Thank You for Your Important Gift!

October 28, 2007

The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor

Montgomery United Methodist Church

 

 

 

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning!

 

Our title and our topic today is this: Thank you for your important gift! And the scripture I’d like to base our sermon on this morning is from the Book of Proverbs: “The Lord loveth a cheerful giver.”

 

My friends, our Stewardship and Finance Committee has respectfully asked me today to make this sermon the kick-off event for our consecration season this year. Our consecration season is the time when we think about our response to the question, “How can I be part of the circle of God’s blessing?” What is God calling me, and each of us personally, to do to be part of the circle of blessing?

 

And as we begin our consecration season, which corresponds to our Thanksgiving season, there are two things I’d like to share with you this morning. First is a simple phrase, “Thank you, thank you, thank you for all you do to make our church happen.” And the second thing I’d like to explore with you is this: your gift, whatever it might be, is important.

 

Let me first say thank you. My dear friends, I invite you to look around you. Everything you see here represents a gift. It is the gift of the people of God, spiritually and physically. All the beauty you see, this wonderful church, all that is in it, its good upkeep and repair, it’s all a gift. I want to say thank you for it. I also want to ask you to look beyond the walls and the physicality of this church. Look to the relationships that are fostered here, to the fact that week in and week out, weather hot and weather cold, there are services of worship here. People can count on coming here. I tell you, as long as I am in this pulpit, every sermon that is ever preached in this church will be a sermon of uplift. You and your friends and all whom you bring can count on it. It’s because of your gift, and I thank you.

 

May I share a few pictures with you?

 

I am picturing, first of all, something that just happened last night. We had a number of activities here at the church for Oktoberfest. One of them was our mini-hayride. We had a wonderful wooden wagon that Dylan and I took turns pulling – I guess you could say we were being the horsey. We pulled children around in that straw-filled wagon. One of the little children in the wagon was laughing and laughing. He kept saying, “This is so much fun. This is the best.” I saw his smiling face, and I thought, “What a blessing!” My hope is that that child will hold on to that memory and associate the sweetness of that moment with the Lord’s house. And it’s a gift because of all the people that made the event happen.

 

Let me share another picture with you, late at night, in one of the meeting rooms here. A committee is meeting, and we’re talking and discussing and listening to each other and solving problems. I look around the table at every meeting I go to at this church, and I say, “Wow! These people are giving a gift.” They could be anywhere else but here, but they’re here. They’re giving their time and talent and energy so that the work of God’s holy church can go on. It’s a gift, and I say thank you. Thanks to you who make it happen.

 

I’m thinking of children who come here and work and help to make things happen here at the church. I’m thinking of a child helping to chip ice off of the sidewalk  in the winter when we had a Saturday service and a sudden storm came up, so that the service could happen. Thank you!

 

I’m picturing celebrations here at the church. The organ dedication, the rummage sale, Oktoberfest – wherever people come together, there are those who give gifts to make it happen, and I say thank you. Thank you one and all. Whether your gifts are of time or talent or money, it’s because of you and your generosity that things happen around here. It’s great!

 

I’m picturing a scene that few of you ever see, and that’s of a person sitting at a computer late at night, looking at numbers and making sure everything works right, a member of our finance team who makes sure that everything is just right and in order, so that the work of the Lord can go on. I say thank you.

 

I’m picturing a Sunday School teacher preparing a lesson for the upcoming Sunday, and greeting her students and sharing the message of the Lord with them. 

 

I can picture someone preparing the elements of Holy Communion, the bread and the cup, working silently and alone so that the entire church community may share in the consecrated elements. 

 

I can picture a gentleman in Sierra Leone, Africa, opening his email to find a transcript of the message heard in our church delivered to his computer – half a world away. 

 

I can picture all these things because someone, somewhere is giving a gift, a gift of time or talent or treasure, to the work of the Lord. It's amazing, isn't it?  There are these pictures and so very many more that go into making the light of our church shine so brightly.   Among those pictures is your gift, my friend.  God honors you for what you do.  You are part of the circle of blessing.  The gifts of God bless the people of this world because of your effort and generosity.

 

To each and every one of you who in any way helps the work of the church, through your time, your talent, your gifts, or your service, I salute you, and I say thank you on the church’s behalf. May you have the joy of the cheerful giver. “The Lord loves a cheerful giver.” The Lord loves us all, but I think the cheerful giver can feel that love just a little bit more, can feel God’s blessing just a little bit more. So I invite you to continue to be a cheerful giver in whatever way you are called to.

 

You know what? You are giving a gift right now, in this very moment, because you have come to church. You are witnessing to your faith, and you are reinforcing all the rest of us because you are here. God bless you. God bless you for that.

 

My friends, I want to say a second thing to you today, and that is this: your gift is important. I want to say it loud and clear for all to hear. Your gift is important, whatever it may be. It’s important to the church, and it is honored by the Lord. Maybe you give of your voice to sing in the choir, and you lift it up in God’s praise. Maybe you work around the grounds. Perhaps like the rest of us you contribute to the church. God bless you. Your gift is important, no matter what it might be.

 

Can I tell you the story of Emma? Emma was a woman who lived with her sister years ago. They were living on Social Security. She was the parishioner of a friend of mine, a minister who is now retired. Reverend Ken was 25 at the time. He went to visit Emma and her sister. Emma was the person who made all the phone calls for the church. That was her ‘time and talent’ gift. If there was a prayer need or a meeting or if a meeting was cancelled, you’d call Emma and Emma would call everyone else. Well, my friend would go visit her. Emma would go to her dresser, and with her gnarled, arthritic hands she’d pull open a drawer and reach in and take out a stack of envelopes. You see, Emma and her sister couldn’t make it to church. She would carefully hand the envelopes to Reverend Ken and say, “Would you please take these and put them in the offering plate for me?” He would.

 

One day, he had an idea. He really had his heart in the right place. He knew that Emma and her sister, living on social security, couldn’t afford much. So he said to Emma, “I’ve talked it over with the deacons, and we have an idea. Why don’t you not worry about this offering?” You see, every week Emma would put a quarter in the envelope and send it for the offering plate. “Why don’t you just hang on to that quarter? It will be all right.” He thought he was doing her a great favor.

 

You can imagine what happened. Emma looked at him with such sorrow. She said, “Why are you doing this? This is between me and the Lord. This is part of my way of praising God. Would you have me stop that?”

 

Immediately he knew it was the wrong thing to do. He said, “Emma, I am so sorry. I am so sorry. This is your gift, and we bless it, and we thank you for it.”

 

She said, “Will you take it to church?”

 

He said, “Yes, I will!” They smiled and laughed and embraced, and she forgave him. And she taught us a lesson that we have to this day. I lift it up, my friends, because no matter what your gift may be – it may be time, it may be a monetary gift, whatever it is – it is important; it is blessed; it is part of your connection to the Lord. It is like a prayer. And it is honored and important.

 

I pray that during this consecration season you would know how important it is, and that you would give with enthusiasm and do what you do with joy, knowing that the Lord is honoring you and blessing you for all that you do. God loves you. I do, too. Thank you, and God bless you, everyone. Amen.

 

© 2007 Anthony J. Godlefski