Your Gift Is a Blessing
November 18, 2007
The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor
Montgomery United Methodist Church
After this, Jesus crossed over the Sea of Galilee, also known as the Sea of Tiberias. And a huge crowd kept following him wherever he went, because they saw his miracles as he healed the sick. Then Jesus went up into the hills and sat down with his disciples around him. (It was nearly time for the annual Passover celebration.) Jesus soon saw a great crowd of people climbing the hill, looking for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, “Philip, where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.
Philip replied, “It would take a small fortune to feed them!”
Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?”
“Tell everyone to sit down,” Jesus ordered. So all of them – the men alone numbered five thousand – sat down on the grassy slopes. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks to God, and passed them out to the people. Afterward he did the same with the fish. And they all ate until they were full. “Now gather the leftovers,” Jesus told his disciples, “so that nothing is wasted.” There were only five barley loaves to start with, but twelve baskets were filled with the pieces of bread the people did not eat!
When the people saw this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!” Jesus saw that they were ready to take him by force and make him king, so he went higher into the hills alone.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! Our title and our topic for this morning is simply this: Your gift is a blessing. Friends, my prayer for you today, my wish, deep in my heart, is that your gift to this church, whatever it may be and whatever form it may take, would be something that you could feel very, very good about. I pray that this morning would be a morning of rejoicing for you, because your gift is a blessing. Your gift makes the world a better place.
There’s a story told about an elderly woman who went into a coffee shop, something like a Starbucks. She got her coffee and walked over to the counter where you put cream and sugar into the coffee. She took one of the little creamers and tried to open it up. By this time, there was a line of people behind her, waiting to get their cream and sugar. You know how that feels, right? You just want to fix your coffee and get going. The woman was having a lot of trouble with her arthritic hands. Finally, a rather large, burly man came up, set his coffee on the counter, and said, “Madam, may I help you with that?”
She said, “Oh, would you?”
He said, “I sure would.” He took that little creamer in his big hands. You could see that his clothing was spattered with paint. There were spots of paint on his hands. He said to her, “I assure you that my hands are clean, but sometimes it’s hard to get all the paint off my hands.” He opened the creamer and poured it into her cup.
She said, “Can I have another one?”
He said, “Yes, you sure can.” He took another creamer, took off the lid, and poured it into her cup.
She said, “Are you a painter?”
He said, “Yes, I am.”
She said, “That’s wonderful! Do you paint portraits or landscapes?”
He said, “Oh, neither. I’m not an artist; I paint houses.”
And she said to him, “Oh, young man, don’t say you’re not an artist. Anybody who makes the world a lovelier place is an artist, and that’s what you do.”
Well, that fellow left the coffee shop whistling, because that woman gave him a great gift. She let him know that his gift to the world was important. What he did was significant. Anyone that makes the world a lovelier place is an artist. And I assure you that anyone that gifts this church is an artist, is a person who makes the world a lovelier place.
The gospel that we heard this morning told the story of a little boy who was confident in his gift. As you recall, thousands of people were listening to Jesus preach. There were five thousand men and probably more women and children. They were all gathered together, feeding on the word of God. But they were also hungry to feed at the table after a time – as I’m sure we will be, too, at the end of this service. And Jesus said to His disciples, “Possibility thinkers, how can we feed these folks? Where can we get the food?”
And they said, “Oh, Lord, we can’t! We’ve never done it this way before. We can’t afford it. It would take almost a year’s salary to do this.” And then a little boy came up to one of them and said, “It isn’t much, but it’s my meal for today. Will this help?” The disciple, half-embarrassed, took the food to Jesus and said, “There’s a little boy here with a few loaves and fishes, but what is that among so many?”
And Jesus said, “Tell the people to sit down.” In other words, fasten your seatbelts – a miracle is coming. And He took that gift and He prayed and blessed it. He broke the bread, and He divided the fish, and He divided it and divided it and divided it. And lo, there was enough for everybody! That gift made all the difference. And praise God! I hope that little boy felt gladness in his heart, because his gift was a blessing.
Amazing things can happen when we put what we have in the hands of Jesus. It’s transformed into something wonderful. I am hoping that today you would have that feeling in your heart. Whatever your gift to the church may be, in time, talent, monetary gifts, or service, I pray that you would know, with that little boy, that it’s going to make a great big positive difference. And because of what you do and have done, amazing things can and do happen!
There are many different kinds of gifts that bless this church. If you look around you everywhere, if you listen this morning, everything you see and hear represents a gift; gifts that you have given in one form or another, that are put together with everyone else’s to make the church happen, to do God’s work in the world. May you be blessed for it!
There are gifts that are offered of time and talent. Oh, I wish you could be here with me at different times during the church week. Be here on an afternoon, perhaps, when one of our members was here all by herself, cleaning up in the kitchen. It was a lonely job but important, and she was blessing all of us in her own quiet way. May her gift be blessed.
I wish you could be here with me in the middle of the night when another member of our church donates her time and talent in interior decorating to make this a lovely place. It’s a gift. It’s a blessing.
Oh, my friends, if you could be here on a Tuesday night, when our bell choir is learning the skills of ringing bells so they can praise the Lord! It’s a gift. It’s a blessing.
I wish you could be here with me at meetings, meetings that take place here at church. During every single one, I think, “I praise you, O God, and I thank you for these good people who could be anywhere else, but they’re here at the meeting so that the church of God can run.” It’s all a gift of time, of talents, of gifts, and of service.
Blessings and thanks to those of you who give monetary gifts. We all give monetary gifts to our church and put them together. Praise God, we all give to the best of our ability. Some may give more; some may not be so prosperous. Those who give more allow church to happen for everyone, for those who cannot perhaps afford much. It is a wonderful thing. May you feel deeply blessed for the gift that you bring.
And as you bring gifts forward, in time and talent and gifts and service, as you fill out your Consecration Sunday card, let it be a prayer. Let it be a prayer of thanksgiving to God for all the wonderful ways that we’ve been blessed this year. Let it be a prayer of faith, faith in the future of our church, faith that all these wonderful things that have happened so far can happen in the future. And let it be a gift of joy. I invite you to think about one picture in your mind of a happy time here at church and give thanks to God with a grateful heart for that time of joy.
Friends, all we do is made possible by your wonderful gifts. I had a delightful talk with a member of our finance team. He and I were talking about the wonderful ways our church is growing. The next morning I felt inspired to put a little collage together, a collage of different scenes of our church, of the physical building, of the choirs, of the Christmas service, of baptisms, all of which happen thanks to the gifts of our community. There’s a big picture of this hanging up just outside in the fellowship hallway, and there are small copies available on the table nearby. I invite you to take a copy home with you and rejoice in our church family for this year. [You can view or download the collage at http://montgomeryumc.org/MUMCCollage.pdf. Thanks to Rich Specht for making this possible.]
Dear friends, may your gift be a gift of joy. And on behalf of this church and myself, and on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ, for all you do, I say from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you, and God bless you. Amen.
© 2007 Anthony J. Godlefski