Opening PrayerGrace, mercy and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you and also with you
This is a difficult passage to read in isolation , not least because we need to know the context but also because is causes us to question how we respond to God’s grace in practical ways.
2 Corinthians chapter 8 and 9 is all about Christian Churches helping each other and providing for each other’s needs. Something that should be a natural response for followers of Jesus Christ. The church in Jerusalem appears to have been in financial trouble almost from the start. This was probably because breaking with Judaism and converting to Christianity cut the convert off from their family and often cost them their job. Yet this church provided many of the first teachers and evangelists to the early churches outside of Judea. Paul knew that a gift from the Gentile Churches would not only help to physically sustain the Christians in Jerusalem it would also encourage them and show that other Christians cared about them and identified with them as part of God’s worldwide family.
Corinth was an exceptionally wealthy and important city in what is now southern Greece.In contrast The Roman Province of Macedonia which now lies in northern Greece was as the result of a succession of civil wars and subsequent harsh treatment by the Romans very poor. The church in Corinth had appeared to be very keen to donate money for the relief of the church in Jerusalem. So much so that Paul had held them up as an example to other churches of Christian love producing gracious giving. Inspired by this example in spite of being poor the Macedonian Christians had responded to Paul’s appeal with marked generosity, recognising that the riches of God’s grace had been poured out on them, they in turn poured out what they had on others. In2C8:3 Paul writes “For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford but far more. And they did it of their own free will”.
In his earlier letter to the Corinthians Paul had given directions on how the money was to be collected 1C16:2 “ On the first day of each week you should put aside a portion of the money you have earned, Don’t wait until I get there and then try to collect it all at once” Initially Titus had encouraged the Corinthians in their giving, but now over a year later something is not quite right the gift from Corinth is not ready. Paul is concerned about how genuine their love is in comparison to the responses of other churches. Consequently, Titus is to return along with two other well-known and respected Christians to oversee the collection and most importantly ensure that the funds are handled responsibly and that no criticism can be made by the way the funds are administered. Everything is done right in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men.
. If Paul arrives and finds them not ready, he will be embarrassed because of his over-confidence, and the Corinthians will be ashamed because of their laxness. Also, it will mean that they will feel obliged to make a hurried collection which would not be a very principled way to do things. It would be more like paying a tax than willingly making an offering to God.
Let’s begin by looking at the last sentence in today’s reading” I want it to be a willing gift not one given grudgingly”
When we give the reason we give should be to honour God. We do not give because we have to, we do not give in order to be accepted by God. We give to things that God cares about because God has accepted us and we want to give in response to what God has done for us through His Son Jesus Christ. Our Giving is a heartfelt expression of thanks to God for all he has given us. Giving because others expect us to is akin to grudgingly paying a God tax, but giving because we want to; both honours God and demonstrates our love for our neighbours. Generosity is by definition an act of giving without expecting anything in return. The value of our offering is not determined by how much we give or how often we give but how we give
To quote Mother Teresa “It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving.”
God knows what is on our hearts. So do we really honour God by reluctantly giving our time or money to the church, or other agencies and people just because we feel under pressure to do so?
If we recognise the endless riches of God’s grace that have and are being poured out on us, surely like the Macedonians we will be prepared to share some of what we have received with others. Paul makes it clear that our loving gracious giving, needs to be planned for. I asked myself the question why? My answer We can be sure God’s grace never fails and in practical terms The children served by Compassion and the girls supported by David Kareto’s church need an income that never fails . The food banks need to be sure they will receive the supplies they need. The Homeless need support that will not fail. The church needs to be sure it can provide resources for all those who are involved in ministries across our diocese.
Most of us receive our pay or pension monthly. We are used to budgeting: paying our mortgage, the gas, electricity, water, food, credit card, phone and broadband bills, transport costs, insurance, entertainment streaming service subscriptions, sports club membership, etc. But where in your list do you budget for gracious giving in response to God’s love for us. Does our giving come at the end of the list, out of what if any is left? Or do we set aside our gracious giving before budgeting for the rest. Where does honouring God come in our financial budgeting. Equally how do we budget our time for honouring God, are we so busy there is no time set aside for doing something outside of worship to honour God?
Remember It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving.”
We at All Saints are blessed because of God’s generous provision for us through the loving gracious giving of other Christians. Not least Ali our self-supporting minister who has generously given immeasurable amounts of time to support us. Because of grants given to the diocese from other parts of the C of E at a time when the majority of Parishes will be sharing the oversight of a stipendiary minister we will be one of the few churches to have our own stipendiary minister when Ben joins us next year. How do we and will we respond to God’s provision for us?
Paul was worried that a Macedonian Christian accompanying him might find the level of gracious giving of the Corinthians lacking . If Macedonians came to visit us, would they find our level of gracious giving lacking or overflowing?
As our Saviour taught us so we pray
The Lords Prayer
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours
now and for ever.
Blessing and dismissal
May God, the Giver of all good gifts,
pour out upon you his richest blessing that you may always have all that you need and
that from his gracious abundance you might know the joy of generosity.
and the blessing of God Almighty,
the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit,
be upon us and remain with us and those we love always.
Go in the light and peace of Christ.
Thanks be to God.
The community of S17 has drawn together during these unusual times in a very special way. This is reflected in the great work of the S17 COVID-19 Community Support group.
The group aims to support those in the community who may be in need and to provide a support network to the S17 community at this time.
“If there are needy people in our community let’s ensure we help them out with things like bringing shopping to their door.”