Generosity

2 Corinthians 9:6-15
Gratitude Sunday
Elizabeth M. Deibert

You are generous people. You came to a new church where you knew you’d be asked to give more of your time, energy, and money. You could be sitting at home in your recliner, sipping coffee in your pjs. Or you could be sitting comfortably in a church that does not need everything you can give, a church that offers more for you and asks less of you. But with all the church choices out there for consumers of religion, here you are, choosing not to be a consumer. You have decided to be generous, to invest your time, energy, and money in these relationships, in this ministry to help Peace grow into our vision to be an intergenerational and diverse community of fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ who reach out with the good news of Christ’s love, who grow strong in the service of God and neighbor, who send one another out with the joy of the Holy Spirit.

You are a generous people. Some of you have served on more than one ministry of this church for four or five years or taken up major leadership roles for more than three year and we don’t want you to burn out, but we’re grateful for your generosity and tenacity. You have taken menial jobs and significant ones. You have picked up the pieces when others have been too buy or too tired to do all their part. And you’ve done it with gladness. You’ve given away 20% of budget to mission beyond this church in the last two years. You have volunteered countless hours to Mission Beth-El, Family Promise, and Habitat, and you’ve given many gifts in kind.

You are a generous people because you welcome all people in this fellowship and you are eager to get to know them. You give away more than a friendly smile. You are authentic. You are real. You pray for one another. You care for one another. You forgive one another, never allowing petting arguments to stand in the way of meaningful community. You know the names of the children and youth and are involved in their lives. You are interested in reaching out to your neighbors and colleagues and willing to build friendships with them, not just put all your energy in the easy friends with whom you see eye-to-eye.

You are a generous people because you are open to the ideas of others, to the musical and liturgical tastes of others, who have different worship experiences than yours. You would rather worship together in diversity than have folks divide along the traditional and contemporary worship lines. You made a commitment to be sometimes uncomfortable for the sake of others’ comfort, to work at this worship blending, to be generous of spirit toward people of all ages and interests and religious backgrounds. You are generous in trusting the Spirit at work in each other. And in your generosity, nearly all of you have discovered that you reap what you sow. For many of you, this is the first church, where you’ve had a strong sense of responsibility for the ministries of the church, and you never knew how joyful (and yes, occasionally a little burdensome) it could be. How much we have received back for the investment we’ve made of ourselves in this new church!

People often ask Richard and me why we would be involved in starting two new churches. Because this kind of intense involvement and deep trust in God is eminently rewarding. By the way, let me take a moment of personal privilege to thank you for the generous expression of appreciation lavished on Richard this week by many of you. How very kind of you to recognize the time and energy he has given in recent months to hold Peace and this pastor together as we made the transition. Thanks for generosity of staff who give more than their allotted time for Peace work. They give because they care about Peace’s vision. But most of all, thank each of you who are volunteering, who invest countless hours of willing labor, you empower the ministries of the whole church.

For a full year, our Stewardship Team has been encouraging us to remember that gratitude is what rocks the universe. We are called to be cheerful givers, to remember even in these hard economic times, that we have so much for which to be grateful and thereby so much to give. I’m here to tell you that every time I touch a gratitude rock, I am grateful for you. Peace Church would not exist apart from the generosity of the people in this room, who with the support of brothers and sisters in the presbytery, parent churches, and denomination, were able to sustain ministry at Living Lord Lutheran on Sunday nights, at Manatee Community College and in our homes in the Corporate Park for four plus years, and now here in our new ministry center in a great location.

We come to the end of our Stewardship season, but not to the end of our Gratitude. We have considered that with God, there will always be plenty. So we can give more, even though we have less security this year. Richard may not have started working, but we’ve decided to up our pledge from 200/week to 225/week. We are counting on God to provide all we need. We hear the prophet Elijah telling the widow of Zarephath that with God we will always have enough. We hear the Apostle Paul telling the Philippians and us that we can simplify our lives and learn be content in plenty and in want because of Christ who gives us strength. We can be filled with gratitude, and overflowing in generosity.

And that word generosity is the one which figures prominently in our text today from 2 Corinthians. Paul does not want the Corinthians to give because he is pressuring them. He wants them to give gladly and from the heart. He is convinced that the more they give, the more they will be enriched – that it is truly more blessed to give than to receive.


2 Corinthians 9:6-15

The point is this:

the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly,

and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully.

7 Each of you must give as you have made up your mind,

not reluctantly or under compulsion,

for God loves a cheerful giver.

8 And 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.

9 As it is written, "He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor;

his righteousness endures forever."

10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food

will supply and multiply your seed for sowing

and increase the harvest of your righteousness.

11 You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity,

which will produce thanksgiving to God through us;

12 for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints

but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God.

