Sermon Recording – Generous Living (Luke 19.1-10)

zacchaeus

Soichi Watanabe’s Jesus And Zacchaeus

Message: Generous Living
Scriptures: Luke 19:1-10
Message 4 of 4 to accompany the study Earn, Save, Give by Rev. James A. Harnish. Offered 2/4/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida.

Jericho

  • The turning point between Galilee and Jerusalem. Located in the Jordan River Valley near the Dead Sea
  • A fragrant and fertile place. Dates, palm-honey, myrrh, and balsam. Used to make fragrances, medicine, makeup.
  • Major trade center. Valued by Rome as a center of taxation. Rich, powerful tax collectors make sure the taxes are rendered unto Caesar, plus some extra for themselves.

Zacchaeus

  • Chief tax collector. Rich. Short.
  • What happens to short people, especially short men? They are teased. Many feel they must prove themselves.

Quote from Moments with the Savior by Ken Gire
Somewhere along the way to adulthood, Zacchaeus learned to compensate—first, to laugh at the jokes, and later, to fight back. And so, as he climbed the professional ladder, he stepped on anyone who stood in his way, anyone on the next rung up. He would show them, show them all. Someday they’d look up to him.

At last, he made it to the top—  a chief tax collector. King of the hill, controlling commerce. King of the hill, greasing his greedy little palms with the sweat of his neighbor’s brow. King of the hill, looking down over Jericho.

But the hill Zacchaeus rules is a dunghill, at least in the eyes of the people. For tax gatherers are despised as little more than ruthless bill collectors for a corrupt government. Even the Talmud looks down on them, allowing a Jew permission to lie to a murderer, to a thief, and . . . to a tax collector.

True, Zacchaeus has power. And he has wealth. But the stature he sought among others has eluded him.

What else eludes Zacchaeus? Friendship, belonging, salvation, meaning, love, healing, peace

Have you ever started down a path, only to find what you were looking for eludes you, too?

Now there’s hope
Zacchaeus has heard stories about this Jesus who was a friend of tax collectors and sinners.

  • Who ate and drank with them and stayed in their homes
  • Who changed the life of Levi/Matthew, the tax collector at Capernaum. Levi left a lucrative career, left everything to follow Jesus. This Jesus must be some man.
  • There’s even talk of him being the Messiah. Not just a rabbi, a healer, but a Messiah who’s a friend of tax collectors.
  • Zacchaeus is willing to look the fool for even a glimpse of Jesus. He runs. He climbs a tree. Zacchaeus literally goes out on a limb to get to Jesus.

Imagine all that Zacchaeus is feeling. His chest is pounding from the run and the climb. Jesus and his disciples are coming. Closer. Closer. Then Jesus stops right in front of him.
Their eyes meet. Jesus calls Zacchaeus by name. In front of all those people, Jesus asks if he can come to Zacchaeus’ home. Later, Zacchaeus makes Jesus his home.

Zacchaeus

  • Experiences a complete transformation. Not just part of his life, but the whole.
  • Zacchaeus chooses both repentance and reparation. He turns from walking in his own strength and plan to follow Jesus. (Repentance, Justification) He doesn’t stop there. He wants to make things right, live a new way. (Reparation, Sanctification)
  • Zacchaeus goes out on a limb to see Jesus and out on a limb to follow Jesus fully. He liquidates his war chest to care for the poor and compensate those he defrauded.

This is what our salvation should look like as well: complete transformation, not just part of our lives, not just enough to get into heaven. We turn. We follow. We live a new life. 

earn save give cover

John Wesley, in his sermon entitled The Use of Money, wrote, “Having, first, gained all you can, and, secondly saved all you can, then give all you can.”

  • Gain = Earn. As followers of Jesus, we embrace hard, honest work. Zacchaeus will be looking for a new job or doing his current job in a very different way.
  • Save = Stewardship.  Zacchaeus realizes we are and have belongs to God. We are caretakers. My money, my possessions, my talents, my body, are not my own. As followers of Jesus, we embrace careful, farsighted, faithful management of everything God’s entrusted to us. Zacchaeus’s management will include caring for the poor and making right his old, evil ways.
  • Give = Generous Living

Earn all you can + Save all you can = the ultimate goal of generous living. We can trust and follow and give because Christ has already given everything for us.

Generosity by Steve Garnaas Holmes
True poverty and riches are in our hearts,
not our pockets.

