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We Are Called To Share Our Gifts, August 20, 2023

Mt. 6:19-34. When I got here to Harmonie Church 5 years ago on August 5th we were averaging about 50 or 60 in worship and we were giving about 30-40% of our budget to those area missions the back of your bulletin. Folks, that’s the largest percentage given to missions of any church I ever heard of. Most churches struggle to give 10% of their budget to missions.

We were living high on the hog, then the pandemic hit and we are hanging in there. But we can’t afford to give to our mission partners as a church. I know there are quite a few of you giving individually to these missions that are all worthy of our support.

We are working to figure out ways to give those area missions. Yesterday by spending time on a Saturday morning doing a HANDS IN MISSION TEAM PROJECT we shared our time. 18 of us offered a good hour at The Wright City Community Food Pantry!!

Our team made 38 Birthday bags, we spread 10 bags of mulch, carted away a bunch of bushes that were removed when the put in the new outdoor freezer/refrigerator, and planted some grass seed.

If you were there yesterday, please lift you arms and say, “Thank YOU, GOD!!” The food pantry originally started in the basement of Open Hearts United Methodist Church on Bell Road when I was serving there back in about 2005.

GOD has given us many gifts we can share…

John Wesley said, “It is true, riches, and the increase of them are the gift of God. Yet great care is to be taken, that what is intended for a blessing, do not turn into a curse.”

[John Wesley, “On the Danger of Increasing Riches,” The Sermons of John Wesley –Sermon 87]

On our discipleship journey, we discover that Jesus is right, that there is often a tension between the world and his vision for living, a way in which all of us may have abundant life.

We are striving to commit as disciples of Jesus Christ with our Prayers, Presence, Gifts, Service, and Witness. My friends, this will lead you to an abundant life in Jesus Christ and your sisters and brothers in His Church. You will experience an abundant connection with GOD, all of GOD’S creation, your family, friends, neighbors, and with the blessed assurance of your salvation.

You will know when you growing in a right relationship with GOD…GOD will give you “confirmation of the Holy Spirit.” But you’ve got to open up to GOD to get confirmation from GOD’S Holy Spirit.

The third practice to which we commit ourselves is GIFTS. Sharing our GIFTS in community is as much a heart issue as a wallet issue.

Today, we will explore Jesus’ teachings about our treasures and how our GIFTS can CONNECT us more deeply to GOD and others as we seek to be disciples of Jesus Christ.

In Matthew 6, Jesus puts our choice bluntly, which “god” do we serve? In some translations of our Bible, Jesus states, “You cannot serve GOD and mammon. The choice is always between GOD, whose generosity is beyond imagination and

mammon, the self-destructive and impulsive passion motivated by self-interest. Humankind always gets the choice. Jesus’ teaching can be summarized by three questions: Where is your heart? How are your eyes? Maybe a better question, “Through which lens do you see?” Who do you serve?

There was no pagan god called mammon. Mammon is an Aramaic word meaning “money” or “possessions.” In itself, it is a neutral term. However, in the same way modern writers capitalize “the Almighty Dollar” you can see that even the most secular of people understand that we can quickly make an idol out of money.

In the section is titled “Do Not Be Anxious,” Jesus said to us in chapter 6 verse 25 and following, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink,

nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”

Jesus lays out an alternative vision for life together that is centered on GOD and loving others. In A Disciple’s Path, Harnish and Larosa suggest “plain rules” for the spiritual discipline of giving based on Jesus’ teaching:

- Generosity begins with GOD.

- Generosity is essential.

- Generosity is intentional.

- Generosity grows with practice.

- Generosity is joyful.

- Generosity results in blessing.

My friends, we are blessed by GOD to be a blessing to others.

I was given these last two verses of today’s scripture to memorize in about 1987, Matthew 6:33-34, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” I’m sure you recognize the King James translation. It’s a little challenging, if you are not a King James user.

So now I’m going to read the same scripture, Mt. 6:33-34, from the Message Translation, “Steep your life in GOD-reality, GOD-initiative, GOD-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out.

You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.”

“Give your entire attention to what GOD is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. GOD will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to GOD.

