Children’s Sabbath and Commitment Sunday 2 Corinthians 9:5-15; Galatians 5:23-26
This sermon began with a children’s book called, “The Promise” by Nicola Davies. In that story, a girl who has learned to steal in order to survive comes across a woman one night with a huge bag. They fight over the bag until the woman says, “If you promise to plant them all, you can have it.” Not knowing what she was promising, assuming there was food and money inside, the girl makes the promise and runs home with the bag. She is startled to find out that the bag con-tains hundreds of acorns. She goes to bed that night realizing the promise she has made and feeling hope for the first time. She then spends her life planting the acorns and making her community and other communities more beautiful and full of life.
In this story, The Promise, the little girl finds out by accident that a generous spirit produces beautiful fruit. She does not go out trying to become a generous person who will change her community. But when presented with the opportunity, when she steals the bag of acorns— she immediately recognizes what is in front of her.
So often I think a spirit of generosity is both counterintuitive and also resonates deeply within us. It’s counterintuitive because our culture keeps telling us there’s not enough. Just this past week at our staff meeting we were reflecting on how commercials aren’t set up to sell us products so much as they are set up to sell us unhappiness. In order for us to want to buy something, they have to prove to us first that we are not whole without it. So we are bombarded each day with messages that we aren’t enough, that we don't have enough, that we aren’t unsatisfied. (Wayne Muller’s book Sabbath, pp. 134-137)
But this is very different than the Gospel message, which I believe resonates within our hearts. Jesus comes and tells people that they are enough. That God doesn’t care that they aren’t seen as righteous by the religious leaders. That God loves them already. And God invites them out of the prisons they are in, whether self-inflicted or society-inflicted— to be freed up so they can live. So much of what Jesus does is show people that they are people who can give. The woman at the well runs away telling everyone she knows about Jesus, when it was her isolation from the community that had sent her to the well at noon. The boy listening to Jesus preach on the side of the hill, offers a couple of fish and some loaves of bread— his lunch— and Jesus takes what the boy offers and feeds the whole crowd. The disciples— the ones who were fishermen and tax collectors and all kinds of jobs— find themselves going from town to town to offer blessings to people. In the presence of Jesus people find that they can be generous— because when we recognize that we are loved, we want to share that love.
In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he is, in effect, running the first church capital campaign. The church in Jerusalem is in great need and the church in Corinth has lots of funds. So Paul is trying to get them to reach out to one another, inviting the Corinthians— new Christians— to share what they have so that the followers in Jerusalem can live. And so Paul tells them what so many of us already know— that when we sow sparingly, we reap sparingly; when we sow generously, we reap an abundant harvest.
Three years ago, before we moved to Sartell, Todd and I gave a pledge to the last capital cam-paign. We knew nothing of you at the time, outside of what we’d read anyway, and we pledged on faith that since God was calling us to this place, then our treasure should be here too. After all, Jesus says that where our treasure is, our heart will be— and we wanted our hearts to be here.
Now, these three years later, we are grateful to be able to pledge again. Because God’s Spirit is at work in so many ways. Because this is a community that is indeed extending hospitality and welcome; loving and supporting children and families; deepening in spirituality and prayer— and inviting others to be deepened; and reaching out to make a difference in the world through the work of social justice. This is where we want our treasure to be, because this is where our hearts are also.
It is our time, church. Today we recommit ourselves to financial health and stability; so that next month, on June 17 & 18th, we can recommit ourselves to the ministry that we came to Sartell to do. We have been in a year long process called the Missional Church Consultation Initiative (MCCI) in which we have been learning new ways to pray; learning new ways to encourage giving; learning new ways to empower leaders and to share the gifts of the church. I have met with a clergy group each month for a year now. And all of this has been leading up to our MCCI Weekend which will be on June 17 & 18th. On the 17th we will gather as a whole church from 9am-3pm and share our dreams and our frustrations and our hopes for the future. All of that in-formation, along with the information from secret worshippers that have been coming to worship and a Church Self Study that a wonderful group in our church produced, will lead the MCCI Team to share with us 5 prescriptions that we will hear about on June 18th. Then we will have roughly a month to talk about those 5 prescriptions, pray on them, and then take a vote as to whether we want to adopt them or not. If we vote yes, then the MCCI Team will provide consult-ants and support for each of the five areas and we will know what we’re doing for the next 1-2 years.
So you see, we’re not wrapping things up because summer is coming. We’re just getting started! It is our time, church. It is our time to continue planting seeds of God’s love in this community. It is our time to grow our roots deeper into the earth with financial stability. It is time to grow up and out and bear the fruit that the Holy Spirit is just waiting to grow in us— love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. These are the fruits of the Spirit.
The girl in the story thought she was stealing something amazing and instead she received a gift of a bag of acorns and a promise to plant. As it turns out, that was worth more than gold. Because that promise that she made brought her to life and when she received new life, so did all those around her.
This morning I invite you to cheerfully give whatever you have decided in your heart. Because whatever we can give, God will give us far more in return. Because we are people of a prom-ise— God has promised to love us, and our promise to God is to share that love— in planting, growing, and being generous in all things.