13 Through the testing of this ministry

you glorify God by your obedience to the confession of the gospel of Christ

and by the generosity of your sharing with them and with all others,

14 while they long for you and pray for you

because of the surpassing grace of God that he has given you.

15 Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!


It all starts with the surpassing grace of God. With being overwhelmed by the surpassing grace of God, such that you see it as an indescribable gift. If you start with the perspective that you deserved nothing and got everything, then you understand surpassing grace, the indescribable gift. If you thought you were dead and found out you were living by the gift of God, then you have gratitude for the indescribable gift. If you’re like the farmworker kid living in the crowded and run down mobile home and you receive your first brand new bike for Christmas, then you know the feeling of an indescribable gift. If you’re the one who always get Bs and Cs, and you finally make the A honor roll, you’ve can relate to surpassing grace. If you lost a job, or a house or and by the grace of God and the help of friends and family, you are still able to pay your bills and keep offering to, then you know the indescribable gift of God. If you’ve lost a marriage or a child or a close friend, and you are still able to wake up in the mornings with gratitude in your heart, then you know the gift better than most.

German pastor Martin Rinkart, who wrote Now Thank We All Our God, the hymn we will sing in closing, served in the walled town of Eilenburg during the horrors of the Thirty Years War of 1618-1648. Eilenburg became an overcrowded refuge for the surrounding area. The fugitives suffered from epidemic and famine. At the beginning of 1637, the year of the Great Pestilence, there were four ministers in Eilenburg. But one left his post for healthier areas and could not be persuaded to return. Pastor Rinkhart officiated at the funerals of the other two.

As the only pastor left, he often conducted services for as many as 40 to 50 persons a day--some 4,480 in all. In May of that year, his own wife died. By the end of the year, the refugees had to be buried in trenches without services. Yet, while living in a world dominated by death, Rinkart wrote this timeless prayer of thanksgiving for his children:
Now thank we all our God With hearts and hands and voices;
Who wondrous things hath done, In whom this world rejoices.
Who, from our mother's arms, Hath led us on our way,
With countless gifts of love, And still is ours today.

The first unofficial Thanksgiving was celebrated after great loss of life. Nearly half of those on the Mayflower had died either in route or in the harsh winter. The fifty who remained alive, thanks to the generosity of Native American friends, enjoyed a bountiful harvest that first autumn. They were grateful for what they had left.

We should never measure our own generosity by what we give but by what we have left. As your pastor I cannot measure my time by the hours I put in. If I did that, I would be constantly frustrated. No, I just make sure that I have enough time left to rest on Sunday nights and Monday mornings. I make sure I have a few afternoons or evenings left in a week to spend time with the family. It not how much money I give but whether I have left myself just enough money get by. And it is amazing how God supplies what we need when we actively trust and give generously. As Anne Frank said in her diary, “No one has ever become poor by giving.” When we give to God, we are just taking our hands off what already belongs to the Creator of heaven and earth, who blessed us. So we should give to God what’s right, not what’s left. : )

Some people say we should give til it hurts. But it seems from this passage, we learn to give until it feels good, until our hearts are so practiced at trusting that we are joyful and even cheerful, knowing that our lives are no longer in our hands, but in the Lord’s. Rejoice in the indescribable gifts of God and take the seeds God’s given you and cast them out, knowing that the more you cast out, the more you will reap. We give not to prove our devotion to God, but because we are filled with gratitude because of God. Every day breathe in gratitude and breathe out generosity. If you refuse to exhale generosity, you will not be able to take in more gratitude. Adam Hamilton is even more graphic in his illustration when he compares the expression of generosity to our daily digestive tract. He recommends no constipation or blockage when it comes to giving, but I’ll stick with image of respiration.

God is able to provide you everything in abundance, so exhale generosity and inhale in gratitude. Just keep breathing in and out deeply. Keep an inventory of the gifts of God, keep dancing in your heart, and keep reaching in your pocket for that gratitude rock to remind you that God has given you the best gift you’ll ever receive – everlasting love. This is love not intended to leave you as you are but love aimed at transforming you into the best person you can possibly be. God has become one with you in Jesus Christ and has taken on your life and your, to renew you in life and restore you in death. And because of God’s abundant love, there will always be enough of everything you need and even more than enough, when you share generously.

I’d like to end with a Thomas Merton quote:

To be grateful is to recognize the Love of God in everything he
has given us – and He has given us everything. Every
breath we draw is a gift of His love, every moment of
existence is a grace, for it brings with it immense graces
from Him. Gratitude therefore takes nothing for
granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening
to new wonder and to praise of the goodness of God.
For the grateful person knows that Godis good,
not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what
makes all the difference.

Prayer:

Lord, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labor and not to ask for reward,
save that of knowing that I do your will.

- Ignatius, 1491-1556