THEME: Stewardship 1 & World Wide Communion Sunday
Commitment & Abundance, Ordinary Time (green)
Commitment: One of the key ways God transforms us and our world is when we make a prolonged commitment to giving without controlling the outcome.
Abundance: in God, within community, through us, and how we are each invited to be full participants in the stewardship of God’s abundance.
SCRIPTURE: 2 Corinthians 9:8,10-12 (Inclusive Bible)
There are no limits to the grace of God, who will make sure you will always have enough of everything and even a surplus for good works…The One who provides seed for the planter and bread for food will also supply and enlarge your store of seed and increase your harvest of justice. You will be made rich in every way for your generosity, for which we give thanks to God. For the administration of this service not only supplies fully the needs of the holy ones, but also overflows in thanksgivings to God.
One: This is the witness of The Church,
Many: thanks be to God!
THE MESSAGE: Commitment and Abundance (Rev. Tracy Robertson)
(Note: shorter message because of World Wide Communion later in the service)
I love that our Stewardship theme this year is “Re-Awakening Our Spirit”. This past, almost, 2 years of COVID is definitely taking a toll on us and as much as we have supported one another through this very difficult time, our spirits continue to need re-awakening for us to persevere, and Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth is a perfect scripture to kick us off.
We all know that giving is a good thing. There are studies that show how generosity results in greater health not only for those who receive, but also for those who give. In today’s scripture, Paul is telling the Corinthians, and telling us, that not only does generosity bring us health and wellbeing, it also brings growth to the world in ways often beyond our seeing and our knowing. He reminds the Corinthians that what they have is not their own, but is a gift to them from God, meaning that it’s not theirs to be hoarded. Gifts from God call for gratitude, and gratitude is expressed in sharing. He even speaks of generosity in agricultural terms. In the same way God provides seeds for the harvest of food, God gives them their gifts to produce their own harvest. They are to trust that God will use them like planted seeds to sow God’s mercy and grace, to transform the lives of others in largely unseen ways. But here’s the twist; it’s not financial commitment he’s talking about.
Verse 8 says, “There are no limits to the grace of God, who will make sure you will always have enough of everything and even a surplus for good works”. But Paul isn’t saying what we’ve heard many televangelists preach: “Just give enough and God will grant your every whim, like he gave me a private jet and $5000 limited edition sneakers.” Paul’s telling us that “living abundantly” is much different than “having abundance”. The latter is about the economy of accumulating products, and the first is about God-rooted economy and that’s what Paul’s talking about. The challenge is often for us to understand what living abundantly looks like when much of the messaging we receive is all bound up with having abundance. Megabrands have tapped into this concept of having abundance for many years. It’s not just a watch…it’s a personal accessory that empowers greatness. It’s not just a drink…it’s rocket fuel that will turn you into a super athlete. It’s not just a computer…it’s a way of life and you can never have too many of these things, because the next version, the next upgrade, will enable you to do even more and make you a happier person. If you just have enough stuff, if you just surround yourself with an abundance of things, then having meaning in life is as close as your next trip to Costco or Walmart. What Paul’s actually talking about is ‘meaning’: an economy of meaning rooted in God’s grace and abundance. Living in abundance, or with surplus, as our scripture mentions, isn’t having economic abundance. No amount of economic abundance will ever fill the need we have for meaning, and narrative, and transcendence. No amount of stuff will ever fill that spot in our souls where only God is big enough. You see, abundance, having surplus, isn’t about me. It’s about you. We know we cannot create meaningful community and relationships based on the abundance of stuff we surround ourselves with.
That’s really what’s at the heart of the letter to the church in Corinth. The original Greek word Paul uses is autarkia (ow-tar-kay-a) meaning something like ‘a frame of mind’ which was completely independent of outward dependency. And it’s rooted in something beyond the self. It’s the grounding for a life of abundance, and surplus. God has given the church community in Corinth every blessing in abundance so that they can share their surplus. That’s how they could build the kin-dom of God in their midst—by modelling a completely different form of economy that shared the various, yet equally important, gifts that each person had in abundance, so that the needs of the people were met, and the doors of God’s economy were thrown open wide. And here’s the thing: this wasn’t only true for the early church in Corinth. It’s true for us. It’s true for you and me. Each of us has an abundance of blessings and that surplus is what we’re called to share with one another and the world. Each one of us has time and talent and treasure that we’re invited to share with one another and the world. And, yes, each response to God’s abundance is going to look different. We’re different people in differing situations, yet our responses are all given equally as a response to God’s abundance.
Re-Awakening Our Spirit is our theme this Stewardship Campaign and we have all witnessed and experienced this church family doing exactly what Paul’s encouraging; moving beyond the question of “What’s in it for us?” and into the question “What can I do for others?” This church family has been sharing from God’s abundance, and their surplus has and continues to change the world of many in our church family and beyond. And throughout our Stewardship Campaign you’ll hear stories of how we do for others. As we continue to strive to stay rooted in God’s abundance, may we continue to feel our spirits re-awaken. Amen