Sunday, November 22, 2009

Give all You Can!

Give All you can!
Joel 2: 21-27 In the face of loss the prophet calls his people to give praise to God
Matthew 6: 25-33 Wealth belongs in a relationship of trusting God, who provides for creation.

Joe Walker (former Conference staff person) tells about Jonesy, "one of those people" who exemplify in their lives the freedom that comes from grace.
"Jonesy" was a little lady in his small student pastorate in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The Church had only two rooms, one to worship in, and one to eat in. Jonesy was one of those extremely faithful members, there whenever anything was going on. She came from a rugged background in the Arkansas Mountains, and she lived in a little ramshackle house a couple of blocks from the church. Her greatest disappointment, expressed every time the church had a potluck, was that all the water had to be heated on the stove, since the church did not have a hot water heater. She couldn't stand the fact that her church could not afford a hot water heater.
One morning the young pastor Joe Walker came to his church, patting the bricks of the little building to be sure all was in the right place, when suddenly he noticed in the corner of the kitchen a hot water heater. It was not a new hot water heater, but it was new to the church, with evidence around it that it had been freshly installed. Joe immediately walked the two blocks to Jonesy's little house. She was waiting for him on the porch. She tried to keep him on the porch, but he went right on in the house. She tried to keep him in the living room by offering him some cookies, but he headed on into the kitchen. He looked in the corner and, just as he knew he would find, there was an empty space where there used to be a hot water heater. "Jonesy!" he said, "You didn't have to do that!"
"If I had had to do it," she replied, "I wouldn't have!"
She then took her young pastor back into the living room to tell him a story. "Back in Arkansas," she explained, "people pass on truth to each other by telling stories that aren't true. This is one story my mother told me. When I was just old enough to understand she took me on her lap and told me, 'the night you were born I looked out that window up into the sky and saw a star, a brand new star that had never been there before. And then I heard all the angels in the heavens come together to sing a song that had never been heard before.'" Then Jonesy looked at her young student pastor and said, "Joe, I have my own star and my own angel's song, what do I need a hot water heater for?!" (From Rev. Rich Bolin’s sermon on Wesleyan Economics: Give All You Can, Culver City UMC).
What a wonderful attitude, completely in line with our three week emphasis on stewardship. We each have our own star, our own angel’s song. We have been given so much by God our Creator, sustainer. As we give thanks today for the blessings of our life, we trust these in the blessings, from a God who never gives up on us, who never withholds what we need to live full lives, full of joy, full of hope, full of peace, full of love. The prophet Joel announced , “I will pour out my spirit on all flesh…” so do not fear, be glad and rejoice! (Slide)
“Before his Ascension, Jesus said that he would be present and send the promise of the Father (Acts 1:4). That promise was fulfilled when the Spirit descended as wind and fire at Pentecost. The Spirit’s fulfillment continues in the Spirit’s ongoing activity among people of faith. John Wesley, in keeping with church tradition, recognized the Spirit’s work, especially surrounding the sacrament of baptism. Just as the spirit alighted on Jesus at his baptism, so too God gives us the Spirit to us at our baptisms”. (Wesley Study Bible)
The Spirit has been poured into every pore, every part of our being, abundantly , overflowing like a heart bursting with love, like a sold out crowd during the world series, like a thanksgiving feast, like a Disneyland light and fireworks show, like the stars in the sky, the drops in the ocean, the leaves on the all the trees, like the voices of all worlds choirs, like chocolate in Hershey town, like all the diamonds in Africa, like all the coal in Appalachia, like all the snow in Antarctica, like all the animals in all the earth, all the power of a hurricane, or volcano or earthquake, all the ships in the ocean, all the planes in the air, all the varieties of flowers, all the foods people eat all across the world, all the smells, all the sounds, all the sights, all that touches us, God is more than all of this.
Fear on the other hand causes us to be afraid, afraid there is not enough time: “2012 is the last day of the Mayan Calendar, and we need to worry”, there is not enough money, we do not have enough to solve issues like homelessness, HIV/AIDS, starvation, environmental health, not enough resources, our oil will run out, our water will run out, not enough defenses, send more troops, more police, more boarder patrol, more drug enforcement, not enough jobs.
Fear is the opposite of faith, and silly Jesus who proclaims in the midst of all the fears of our life” Therefore do not worry about your life!” Jesus don’t you know about all our worry’s and concerns, don’t you get it? Don’t you see what we face here in the real world? In fact Jesus does see, God does see, the Holy Spirit does see.
