elationship Requires Response: This is a fact of life, and this is also a spiritual truth that has been the theme of my last two sermons. On our All Saints Day we underlined the necessity of striving: To Them That Overcome, from Revelation 3: 21, was the title. Last Sundayís title was again directly out of Scripture, And he that seeketh findeth. (Luke 11:10).
On this annual Stewardship Sermon Sunday we continue this same thread of thought that in life it seems that our benefit is generally determined by our effort. Unless you were born into wealth, your current financial condition is probably the result of your focus and hard work. We all learned this lesson early on in life.
My high school class of 1963 had co-valedictorians. One was a gifted young man, born into wealth, tall and handsome, who went on to become a cardiologist. However, after a few years family and friends lost track of him. His father hired detectives and finally found his son who had become a victim of his own medicine; he was a drug addict living on skid row.
Our other valedictorian did not show up at our tenth reunion either, but nobody missed her, except maybe me. She rode the school bus I rode school, before I turned sixteen and bought an old Dodge Goat. My heart had been touched by her great effort to overcome poverty. I can still see her now standing beside the country road waiting on the bus with her many siblings. She was thin and always wore the same worn cotton dress. At our gala reunion I had wondered how she turned out.
When my father lay dying in the county hospital I saw a nurse with a familiar face. Rosalee, is that you? Yes Bobby, came the quiet reply. So you are an R.N., you have done well. Yes! she said, I have been blessed. She went on to explain how she had received a full academic scholarship to earn a B.S. in nursing, and later a masters degree, and had come back to Asheboro to help out with her parents, brothers and sisters. They were all doing well. All of the children had graduated from college: one a college prof., another a Baptist preacher. Her little sister was an M.D. now. It took a lot of hard work! she said. And then added, And Godís help too!
There is my sermon, I have said it all, but let me go on until 12:00 oíclock, anyway.
Nothing great is ever done without a great idea, a vision, a goal that helps you to keep going when the going gets tough. Achievement does not find you and thrust itself upon you. Even the miniscule percentage that win the lottery, have to make the effort to buy the ticket.
Jesus said it best: Give and it shall be given... for with the same measure that you give you shall get back. (Lk. 6:38, KJV, RSV). It is true in studying, working, living; and in loving persons, God and His Church.
If you donít think you are getting much out of church, you might ought to look at your attendance record, your prayer time, your Bible study, and your check stubs. One of the finest laypersons I have ever served was a young banker who was fond of telling how he had a dream one night in which he appeared before the judgment seat of God with his 1040 in one hand and his pledge record in the other. He would go on to say that it turned his entire life around because getting serious about God required him to get serious about loving his wife and kids, and doing his best at work, and in every aspect of his life. He truly became a genuine Cheerful Giver.
The Apostle Paul explained the concept well in his letter to the Corinthian Church: ...poor sowing means a poor harvest, and generous sowing means a generous harvest. Each person should give as they have decided for themselves; there should be no reluctance, no sense of compulsion; God loves a cheerful giver. And it is in Godís power to provide you richly with every good gift... (IICor. 9:7, Phillips, NEB).
Magnanimity is our Fall Campaign theme. Its a big word with a big challenge. It is a great big synonym for the word that Jesus used: bountiful. Magnanimous is synonymous to words like: noble, lofty, big, benevolent, generous, philanthropic. There is another big word and concept that I discovered in the thesaurus: chivalrous, which means courteous, honest, and generous. Another is altruistic, which means concern for others. In fact, all of these big words require human relationships. Selfishness is not a part of any of them. You can not be magnanimous, or chivalrous, or altruistic toward yourself. Thus, our giving cheerfully requires magnanimity toward friends, family, and God.
The hope is that we will each respond to this challenge to give magnanimously in all aspects of our lives. To allow the Holy Presence of God to challenge us toward a higher plane of living and giving. Itís as plain as this, as we commit ourselves to a higher vision and begin to give more, Christ will be able to do more through our lives, through our relationships, through our work, and through our Church. Just as God loves a cheerful giver and liver, so does everyone else. Noone mistakes Scrooge as the hero of Dickensí A Christmas Carol.
And finally, we must remember that it is all accomplished by Godís power at work in and through us. Paul concludes his thought with: And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work... (II Cor. 9:8, KJV).
Our two Sundays to bring your Pledge Card to the Altar for consecration are the Sundays before and after our great American Thanksgiving Day, November 21 and 28. Please pray about your magnanimous giving for the year 2000.
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor