hands and feet and other body parts. If you own a car, think about the invention of the internal combustion engine which starts up when you turn a key … heck, with some new models all you have to do is push a button! Soon it will run without you even steering it.

Now look in that magical box in your kitchen called the refrigerator. It replaced the ice box – something that you literally had to put a new block of ice into each day to keep things cool! Now, thanks to the development of refrigerants and insulated, sealed doors, your food can be kept fresh and edible for days or even weeks. And what about that food – have you ever stopped to think about how many people were involved in getting that food from seed or from an egg or a tiny baby animal to your table? Seed and feed stores, farmers, truck drivers, packagers, butchers, inspectors, delivery people, loaders, shelve stockers, grocery store cashiers … and I am sure I am forgetting a step or two in there somewhere! When we go up to the Harvest Dinner, the people involved in raising and selling and preparing the food we will eat is certainly in the hundreds if not thousands. As you chew that food, can you be grateful for all of those folks who worked hard to put good tasting food on your table for you?

Living out of gratitude turns joy from a deeply hidden foundation to an abiding everyday experience which in turn makes us want to share with others. In our second lesson, Paul writes to the Corinthians about the surpassing grace that they have received through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ. This is manifest in the many blessings that they continue to receive from God through Jesus. In the middle of those promises, Paul states something that goes against most rational thought: it is the concept of being a cheerful giver. Many people promote a mindset of retaining everything you can, only parting with my money or time or possessions when it is well worth it or when I have spent all of it I can or even when I have no choice but to give. Church budgets are certainly places where Christians are encouraged to give money, church councils and ministries where people are encouraged to give time and support, and outreach projects are places where we give all sorts of things. It seems honorable when people do these things because they believe that the recipient is worthy of our donations, but the Biblical model that Paul promotes is to freely give out of the free gift of joy that is based on the hope of the resurrection of Jesus. God has given us so much that we can easily forget and take advantage of those gifts and blessings. Paul reminds us that we are to share in God’s blessing the world abundantly because of the promise that we will always have enough. And always having enough means that we are to share abundantly as we have been blessed abundantly. We are to participate in God’s care for creation by helping others to have enough as well.

People often do – and should – ask, “why do we do things” in life. That women’s Bible study reminded us that this can even begin with the question, “why do I swing my legs out of bed every morning?” Is there something in your date book that you must attend to? Are there obligations like work or volunteering, meals to prepare, cleaning to be done? The author of the study suggested that the reason we get out of bed every morning is hope – that we get up and out in spite of the challenges, disappointments and struggles that make us “unhappy” and get moving. I couldn’t agree more. Plus, I think that it has to do with joy. Knowing the promise of Jesus and my memory of previous days, I get out of bed because I expect to experience God’s presence in the people and experiences of that day. And experiencing God’s goodness, I get out of bed in order to give cheerfully of the blessings that God has freely and generously given to me.

Lives of joy are rooted in gratitude and hope. May the hope of the resurrection encourage you to believe God’s promise that you will always have enough to cheerfully share of your blessings with your neighbors. Amen!