Fear is the only prison that prevents us
from loving deeply,
from giving freely,
from living richly.

Generosity is the power that sets us free.
It melts the prison bars.
It fills the coffers of our hearts.

In generosity, regardless of circumstances,
even the penniless are not poor,
even the destitute are not alone,
even the flat broke are not afraid.

Give everything you have,
and you will be free
and unafraid

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9am or 10:30am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9am Sundays, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Sermon Recording – We Need Wisdom (Psalm 19)


Message: We Need Wisdom
Scriptures: Psalm 19
Message 1 of 4 to accompany the study Earn, Save, Give by Rev. James A. Harnish. Offered 1/14/18 at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota Florida

earn save give cover
1. How we relate to our money goes to the heart of our relationship with God

There are three conversions necessary: the conversion of the heart, the conversion of the mind, and the conversion of the purse. – Martin Luther

2. If you look for money to do what only God can do, money will fail you
Money cannot forgive your sins, bring you wholeness, nor save you
Money is not a Rock and a Refuge from the pain and trouble of this world
Money does not define you, nor make you valuable

3. Is money is good or evil?
Neither! Both!
Money is a powerful tool and gift of God. Like any gift, it can be twisted into something it was never meant to be: greed, envy, exploitation, materialism, hoarding… Like any gift, it can be received, nurtured, blessed, and multiplied for the greater good.

In the hands of [God’s] children, [money] is food for the hungry, drink for the thirsty, raiment for the naked. . . . By it we may supply the place of a husband to the widow, and of a father to the fatherless; we may be a defense for the oppressed, a means of health to the sick, of ease to them that are in pain. It may be as eyes to the blind, as feet to the lame; yea, a lifter up from the gates of death! – John Wesley, The Use of Money

So it’s not about money. It’s about being in right relationship with money.
It is about using God-given spiritual practices to manage God’s powerful gift of money faithfully. There is no reason to fear or avoid speaking about money.

4. Where do we start? Wisdom is more valuable than money
Think of the consequence of money without wisdom

What is Wisdom? Accumulating knowledge is being smart, educated, informed. It is good to seek the help of experts and best practices, but it is not enough. Wisdom goes beyond accumulating knowledge to the use of knowledge. Wisdom takes into account experience, best practices, but goes beyond to seek and apply timeless Biblical truth and Divine Insight. Wisdom reveals what to do with what you have and why you do it.

Psalm 19:1-6, gaining God’s wisdom via nature
God reaches out to everyone, speaking to us. God wants to be in relationship with us through Jesus Christ, to lead us and guide us and give us wisdom. Yes, we consult experts. Yes, we use our God-given brains. Yes, we seek God’s will and wisdom.

Psalm 19:7-11, gaining God’s wisdom through God’s Word

God’s wisdom is

  • perfect
  • sure and reliable
  • right and correct
  • clear and clarifying
  • pure
  • true and sound
  • more to be desired than gold
  • sweeter than honey

The wisdom that God’s Word provides

  • revives the soul
  • makes us wise if we have an open mind and a teachable spirit
  • causes our hearts to rejoice and be satisfied
  • enlightens, opens our understanding and perspective
  • brings answers, perspective, clarity
  • results in a healthy fear, awe, and holy reverence for God
  • results in appropriate humility before God
  • sustains and endures
  • warns, correcting us that we may live a rewarding life

In short, God’s wisdom puts us in right relationship with God, with others, with ourselves, with the earth, and with money. It’s why we can trust it, seek it, and surrender to it.

5. Ask God for Wisdom, that you may be in right relationship with money.
Do you pray and thank God for “daily bread,” trusting God as the source of your provision and asking God to provide? Do you seek God’s will when making a purchase or an investment or making an offering or for the courage to tithe?

Consider Solomon, a young man about to follow his father David in becoming king. God comes to him in a dream. “Ask what I should give you.” What would you ask for? Long life, love, wealth, power, peace, revenge, victory over your enemies…

Solomon asks for this
Give your servant, therefore, an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people? (1 Kings 3:9)

Notice Solomon’s love and respect for God. He was a king yet humble. He refers to himself as God’s servant. Notice Solomon’s love of others. He understands his call as a leader is beyond his strength, skill, intelligence, and resources. He understands his responsibilities to the greater good.

God answers his prayer and God will answer you. Ask God for Wisdom, that you may be in right relationship with money.

Prayer
Mighty God, grant me wisdom
Let the words of my mouth be acceptable to you
Let my every desire be acceptable to you
Let the resting place of my heart be acceptable to you
Open me to growth and guidance
Purify my reverence and awe for you
Sustain me and satisfy me
May the revival and sanctifying of my soul bring you delight and glory
I trust your Holy Word and Holy Wisdom to put me in right relationship with all things
With money, myself, my motivations, with others, with you
You alone are my Rock and my Redeemer

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I’m excited to now offer mp3’s of my Sunday messages. A huge thank you to Sean and my brothers and sisters at Trinity United Methodist Church, Sarasota for all their help in making this possible. If you’re ever in Sarasota, please drop by for worship Sundays at 9am or 10:30am, or join us live on our Facebook page at 9am Sundays, or drop by during the week for a chat or small group. You and those you love are always welcome.

sermon © 2018 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
Contact Lisa for posting and publication considerations.

Live Hope, Give Hope: a Plan to Share the Goodness of Jesus this Christmas

live-hope-give-hope-1

Live Hope, Give Hope
A plan to share the goodness of Jesus this Christmas

  • Helping
  • Offering
  • Praying
  • Encouraging

December 1: Luke 1:5-25
Zechariah and Gabriel
Merciful God, you offer me new life. Help me receive it and believe it.
– Hold the door for people today and say to them what you’d want to hear.

December 2: Luke 1:26-38
Mary and Gabriel
Holy One, reveal my role in your saving work and give me the courage to say yes.
– Do one thing out of your comfort zone for someone.

December 3: Isaiah 9:2-7                
Isaiah’s Prophecy
Lord of Life, fill me with your hope and light!
– Celebrate the season of light. Decorate your home or a neighbor’s

December 4: worship and rest

December 5: Luke 1:26-38
Mary and the Holy Spirit
Power of the Most High, overshadow me and make your home in me.
– Tell three people that they’re valuable and needed

December 6: Luke 1:39-45
Mary Visits Elizabeth
Jesus, fill me with a spirit of hospitality so I may see and welcome all people as you do.
– Go out of your way today to make someone feel at home

December 7: Luke 1:46-56
Mary’s Song
Mighty God, open my lips with a witness to your just and saving power.
– Tell someone how God has changed your life

December 8: Luke 1:57-80
Zechariah’s Prayer
Holy Spirit, complete your saving work in my life and fill my mouth with praise.
– Say thank you to as many people as you can today

December 9: Matthew 1:1-17
Genealogy of Jesus
God of the Ages, help me to believe and respond to your plan, even when your plan is far beyond my imagining.
– Connect with one person today that it’s been too long

December 10: Isaiah 61:1-8            
The Prophet Isaiah
Hallelujah to our Savior, our Healer, our Deliverer!
– Set three alarms to pray for someone’s salvation throughout the day

December 11: worship and rest

December 12: Matthew 1:18-25
Joseph’s Dream
Holy Comforter, you are near when my dream dies.
You are near the brokenhearted. Thanks be to you.

– Ask, “How can I help?” as many times as possible today

December 13: Matthew 1:18-25
God With Us
O come, O come Emmanuel, encourage me with the promise of your steadfast presence and love.
– Make invitations to Christmas Worship Services

December 14: Luke 2:1-7
No Room
Gift of Heaven, order my desiring and my time so I don’t miss you this season.
– Set aside 15 minutes to be quiet with Jesus

December 15: Luke 2:1-7
Jesus Is Born
O holy Child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray.
Cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.- Phillips Brooks

– Belly laugh with someone. Look for laughter and multiply it.

December 16: Luke 2:8-14
Angels and Shepherds
Son of Mary, Son of God, bring peace to all on earth.
– Call someone and sing your favorite Christmas song

December 17: Isaiah 11:1-11          
The Prophet Isaiah
Prince of Peace, break down every dividing wall.
– Take 15 minutes to listen to someone different from you

December 18: worship and rest

December 19: Luke 2:15-20
The Shepherds’ Visit
We welcome you O Christ, long awaited Messiah.
We receive you with joy and pray others will as well.
– Tell as many people as you can that you love their smile

December 20: John 1:1-18
Jesus, the Word of God
Jesus, make me hungry for you and your word.
– Tape a Bible verse to your mirror to memorize this week

