Sermon Title “Heart” by Pastor Rosanna McFadden

Good morning!  This is the second Sunday of our series on biblical stewardship, Head, Heart, Hands.  Last week I spoke, and some of you talked about in Sunday School, about Head and how what we have learned or what we know plays a role in our giving.  We also talked about the role of creativity and imagination in discerning what we will invest ourselves in, and to what mission and vision Jesus is calling us.  Those of you who were at our meeting before worship today got a good breakfast and the opportunity to exercise your creativity and imagination.  Thank you for your input.

As you may have guessed, this morning we’ll be talking about the second of those three H-words, Heart.  Stewardship is not only managing information with our heads, it is a disposition, or attitude of the heart.  In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6, Jesus said “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” but the inverse is also true, “Where your heart is, there will your treasure be also.”  Money, time, passion — these things follow the same course, and they begin with what is in our hearts: what we care about, what we feel committed to, and what we love.

This is why the Apostle Paul is being cautious in the letter to the church at Corinth which Joe read from for us today.  Paul’s missionary journeys to grow the early Church were supported by the hospitality and financial gifts of existing churches and believers.  Paul had been boasting to folks in Macedonia about the gift which had been promised by the Corinthian Church — this is a time-honored fundraising technique: Macedonians, you’ll want to support this great thing!  The Corinthians have already pledged $50,000 shekels!  But Paul knows, probably from previous experience of bad behavior from the Corinthian Church, that it would be prudent to send some folks ahead with a letter, just to be sure that he is not embarrassed by bragging about this gift and then having it not come through.  In verses 6-12, Paul is making the point that if you don’t invest in planting the seeds, you are not going to get much of a harvest.  Or to use a non-agricultural metaphor, if you don’t shoot the ball, you’re not going to score any points.

Paul’s phrase, “God loves a cheerful giver,” is often quoted, especially by pastors in the fall when the church is putting together the budget for the next year.  As I said last week, I think we do the concept of stewardship a disservice if we talk about it only when we need something and we’re running a bit short.  I’d put cheerful giving in the same category as being honest, being kind, loving our neighbors.  These are things we should be striving for all the time, not because we’re supposed to do them, but because they are ways in which our lives reflect our understanding of following Jesus and seeking first the kingdom of God.  These are not one-off behaviors — well. I guess I’ll be honest today, because someone might notice if I’m lying.  Living as followers of Christ means being shaped, over and over again, in countless small ways, by attitudes of generosity, kindness, integrity, and care for others.

Being a cheerful giver is part of an attitude of generosity.  The word ‘cheerful,’ that Paul used in Greek is ‘hilaros.’  It sounds hilarious to me, but my commentaries say hilaros is inner joy, gladness and fulfillment.  I believe cheerful giving is directly tied to our sense of whether or not we have enough: enough for ourselves, enough to share.  And our sense of enough is directly tied to where we think our gifts, our time our money comes from.  If it comes from God, God has promised to provide for us — seed for the sower, enough to supply what we need and to multiply for others.  If our gifts and our money come from sources which might dry up or go away, we’d better hang on to what we have.  Notice this is not triggered by any specific dollar amount or threshold, it is about our attitude about what we have and what is enough.  American business tycoon and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie was worth millions of dollars at the turn of the 20th century.  A reporter asked him, “How much money is enough?” Carnegie replied, “Just a little bit more.”  The book of Ecclesiastes, the wisdom of Solomon, says, “Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.”  Many of us can relate to Tevya, the Russian peasant in the musical Fiddler on the Roof who says, “If money is a curse, may God smite me with it.  And may I never recover!”

Seeing what we have been given by God as something we can joyfully share is a seismic shift in attitude from making sure that we hang on to what we’re entitled to, because we’ve earned it.  The heart of Christianity is about things we can not earn, do not deserve, and can never repay: the grace of Jesus Christ, our salvation from sin, eternal life with God, the comfort and guidance of the Holy Spirit. . . . I could go on and on.   If we take away those unearned gifts of God through Jesus Christ, Christianity does not make sense.  Redemption is not transactional — we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  It doesn’t matter if you fell a little bit shorter than I did — none of us is getting to the finish line without the grace of Christ.  Nobody deserves that grace; but it is offered to everyone.

This is why stewardship — giving, sharing, service — whatever name we use — must be located in our hearts as well as our heads.  It is not merely a rational exercise.  In the economy of God, all the workers get paid — even the ones who started at the end of the day.  Is that fair?  That is the wrong question.  If none of us earned what we have received from God through Christ then it doesn’t matter how much he’s getting, or she’s getting, or I’m getting.  I have gotten more than I deserve and I have a chance to share it with others.  This attitude puts the focus where it belongs — on the abundant grace of God — rather than on how much I ought to be putting in an offering envelope each month.  Just to be clear, we hope you are putting something in an offering envelope each month, but that motivation should be a response to the grace of Christ and the mission of God’s kingdom, not what somebody told you ought to be done.  Generosity and obligation are different things.

I want to say more about generosity, and its sister, gratitude.  Generosity is not about amount, it is about motivation.  If you are only giving a small financial gift, or only sharing a little bit of your time and energy because you have limited finances and limited time and energy, thank you, and God bless you for sharing what you have with the church.  If you are not giving anything or sharing any prayers, time or energy on behalf of your church, I pray that you will come to a fuller understanding of God’s gifts to you and God’s love for you.  Generosity of our time, our money, ourselves is directly related to gratitude.  First and foremost our gratitude to God.  We remember and celebrate this at harvest time in November, but it should be part of who we are and what we do in the church all year round.  I think we in the church also need to be intentional about expressing gratitude to one another.  This should begin with me as the direct financial beneficiary of your financial gifts.  I’m sure you know that I an not told and have no way to check who gives what money — I can’t thank you for specific financial gifts. But somebody is giving something, because I keep getting paid, and for that I am very grateful.  I am especially grateful that I don’t have to fight with The Finance Team or the Church Board about money: that would take away the energy and the joy from ministry which we are trying to do together.

I do my best to acknowledge and express my thanks to people who are doing ministry in all kinds of ways here at Creekside and outside our walls; but  I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t see all the good things which are going on, or know the extent of all of what you do.  In some cases, I simply don’t understand what it takes to hang an Easter banner or clean out a stream bed.  I can work at this understanding, of course, but this is why it takes more people than me to develop a culture of gratitude at Creekside.  It’s great that different people express their gratitude in different ways — not everyone can write notes the way Garnett Heeter can — she is amazing, or cook the way Deana Ward does — a gift many of us appreciate.  It doesn’t matter how your heart expresses gratitude, let people know when they do or say something you are grateful for.  If you are sitting back and waiting for someone to notice and appreciate what you have done, consider looking around for something or someone worthy of thanks and encouragement.  Saying “thank-you” is a bigger part of gratitude than saying “you’re welcome,” or “I’m glad someone finally noticed.”  We cannot share too much gratitude with God or with other people, and the more we share, the more we will receive, because giving thanks is the way in which generosity multiplies.To Paul’s instructions to be a cheerful giver, I would add be a grateful receiver.  Give thanks — to God, too Jesus Christ, to one another — with a grateful heart.  May an attitude of gratitude be one of our offerings to Christ and the Church.  Amen.