Mark 5:21-43? II Corinthians 8:7-15

June 28, 2015 by Ken Dale

Very old story ? slightly modified ? three church members are discussing how much they give to the church.? The first says I draw a line on the floor, throw all the money up in the air and what comes down on the left goes to the church, what?s on the right I keep.? The second one is similar except it?s a circle ? all the money goes up in the air and what lands in the circle goes to the church.??? The third says, ?I throw all the money up in the air and I figure what God wants or needs, God will take and the money that hits the floor stays with me.? OK ? relax it?s way too early in the year for a stewardship sermon.

I would like to challenge us all this morning to think, however, about our giving as a statement of faith.? While our epistle reading this morning is from Paul?s second letter to the Corinthians and he is asking specifically for money, I want us to broaden our thinking about giving ? not just money, just giving in general.? Just giving of ourselves, of who we are and what we can do and how we can respond ? and those spiritual gifts that we are all blessed with in some way.

Paul is urging those in the church to participate in a collection for the church at Jerusalem.? The reason for giving is twofold.? First, that the Corinth church remember that they were blessed by those who gave to help them.? Now the church in Jerusalem is in need and Corinth has the opportunity to share.? Corinth has more than Jerusalem so Paul asks them to help. ?He refers to it as ?fair balance.?? In a nutshell Paul says remember your times of need so you will remember to meet the needs of others.? The second part of his appeal is the example of Jesus Christ: ?though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.?? Obviously, this is not about money ? but about giving, and self-giving.

My last worship with you was music Sunday and it?s still floating around ever so joyfully in my soul.? And there is no better illustration for the point than our Chancel Choir.? There are varied gifts in this choir ? the voices are different in what they offer, what they each bring to the choir.? Some are high, some are low, others in between ? some are stronger than others, with varying degrees of training in those voices.? Yet it is what each and every person in this choir brings to the choir, shares in the choir, gives to the choir, that makes this choir what it is.? And we are blessed in worship because of what they each and all do.? If more individuals sang in the choir ? there would be more to the choir.? If less gave of themselves and their gifts it would be less of a choir.

This is the truth about every aspect of our life together as this church ? every aspect of our life together and all that we seek to be and do as this church.? The more we give of ourselves ? of who we are as well as what we have ? the greater this church is.? And as Paul says, remember how we have been blessed and remember the example of Jesus Christ.

It?s about giving ? and I?m not talking about money.? A week ago last Wednesday we were all deeply touched in a disturbing way by the shootings ? the awful violence ? and the tragic deaths at the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.? They were the deaths of Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Cynthia Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, DePayne Middleton-Doctor, Church Pastor and State Senator? Clementa Pinckney, ?Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Lee Simmons Sr., and Myra Thompson.? They were people known and loved by others just as we know and love one another.? I can?t even begin to imagine what that would be like in a small group setting of this church family.?? Felicia Sanders told her five-year old granddaughter to play dead; they survived. ?I can?t imagine what it must be like for that 5 year old to be told to do that.? Think of 5 year olds that you know.? The ugly reality of racism in this country once again raised its ugly head.? The young white man came in and sat and prayed with them, joined with them in Bible study for an hour before suddenly just randomly shooting and killing simply because they were black.

But what a statement of faith in the giving that followed.? This past Wednesday that same space was filled with 150 people ? just one week later ? plaster filled the bullet holes in the walls and there was undoubtedly sadness, but also joy and celebration of faith and statements of all are still welcomed.? There were expressions of concern, and forgiveness.? They celebrated with thanksgiving and inspiration the lives that were lost.? And in an even broader sense look at the response of the wider community ? there was great sadness, no doubt some rage, but there were no riots, and it was not responded to with further violence and destruction, coming from anger and fear.? I cannot help but think that it was all a statement of faith ? they lived out Paul?s words in Romans 12:17, ??render to no one evil for evil.?? The witness in their response is one of faith ? not fear. ?I don?t know about you but I was deeply touched.? The power and voice of love in that church and community is strong.

How do we respond to that reality of racism?? We need to be careful about saying that we are not racist ? because it is something that goes deep and may be too easy to deny ? especially where we live.? We can give of who we are ? and we can work on who we are.? It?s a matter of being intentional about treating one another as people, as God?s children, though we have our differences ? in race, in various orientations ? sexual, political, our opinions – we all differ in some way.? But sometimes we need to make extra effort to remember others as God?s children.? As God?s children they are our sisters and brothers and despite our differences whatever they may be ? they deserve our love and our understanding and our compassion.? We need to know and understand their stories ? stories that have defined them.? Again, all people deserve our love and understanding.? Therein lies the healing that is needed in our society.? It begins with our interactions with one another and grows from there.? As with the two healings we heard of in the gospel lesson ? sometimes they just happen through who we are and at other times it happens through our intentional actions.? But we are all God?s children and God?s love flows through us.

Joan Chittister captures the truth of it all in her reflections on ?The Loving Heart.?? She begins quoting Willa Cather:? ?Where there is the greatest love, there are always miracles.?? Then Chittister shares these words in part:? Love is the great definer of life.? Those who love live.? Those who live and never learn to love are already dead of soul?? Love is all we know of God.? It is all the proof we need of God,? It is the sight of God in our own lives.? Love something then; love anything and everything in order to release the best of yourself.? No doubt about it:? It is love that makes us human.

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