11/19/06, Thanksgiving Sunday

“God Loves a Cheerful Giver-Liver”
II Corinthian 9: 6-8

6The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 7Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 8And 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. (NRSV)

ne could make an argument that the practice of Christian Stewardship is our highest and best work as children of God. The free will offering of our substance is an acknowledgment of our participating in a covenant in which God is sovereign and we are His dear ones. Furthermore, this willing participation brings our greatest fulfillment. 

One example of the practice of proportionate giving is found in our Pilgrim forefathers, of nearly four-hundred years ago, who gave God praise for all that they had been blessed with at that first Thanksgiving meal. They were grateful even though they had very little to pray grace over. But they rejoiced anyway. Don’t we love to surround ourselves with happy folks who practice a giving attitude in their living?

Why does everybody want to be around positive and happy folks who are also concerned about others? It’s simple; we hope that some of that positive attitude will rub off on us. Happy people make the people around them happy. These are the people who personnel recruiters go after for the best opportunities.  

But, can those who are the opposite, sad and selfish, ever change? There is always hope in the Lord who made heaven and earth, and all of the sad people too. God did not create any of us as sad sacks. He created us for joy; His joy and our joy too. This is the reason that this Thursday is a day of Prayer and Thanksgiving. It’s a day that turns our negativity upside down. But some choose their own miseries.

A man and his wife were sitting in the living room and he said to her, "Just so you know, I never want to live in a vegetative state, dependent on some machine and fluids from a bottle.  If that ever happens, just pull the plug. "His wife got up, unplugged the TV and threw out all of his beer.

A recent “Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s, Faith & Values section” contained a page of letters that people of faith had written as testimonials about God’s love and His intervention into their lives which in turn has made them Thankful Cheerful Givers and Livers. Lydia Walker said that “God’s grace is the sum of everything for which I am grateful.” Another woman was, “grateful for the profound positive influence of her circle of women best friends who has changed her life. Another lady wrote about her new life which arose out of illness and other adversity. Anne began her letter by asking, “Can you really be thankful for cancer?” Obviously, she survived cancer and has become a victorious person. Is it trite to say that she turned her frown upside down?

You see, it’s not the problems of life that destroy us, but it how we respond to adversity that steals our joy. Negativity can more easily overtake us whenever we are vulnerable. Yet, as we pull up out of the pit of doom we can truly have a deep sense of respect for the way God used adversity to make us stronger.

Our willingness to begin the lifestyle of a Christian Steward is perhaps the best most magnificent way of embracing all of God’s blessings and fullness in daily living. As we recall the faith of our thankful Pilgrims this Thursday lets remember that nearly all of them had buried family members during the cold New England winter. They had nearly starved and frozen in the hard months in New England. Some think that we celebrate Thanksgiving Day at the beginning of winter to remind us that we too can survive the hazardous elements. It is an attitude that says, “Since we have overcome near starvation before we have been made strong to bear up under any adversity, with joy!”

As they read Holy Scripture prior to their big meal, perhaps having invited their Native American friends to dine with them, one can imagine that the text was from II Corinthians 9: 6-8, from their Geneva Bible, English edition, which is very close to our King James Version, As we have read today’s text deals with “Those who sow seeds generously will have a large harvest, but those who “Sow sparingly,” will gather only a small crop. As we have read about the Pilgrims and Puritans, they were English Pretests who took Scripture seriously. Indeed, one of the major motivations behind their search for a place that offered them freedom to practice their strict form of religion. So, one could at least assume that our text for today would have been close to their hearts and practice.     

The Plymouth Colony people and their strict religious attitudes have become our heroes. They have become strong examples. The Pilgrims, who stepped out of the tiny Mayflower onto Plymouth Rock on frigid Cape Cod Bay, where the ocean water is near freezing, even in summer, were beginning a tradition that has come to us nearly four-hundred years later. All who have studied the Pilgrims, as grade school children and beyond, have known them as gracious and giving Christians who took the practice of their religion seriously. They were seeking to establish the Christian Faith in this New World. They had given up all they had in order to follow God’s guidance, and they were a holy band. Not known for outward celebrations of religious exuberance, the one-half of the Pilgrims that survived the fist winter were both thankful and determined to live in a way they believed to be right.

Could it be true that our highest and best work as Christians is when we are giving with generosity?

In my years of serving Methodist Christians I have never know one generous steward who had a negative attitude about life. I have never known one who ever regretted any dollar, or millions, that they have been used to serve as a conduit of blessings to their church.

Also, I have never known a highly successful local church in which there were not at least several who were taking advantage of following Paul’s Plan for financing the ministry of the church.

Billy Graham says, "If a person gets his attitude towards money straight, it will help straighten out almost every other area of his life. A man's heart is closer to his wallet than almost anything else."

Stewardship is our highest and most noble work as believers. The tithe of our substance is an acknowledgment of our humbling of ourselves in covenant with God as our sovereign Lord. Furthermore, this willing participation brings our greatest fulfillment in life. So, decide in your soul and make your pledge to your church, with a cheerful heart.

a sermon synopsis by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor
11/19/06, Thanksgiving Sunday