December 21: John 1:1-18
Jesus, the Word Made Flesh
Holy Christ, I sit in wonder before your willingness to be vulnerable so we might be saved.
– Make a sacrifice or take a risk today

December 22: Luke 2:21
Jesus is Circumcised
Heavenly Father, mark me, name me, claim me as your child.
– Wear something that identifies you as a follower of Christ

December 23: Luke 2:22-38
Simeon and Anna
Faithful God, grant me a persevering and active faith.
– Send three notes or texts encouraging perseverance

December 24: Matthew 2:1-12
The Star
Bright and Morning Star, lead me with your truth and light.
– Hug someone today and tell them, “God loves you!”

December 25: worship and rest

December 26: Matthew 2:1-12
The Wise Ones
Jesus, what am I really searching for?
– Take a quiet walk with God today asking, “What do you want from me?”

December 27: Matthew 2:1-12
Gift Giving
King of Kings, receive the best I have, with all my adoration and love.
– Make a donation of money or items to a local charity

December 28: Matthew 2:13-15
Run for Your Life
Light of the World, protect all who are displaced by violence and evil.
Grant them a safe home.

– Find a map of the world and pray as you touch each country

December 29: Matthew 2:16-18
Herod’s Genocide
Lord of Life, hear our cry. Rescue your beloved.
Deliver us from bloodshed. End the madness.
– Write 12 notes saying, “You are so loved” and hide them at the grocery store, food court, library, etc. for people to find

December 30: Matthew 2:19-23
Returning from Egypt
Lord of Heaven and Earth, save me from my wandering. Lead me home.
– Pick a special spot in your home to do your devotions in 2017

December 31: Psalm 100
Prayer for New Year’s Eve
Holy Trinity, Eternal One, for the blessings of today, which remind us of the blessings of the past, which point forward to the blessings still to come we give you thanks.

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Live Hope, Give Hope © 2016 Lisa Ann Moss Degrenia
You are welcome to use this work in devotional settings with proper attribution.
Please contact Lisa for information and permission to publish this work in any form.

Generosity: There is Enough. I am Enough.

fear of missing out fomo mojo brene brownPsalm 23:5 (NRSV)
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

It is good to remember that a part of you has always loved God. There is a part of you that has always said yes. There is a part of you that is Love itself, and that is what we must fall into. It is already there. Once you move your identity to that level of deep inner contentment, you will realize you are drawing upon a Life that is much larger than your own and from a deeper abundance. Once you learn this, why would you ever again settle for scarcity in your life? “I’m not enough! This is not enough! I do not have enough!” I am afraid this is the way culture trains you to think. It is a kind of learned helplessness. The Gospel message is just the opposite— inherent power.
– Richard Rohr

John 10:9-10 NRSV
Jesus said, “I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

There’s enough for everyone’s need but not enough for everyone’s greed.
– Ghandi

Jesus taught us that if we share, if we combine our resources with trust in God, there is enough — the abundance mentality. This perception that there is enough connects directly to our willingness to share compassionately. It flows naturally from being detached from our possessions; when we want less, we have enough.
– Christopher Maricle, The Jesus Priorities

Mark 12:41-44 NRSV
Jesus sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

True poverty and riches are in our hearts,
not our pockets.

Fear is the only prison that prevents us
from loving deeply,
from giving freely,
from living richly.

Generosity is the power that sets us free.
It melts the prison bars.
It fills the coffers of our hearts.

In generosity, regardless of circumstances,
even the penniless are not poor,
even the destitute are not alone,
even the flat broke are not afraid.

Give everything you have,
all you have to live on,
and you will be free
and unafraid.
Generosity by Steve Garnaas Holmes

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For more information on the art, scripture translation and the use of this post in other settings, please refer to the copyright information page.

Love One Another: Receiving Gifts

This is the third of five messages inspired by the book The 5 Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. The congregation is invited to take out something to write with and the bulletin insert for taking notes. Click here for the Receiving Gifts Insert. The prayer following the message is also located on the insert.  

One of the things I enjoy most about Gary Chapman’s book, The Five Love Languages, are the stories he uses to illustrate his points. Here’s a great one from this week’s chapter on receiving gifts. (pg. 76)

I took an anthropology field trip to the island of Dominica. Our purpose was to study the culture of the Carib Indians, and on the trip I met Fred. Fred was not a Carib but a young black man of twenty-eight years. Fred had lost a hand in a fishing-by-dynamite accident. Since the accident, he could not continue his fishing career. He had plenty of available time, and I welcomed his companionship. We spent hours together talking about his culture.

Upon my first visit to Fred’s house, he said to me, “Mr. Gary, would you like to have some juice?” to which I responded enthusiastically. He turned to his younger brother and said, “Go get Mr. Gary some juice.” His brother turned, walked down the dirt path, climbed a coconut tree, and returned with a green coconut. “Open it,” Fred commanded. With three swift movements of the machete, his brother uncorked the coconut, leaving a triangular hole at the top. Fred handed me the coconut and said, “Juice for you.” It was green, but I drank it— all of it— because I knew it was a gift of love. I was his friend, and to friends you give juice.

At the end of our weeks together as I prepared to leave that small island, Fred gave me a final token of his love. It was a crooked stick fourteen inches in length that he had taken from the ocean. It was silky smooth from pounding upon the rocks. Fred said that the stick had lived on the shores of Dominica for a long time, and he wanted me to have it as a reminder of the beautiful island. Even today when I look at that stick, I can almost hear the sound of the Caribbean waves, but it is not as much a reminder of Dominica as it is a reminder of love.

Over the past few weeks we’ve been talking about the ways people best hear and receive love. Dr. Chapman calls them the 5 Love Languages:
(1) Words of Affirmation
(2) Quality Time
(3) Receiving Gifts
(4) Acts of Service
(5) Physical Touch

Knowing how to love others and putting it into practice is important. It’s so important, Jesus commands us to love one another. (John 13:34-35) Some people feel most loved through what we say and how we say it- through Words of Affirmation. Others feel most loved when we set aside time to listen to them, to have a great conversation, to be fully present to them without distractions- through Quality Time. Still others feel loved when they receive gifts from us. Gifts are tangible symbols of love.

Fred is a great gift giver. His gifts are not expensive or numerous; great gifts don’t have to be. Three things make a great gift:
1. Its Personal
Fred was thinking of Gary’s comfort in offering him the drink. He wanted Gary to feel as welcome as possible in his home. His gift said, “I care about you as a person.”

2. Its Thoughtful
Fred was thinking of Gary when he found the stick. He thought Gary would enjoy its simplicity and beauty and the fact that it was so specific to Dominica. It was such a thoughtful gift, that every time Gary looks at the stick “it is a reminder of love.”

3. Its Generous
Great gifts take time and effort. It took time and effort to climb the tree, to find the stick. Fred lives a humble life. He could have probably sold the stick to a store that caters to tourists, but instead he made a sacrifice and gave it to Gary.

How many of us have received a thoughtless gift or even been re-gifted? Do you feel loved when this happens? Now remember a time when someone gave you a gift that knocked your socks off. Every time you remember it or look at it or use it you remember the love and effort of the person who gave it to you.

An old Nigerian proverb says, “It is the heart that gives; the fingers just let go.” Fred’s gifts were from the heart. Ours should be as well. Why? Because some people feel most loved when they receive a great gift.

Several years ago my husband Ed got me flowers for our anniversary. What made them extra special was that he spent time with the florist creating a bouquet of my favorite flowers. That extra effort showed me how much he loved me. The flowers are long gone, but I still remember and value his gift of love.

We welcome children into our worship services at Community UMC. Often you’ll see them drawing during worship. One Sunday, little Emma gave me one of her works of art. My heart soared when I saw it was a picture of me standing beside the communion table, my hands open wide. The picture also included the bread for communion, a candle, a cross, and a microphone. She was paying attention and she wanted me to know it.

In our congregation we have a group which makes and gives handmade afghans to persons who are going through a rough time or who are ill. Some donate the yarn while others knit or crochet. With every stitch the person is praying for the person who will receive the afghan. The time, effort, skill and intention join together to wrap the recipient in the warmth God’s love and the love of our congregation.

We love because God first loved us. (1 John 4:19) God is the ultimate Gift Giver. The sunshine to welcome us into a new day. A blanket of stars to settle us for sleep. Needed rain and the fruit of good earth and the gift of life itself.

Matthew 7:9–11 NRSV
Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!

