A Sermon from the North Yarmouth Congregational Church
A sermon offered by Sandra Golonka in the public worship of the First Congregational Church of North Yarmouth, UCC of North Yarmouth, Maine on Sunday, October 22, 2017.
Principal readings John 2:1-11; John 6:1-13
Freely you have received, freely give.
Over the years I have served on numerous stewardship committees so today I just want to share some of my observations, some of the questions that puzzle me about stewardship and what I believe personally.
It’s been my experience that most churches throw in a quick, almost embarrassed appeal for increased giving from the congregation. Why is it that we are so embarrassed to say we need money for the ministry of the church? Why do people get annoyed or even mad when they hear of appeals for money coming from the pulpit?
In some churches they leave the offering plates at the doors and people drop their checks/envelopes/cash into the plates as they come into the church so it’s not part of the service. And even when we pass the plates how many of us drop our offering into them without a thought? Some of us don’t even have to touch money at all. Our offering goes straight from our bank account into the church’s bank account and our only connection with the offering is the statement we get at the end of the year. I think for most people money and church just don’t mix.
So, where does God stand on all this? Well in our bible there are about 500 verses on prayer, less than 500 on faith and about 2350 verses on money and possessions. Don’t panic, I’m not going to read all of them to you!
Scripture tells us that God owns every beast in the forest and the cattle on a thousand hills. In Revelation we are told that the 12 gates into the new Jerusalem were 12 pearls, each gate being made by a single pearl. Wealth beyond our imagination! Obviously God doesn’t need the small amount that I put into the plate every sunday so why does God want my offering? Well, I think that one of the things I tend to forget is that my offering is to be presented to God. Not the North Yarmouth church. To God. I forget that God does own every single thing on this earth. God owns every single thing I possess.
Bringing an offering is a way for me to have a spiritual, faith connection with God and a way to acknowledge God’s sovereignty over all I possess. It’s a way for me to share the blessings God has bestowed on me. And most importantly, it’s a way for me to place trust in God believing that he will take care of me.
I believe that another reason God wants my offering is because he wants me to work with him to tell others about the great love God has for all his children. God is inviting me into partnership with him in spreading the good news of the gospel. I also believe that stewardship is more than collecting monetary pledges. It is about offering to God our gifts and talents as well as money.
In our gospel readings today we first heard of the wedding at Cana. The wedding has been going on for a few days which was very common then, and the wine has run out. Jesus tells the servants to fill the water jars. Each jar held 20-30 gallons and there were 6 of them. Now these servants have been working for a couple of days. My guess is they were tired and ready to go home. Now they are asked to work overtime! It’s not a case of turning on a faucet or fixing a hose from the tap to the jar. They had to go to the well and draw buckets of water and lug them back to the house. Truly, would any of us have blamed them if they had only half filled the jars? But note what it says. They filled them to the brim. They were given a task by Jesus and they gave it their all.
In our second reading about five thousand people have gathered to hear Jesus. Jesus wants the disciples to feed them and the disciples are sweating bullets at the thought. One young boy steps forward and offers to share his lunch……a sardine sandwich. Let’s face it, for most of us it wouldn’t even have crossed our minds to make such a ridiculous offer.
In both these stories the thing that strikes me is that neither the servants or the little boy did anything special or miraculous. The servants did what they were called to do and did it to the best of their ability. The little boy offered to Jesus what he had even though it seemed so small and insignificant. I think that sometimes we in the church get so caught up in what we are trying to do to further God’s kingdom here on earth that we are blind to what God can do. The servants and the little boy did what they could but it was Jesus who changed the water into wine. It was Jesus who multiplied the loaves and fishes.
So what does this say? Good things are happening here at NYCC. Whether you are 6 or 106 you have a gift that Jesus can use in ministry here. And if you can only increase your monetary offering by 5 dollars, Jesus can bless that beyond what we can imagine.
So I believe that stewardship is about extending the invitation to each and every one of us to join together with Pastor Nancy and the leaders of the church in reaching out to the community, sharing God’s love with everyone. I also believe that stewardship is a time for reflecting on our relationship with Jesus. It’s a time to reflect on how much we trust in him and the love he has so freely given to us. It is a time to reflect on how we will respond to that love with our money, gifts and talents.
I would ask only that you come to our stewardship campaign with an open mind and an open heart.
Freely you have received, freely give. Amen.