Plymouth United Church of Christ

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“Jesus’ Model of Giving Is to Give Everything” Sermon, Year C, Advent 1, December 2, 2012
Plymouth United Church of Christ, Eau Claire, WI
© Rev. David J. Huber
Focus Scripture: Jeremiah

This is the first Sunday of Advent, our time of waiting, a time of expectation. We have four weeks to prepare ourselves spiritually for Jesus’ birth. It is a time to breathe deep, to slow down. I know it’s not the message outside these walls, but it is the message from this pulpit. We don’t need to make ourselves physically sick to prepare for Jesus’ birth. And it’s hard to pay attention when you’re noisy. So take a deep breath.

Because Jesus is going to arrive on December 25 whether we think we are ready or not. Christmas is going to happen, and it will happen on the day that has been assigned to it. And so when we get to that day, let the joy of Christmas be the Jesus’ birth. Let that be the joy of Christmas. Even if some food isn’t ready, or some decorations didn’t get put out, or some shopping didn’t get done. Let the joy of Christmas be that Jesus was born. The birth of our messiah.

And so we are in this time where we wait for Jesus. But there is a paradox here, as there is in so much of our faith. There is a paradox here in that we anticipate Christ coming. We anticipate Jesus’ birth. And yet, Jesus is already here! Here in us. You are the body of Christ. We are Christ’s body. We are the incarnation. We have received the Holy Spirit to be Jesus for others. We are already Christ’s hand and feet, to be put into service; we are Christ’s mouth to speak for the poor or on behalf of the oppressed; we are Christ’s eyes to see the evil in the world, and the good in the world. We are Jesus. We are the body of Christ, the Church, the gathered disciples. We are Christ’s body. And as disciples we have been given a vocation until such time as Jesus truly does come back. We have been given this holy vocation to be Jesus. To be Christlike. To do his work, to follow his example of doing ministry. And we do that. We do that at Plymouth United Church of Christ very well, and we do a lot of it.

You have heard in the past couple weeks in stewardship moments we have talked of some of the ministry that we do here. And it has been pointed out in the letters that went out, and the pamphlet you received this week. And I hope you looked at it, that talks about the ministry that we do here. We do a lot of ministry. We are not a “big” church, but we are a church with a big heart and we have had a good impact in eau Claire and around the world and certainly on one another. We are a church with a big heart, and a big sense of Christian duty to our neighbors. As your pastor, I am very thankful for that, and very grateful to see the ministry that goes on here. We have our street ministry, going on downtown. Our group of women who have made quilts here for decades that go to Western Dairyland, to people who are temporarily homeless who need blankets for warmth. We have our fellowship meals: every time that we come together, we are doing ministry to or with one another. I get to be out in the community, and to write for the newspaper and be a public face in certain places. We have a facebook page and a website and we now have a podcast, had that for a couple months. We have Sunday school for children and adults to learn how to be disciples. We have great music, thank you Lynn. We have special worship services. We give to the St. Francis Food Pantry, we give to the Community Table. We do a lot. We do a lot. A lot of ministry coming out of here, and it all takes time, and it all takes money. Our volunteer hours and our giving, whether it is giving of our money, or giving items to the thrift sale or the bazaar, or running around town picking things up for the thrift sales, or delivering nuts. Or whatever we’re doing. It takes a lot of time and it does take money.

And not just direct cost of what we donate to St. Francis, or the cost of materials for quilts, or some of the other direct costs. There are also other costs: electricity, heat, insurance for the building, plowing, mowing the lawn, our musician, me, our secretary, water.

And so we’re all called to give as well. We are called to do and called to give. And we have talked here, at least in the letters that have gone out and in past sermons, we have talked of the tithing model of giving where you give 10% of what God has given. It’s a biblical model, but not the only biblical model. There are other models in there. Tithing is nice and easy. Ten percent is easy to compute, easy to figure out. Jesus offers a very different model of stewardship giving that involves no math. Jesus says, “Give everything”. Whatever you have, give that. I remember, when I was in college one of our classrooms had a little fake “IRS 1040 REALLY EZ” form. It had two lines on it, the first line said “Write in amount you made last year” and the second line was “Send it in”. Nice and easy. Jesus calls us to give everything we have.

Which is insane at some level! I don’t think Jesus is saying that we have to literally sell everthing we have until we’re naked, homeless, and vulnerable, and have nothing. That’s not particularly responsible. But, I think Jesus is saying, “Give everything you have in service to God.” Give everything you have in service to God. Your house, your car, your education, your job, how your purchase things, what you purchase, your relationship to those things, what you keep for your own needs put all of that in service to God. One way or another, put it all in service to God. Put it all in service to Jesus Christ, who talked really more about our relationship to money and our relationship to things. It was never that things or money are bad or evil, or even good or wonderful. They just are. It’s our relationship to those things.

And a part of that continuum of our relationship and how we give everything to God will be what we give to the church and what we give to other organizations that do work in the world that we believe in and think are good to do. And the Christian call is a call to generosity. It is a call to be generous. Generous with ourselves, with money, generous with time, generous with compassion, generous with mercy, forgiveness, understanding, patience, kindness, to be generous with love. Especially to be generous with love and how we show that love in the world. And so there are many models of giving and we have often here talked about tithing but it isn’t the only model. There are many models of giving, and probably something wrong with all of them, and something good with most of them. The only thing I will say is that any model of giving that says you have to give in order for God to love, or to earn salvation, or to have a ticket into heaven, that is not a good model. That is a false message. Don’t trust that one. But there are many different models of how we give, and one needs to pick one or create one that works for you, your family, your situation. We’re in different places financially and economically in our lives, our careers, whether we have children or don’t, fixed income or not, we’re all in different places. And our salvation doesn’t depend on our choice of how to give. There is no condemnation for what we choose or don’t choose. We have in Christ already the gift of eternal life. That we already have, and that cannot be taken away. No matter what we do. And so we simply respond to that. Our eternal life is not going to be affected by how we fill out or don’t fill out a pledge card. But, how we choose to fill out a pledge card or how we give to the church, will very much affect how we do ministry as this gathered body of Christ, and to continue the ministries that we’ve had, and maybe even start some new ones.

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Plymouth United Church of Christ
2010 Moholt Drive
Eau Claire, Wisconsin, 54703

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