And the way God most perfectly shows us love? Through the gift of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.” (John 3:16)

Jesus’ birth is God’s love given so we could see it.
Jesus’ life is God’s love given so we could believe it.
Jesus’ death and resurrection is God’s love given so we could receive it and live it.

“No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

In the story of the feeding of the five thousand, we see God’s love at work in Jesus and his followers.

Mark 6:30-32 NRSV
The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.

Jesus loves the disciples by offering them quality time for conversation, rest and being present to one another.

Mark 6:33-34 NRSV
Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

Jesus has compassion and love for the crowds, offering them words of affirmation and truth.

Mark 6:35-44 NRSV
When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. And all ate and were filled; and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.

Like Jesus, the disciples too are concerned for the people and their welfare. Jesus tells them to show their love by giving the people food. The disciples feel overwhelmed with the challenge, knowing their offering is far too small. Yet they hand it to Jesus, who blesses it and multiplies it and it is enough. It is a good gift- personal, thoughtful, generous.

How many of us feel our offerings of love are too small? Our society says gifts are only valuable if they expensive and if they are many. Take courage! Our loving gifts when combined with God’s are more than enough.

O. Henry wrote a powerful short story called The Gift of the Magi. It’s about two poor, young newlyweds. Della’s prized possession is her beautiful, long, flowing hair. It’s grown almost to her knees. Jim’s prized possession is a shiny, gold watch which belonged to his father and grandfather. Each plot separately to give a Christmas gift that will express their love. Della decides to sell her beautiful hair in order to buy Jim an expensive chain for his watch. When he walks through the door of their small apartment, he sees her hair is gone, but he also sees the beaming smile on her face. She’s so excited to give him the gift. He opens it to find the watch chain. He then hands her his gift. She opens it to find beautiful combs for her hair. How has he paid for them? By selling his watch.

The young lovers’ gifts are personal, thoughtful, generous, sacrificial. They are beautiful because they are from the heart. They have a heart for giving because they know the Great Gift Giver. Like them, when we see all that God has done for us, our hearts overflow with thankfulness, generosity and love.

James 1:17 NRSV
Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

We give because God the Gift Giver is at work in us.

One of the joys of being a pastor is when members of the congregation share with me how God is working in their lives. Chad gave me permission to share his story.

Chad does a great deal of work related driving. He was out last week and saw a man on the side of the road with a sign reading, “Anything.” Chad rolls down his window and says, “I don’t have any money, but would you like my sandwich?” The answer is “yes.” Chad gives him the sandwhich and drives away thinking to himself, “I still have my chips and bottle of water for lunch. That will be enough.”

Chad drives further and sees another person by the road with another sign. His heart swells. He rolls down his window and says, “I don’t have any money, but would you like my chips and water.” The person gladly receives them, opening the water and drinking like she’d just crossed desert. Chad thinks to himself, “I can miss a meal.”

Next a woman asks Chad for help. He’s not really supposed to help while on duty but does. When she’s about to head on her way, she thanks him, hands him $10 and tells him to “go have a nice lunch.”

This is the God we love and serve. Not because God gives pays us back with lunch money for our good deeds, but because God gives us a heart full of compassion and love and generosity. We love because God first loved us. We give because God first gives to us. Love well. Live well. Give well.

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Know you are always welcome at our congregation, Community United Methodist Church in DeBary, FL. We worship on Sundays at 8am, 9:20am, and 11am. Dress casual and bring the kids.

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Quotes: Giving

Overflowing by Deboarah Koff-Chapin

I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare. In other words, if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries, amusements, etc., is up to the standard common among those with the same income as our own, we are probably giving away too little. If our charities do not at all pinch or hamper us, I should say they are too small. There ought to be things we should like to do and cannot do because our charitable expenditure excludes them.
– CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

When you learn, teach.
When you get, give.
Maya Angelou

God has given us two hands —
one to receive with and the other to give with.
We are not cisterns made for hoarding; we are channels made for giving.
-Billy Graham

We are cups, constantly and quietly being filled.
The trick is knowing how to tip ourselves over and let the beautiful stuff out.
-Ray Bradbury

As leaders, we are never responsible for filling anyone else’s cup.
Our responsibility is to empty ours. – Andy Stanley

An old Nigerian proverb says,
“It is the heart that gives; the fingers just let go.”