Do not worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will bring worries of its own”. Thanks , something else to worry about.
No, Jesus does not teach us to fear, but to trust, trust in the face of the fears that surface in our lives, fear of cancer, fear of lack of money, fear of a lack of a job, fear of death, fear of going hungry, of loss, of grief, of powerlessness, of being hurt, of being taken for granted, of being forgotten, of not having enough, trust Jesus says, trust the prophet Joel says cast all your hopes and dreams on God! And you will have nothing to fear.
Once we have been freed from our fear, we will be free to give all we have to .
Jesus said that God was like Jonesy. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son …” John 3:16
The essence of God’s nature is to give. This begins to reveal to us the richness that is to be found in the doctrine of the Trinity. Trinity tells us that God is not to be understood in static terms, but rather, that God’s very being is already in relationship. Justo Gonzales has said that rather than trying to understand the Trinity, we should be imitating the Trinity. God gave his only son. God’s Spirit witnesses to our spirit that we are children of God. God touches our lives with cleansing fire to set us free for service. God is like Jonesy, not taking in and holding on, but flowing out and letting go.
John Wesley was like Jonesy, though he did not speak so poetically.
“First, provide things needful for yourself; food to eat, raiment to put on, whatever nature moderately requires for preserving the body in health and strength. Secondly, provide these for your wife, your children, your servants, or any others who pertain to your household. If when this is done there be an overplus left, then "do good to them that are of the household of faith." If there be an overplus still, "as you have opportunity, do good unto all." In so doing, you give all you can; nay, in a sound sense, all you have: For all that is laid out in this manner is really given to God. You "render unto God the things that are God's," not only by what you give to the poor, but also by that which you expend in providing things needful for yourself and your household.” (from John Wesley’s sermon, “The Use of Money”)
Friends, we are living abundant lives. Our cup overflows. It is not a matter of the cup being half-full or half-empty. Our cup is overflowing. The exact point at which the cup overflows is determined both by how much is flowing into our cup and by how big our cup is.
"This is Wesleyan economics: gain all you can, save all you can, give all you can. Gain all you can through honest industry and disciplined living. That is, gain all you can without doing damage to your own health, doing violence to your spirit, or harming your neighbor. Gain all you can without manufacturing products that are harmful or taking part in cutthroat competition. Gain all you can, not by promoting corporate greed, but by promoting corporate responsibility and working for the common good.
Save all you can by reducing your consumption. Don’t purchase what you don’t need. Saving all you can is not about putting money in the bank. Rather it is not spending money on anything beyond our basic needs. As we examined this second principle of Wesley’s last week, we noted that rather than being an old fashioned party pooper who doesn’t want us to enjoy life, Wesley is in fact a time-honored sage whose advice is prime for the 21st century. For what the world needs now is an ecological economics that sustains the planet by consuming less.
And then Wesley tells us to give all we can. Wesley is not talking about tithing. He is talking about “Jonesying.” Rather than saying that we should calculate a percentage of our income to give, he says we should determine what we actually need, and then give the rest. Wesley practiced what he preached. Bishop Kenneth Carder reports that as a student, Wesley lived on twenty-eight pounds. “He earned thirty pounds, so he gave away two pounds. As his earnings increased, he continued to live on the same twenty-eight pounds. When he earned 120 pounds, he gave away ninety-two pounds. Wesley wrote to his sister, 'Money never stays with me. It would burn me if it did. I throw it out of my hands as soon as possible, lest it should find its way into my heart.' He told the people that if at his death he had more than ten pounds in his possession, they could call him a robber." Bishop Carder made that observation several years ago in a sermon titled, “On Being Two-Thirds Wesleyan,” in which he suggested that Methodists were doing better at the gaining and the saving parts than the giving one. Actually, I think we are finding all three to be a challenge these days.
Nevertheless, friends, let us embrace the fullness of Wesley’s economics, for the sake of our world, for the sake of our souls, in response to the grace we have received, as persons each with our own star and our own angels’ song, let us gain all we can, save all we can, and give all we can". (Bolin) Amen.


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