I just absolutely love that part of GOD’S Word!! That scripture became my theme verse for at least 15 years, as I was beginning to hear GOD call on my life again.

I was blessed to lead a Volunteers In Mission Team in 2002 to Mozambique. It’s a long way to Africa. Once we got there we drove about 6 hours north to Massinga. There was a whole choir waiting for us with a full meal a 10 p.m.

The next morning was Sunday and the 14 of us split up to go to different churches. I was the associate pastor at St. Mark’s in Florissant and we were going to visit our covenant church Rovene United Methodist. It was about two miles on blacktop and then 6 miles on a deep sand road.

That August morning was Stewardship Sunday, also called Thanksgiving Sunday in Mozambique, and at offering time each group in the church took turns getting together, singing and dancing their offering up to the front of the church. The church leaders wrote down every offering in a book as each gift was brought forward. Chickens, ducks, coconuts, cassava trees, and even a small pig. It was such a wonderful, joyous celebration of giving to GOD!!

The pig could have been food for several family meals, but instead it is a gift given to God. They had true joy on their faces and beamed as they brought forward their offerings. The Church would sell the items and use the money for ministry.

By contrast, most of us have been given so much more in this country, and yet we often find it so much more difficult to give it away.

I suspect that it may be a struggle for a lot of us. And why is that, I wonder? Why is it sometimes that those of us who have been given so much, can find it so hard to let go of it?

Of course, that’s not just a question for folks in the church; it’s a question for our larger society as well. In fact, it might just be one of the biggest questions there is. Our culture has reached a level of abundance which the world has never seen before.

In some ways we are taught that our purpose in life is to buy things—TO BUY the latest, the fastest, the best.

Buying things is supposed to be our pastime and

our source of meaning and our foundation for happiness.

Cliff Christopher, a pastor and author said, “We buy things we don’t even need, with money we don’t even have, to impress people we don’t even know.”

It’s such an important part of our discipleship, GOD calls us go GIVE the “first fruits” of our GIFTS, our income, we are called to be intentional about it—to have a plan for giving away a certain portion or percentage of our income every year…as we work toward the tithe—10%—or maybe even more. It’s important to have a plan for our generosity because being generous—and having a plan for it—is one more way that God can set us free.

GOD has given us dominion over all of creation and we are called to be stewards, good trustees of GOD’S creation. We are called to be extravagantly generous with all we’ve been given.

Jesus talked alot about money. Sixteen of the thirty-eight parables were concerned with how to handle money and possessions. In the Gospels, an amazing one out of ten verses (288 in all) deal directly with the subject of money. The Bible offers 500 verses on prayer, less than 500 verses on faith, but more than 2,000 verses on money and possessions.

Jesus words sound so contrary to much of what our culture values today that we have to conclude that either Jesus is terribly confused, or we are. “If anyone wants your coat,” Jesus once told his disciples, “…go ahead and give it to them. Only don’t stop there! Give the person your shirt too! And if anyone asks you walk a mile with them,” Jesus said, “why stop at one? Go ahead and walk the second mile as well.”

Now, some might call that kind of talk craziness. But Jesus calls it THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE WITH GOD.

The early church in Acts of The Apostles was a picture of “Jesus following community.” They offered all that they had, keeping only enough to live on, and gave the rest to the church for anyone else that had a need.

GOD invites us to Live with OPEN HANDS!! OFFER WHAT YOU CAN AND ASK FOR WHAT YOU NEED! It the way of sharing abundance! It’s a way to connecting to GOD and our neighbor.

GOD calls us to be generous because it’s one more way of showing that GOD is in control of our lives—our money isn’t—our stuff isn’t. Being generous is one more way that we place our trust in the GOD who ultimately is the only one who will provide for us and care for us in the end.

The message is simply this: GOD calls us to lives of generosity not simply to pay the church’s bills, but instead to make us free—and to share GOD’S abundance with those who need it more.

Please rise as you are able and let us sing

“Lord, Dismiss Us With Your Blessing”

Back in the 1700’s John Wesley said, Make all the money you can. Save all the money you can. And give all the money you can…Give generously as GOD has given to you…

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