There’s enough for everyone’s need but not enough for everyone’s greed.
– Ghandi

Jesus taught us that if we share, if we combine our resources with trust in God, there is enough — the abundance mentality. This perception that there is enough connects directly to our willingness to share compassionately. It flows naturally from being detached from our possessions; when we want less, we have enough.
– Christopher Maricle, The Jesus Priorities

Psalm 23:5 (NRSV)
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Maimonides, a 12th century Rabbi and philosopher, proposes there are 8 different levels of giving. They are listed below from “lowest” to “highest” ethically. Anonymous giving is ranked ethically “higher” because it demonstrates humility and no personal desire or need for recognition, praise, credit or gratitude in return for the gift.

8. Giving reluctantly or unwillingly
7. Giving willingly but in a way that is inadequate
6. Giving adequately, yet only after being asked
5. Giving adequately, before need to be asked or urged
4. Giving publically to an anonymous recipient (such as giving to an organization without hiding your identity and without knowing the recipient.)
3. Giving anonymously to a known recipient
2. Giving anonymously to an unknown recipient
1. Giving anonymously in such a way that the unknown recipient is no longer dependent upon others (such as providing jobs so persons may care for themselves)

2 Corinthians 9:6-12 (NRSV)
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 forever.” 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.

The Gift Economy: Karma Kitchen
Imagine a restaurant where there are no prices on the menu and where the check reads $0.00 with only this footnote: “Your meal was a gift from someone who came before you. To keep the chain of gifts alive, we invite you to pay it forward for those dine after you.” That’s Karma Kitchen, a volunteer-driven experiment in generosity. Karma Kitchen first opened in Berkeley on March 31, 2007, by several volunteers inspired to seed the value of a “gift economy”. The restaurant is run by volunteers, meals are cooked and served with love, and offered to the guest as a genuine gift. To complete the full circle of giving and sustain this experiment, guests make contributions in the spirit of pay-it-forward to those who will come after them. In keeping this chain going, the generosity of both guests and volunteers helps to create a future that moves from transaction to trust, from self-oriented isolation to shared commitment, and from fear of scarcity to celebration of abundance.

As a Christian, I do not believe in the concepts of karma or reincarnation. However, I fully embrace the concepts of God’s abundance, fostering community, exercising faith through good works, and the generous employment of time, talent, and treasure as a testimony to the grace and provision of God. – Lisa <><

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Christmas 12c: Gift Giving


Matthew 2:11
On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Born a king on Bethlelhem’s plain,
gold I bring to crown him again,
King forever, ceasing never
over us all to reign.
Frankincense to offer have I:
incense owns a Deity nigh;
prayer and praising gladly raising,
worship him God Most High.
Myrrh is mine: its bitter perfume
breathes a life of gathering gloom;
sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying,
sealed in the stone-cold tomb.
-from the hymn We Three Kings by John Henry Hopkins, Jr.

Epiphany comes each year to remind us that God has come to us in the person of Jesus, the Word made flesh. People near (like Joseph and Mary) and people far away (like the magi) are invited to come to him. No one is kept away. And as we do so with perception (i.e. eyes of faith), we find that our most precious gifts (our gold, frankincense, and myrrh) belong at his feet.
– Steve Harper, The Holy Gospel: January 6, 2013 (Year C)

Behold, I give thee gold, that is to say My Divine Love; frankincense, that is all My holiness and devotion; finally myrrh, which is the bitterness of My Passion. I give them to thee to such an extent that thou mayest offer them as gifts to Me, as if they were thine own property.-Mechthild

Psalm 51:15-17 (NRSV)
O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise. For you have no delight in sacrifice; if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased. The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Each encounter we have is part of our daily offering to God. Each day, every deed, all the intentional motion of our souls – however helpful or hurtful it may be – is the actual “living sacrifice” we give to God as material with which to weave the human story (see Rom. 12:1). At this daily altar our selves are offered to or withheld from the Spirit’s transforming power. – Robert Corin Morris, Wrestling with Grace

Romans 12:1 (NRSV)
I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Say, shall we yield Him, in costly devotion,
Odors of Edom and offerings divine?
Gems of the mountain and pearls of the ocean,
Myrrh from the forest, or gold from the mine?
Vainly we offer each ample oblation,
Vainly with gifts would His favor secure;
Richer by far is the heart’s adoration,
Dearer to God are the prayers of the poor.
– from the hymn Brightest and Best by Re­gi­nald He­ber

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