Give God Your Best

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On Sunday 26 October, The Rev. Rachel Mash stood in for me at St Francis and St Andrew’s Simon’s Town and preached the first of four sermons on the theme of Christian Stewardship. A number of parishioners asked for a copy of the address, so I have included it here.

 

STEWARDSHIP – Give God our best

St Francis Simonstown 26th Oct 2014

Ruth 2:13-18; Psalm 28; Acts 4:32-37; Matthew 3:1-6

Stewardship is about giving – giving of our best to God and our neighbour..

Uganda chicken story

There are two stories of giving in our readings today – Boaz and Barnabas – “a tale of two givers”

The one is a story of giving to charity and the other is a story of giving to the church. Both form part of our giving as Christians.

Suze Ormond a secular financial planner wrote a book called 9 steps to financial freedom, best seller, millions of copies. Step 7 Give a portion of your money to others. By releasing an anxious grasp on your money, you will open yourself to receive all that is meant to be yours.

God calls us to give not because he is poor but because giving releases the hold of money over it, it releases compassion in our hearts and joy in our souls.

  1. Barnabas – giving to church

Acts 4:32-37Common English Bible (CEB)

Sharing among the believers

The community of believers was one in heart and mind. None of them would say, “This is mine!” about any of their possessions, but held everything in common. 33 The apostles continued to bear powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and an abundance of grace was at work among them all. 34 There were no needy persons among them. Those who owned properties or houses would sell them, bring the proceeds from the sales, 35 and place them in the care and under the authority of the apostles. Then it was distributed to anyone who was in need.

Joseph, whom the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (that is, “one who encourages”), was a Levite from Cyprus. 37 He owned a field, sold it, brought the money, and placed it in the care and under the authority of the apostles.

Church is a community – we need to give so that all we offer to the community can continue – a beautiful place of prayer and hope – it needs to painted to keep it beautiful, we need money for the upkeep of the building. We need money for the ministry of the church – to pay the priest so that he or she can give hope at times of bereavement, sickness or joy at baptisms and weddings. These are the basics and this is our tithe, our regular giving, it is always helpful to give by debit order, as we often pledge and then forget by the middle of the year!.

The Bible talks of tithes and offerings – the giving in joy – the thank offerings. Barnabas was known as the encourager – he sold a field and brought the money. What ministry can we encourage with a thank offering? What touches your heart? To grow the Sunday school? What about paying for an outing for the little ones. Or you want to see the youth ministry develop, sponsor young people to go on a scripture union camp at rocklands.. Or bake cakes for the parish council meeting to say we appreciate you! Or perhaps there is an old age home close by and you could sponsor a kombi to bring them once a month and buy some nice eats – be the encourager – build the ministry of this church into the community.. Experience the joy of giving, the joy of Barnabas the encourager.

2.Boaz – giving to charity

This is a wonderful story because it starts with the poor person, the homeless person, the needy. It is the story of Ruth – Recap of the story – there is a famine, Naomi and her husband ELimelech go to Moab to seek food. Her two sons marry Orpah (Oprah) and Ruth. Sadly he dies and then the two sons die so Naomi decides to go home. Orpah stays at home but Ruth goes with her mother in law and says those wonderful words – “where you go I will go, your people will become my people”

The two widows arrive, penniless, ragged, destitute and Ruth goes out to beg.

This story reminds us that when we see that person begging by the side of the road, or that homeless person comes to our door, we do not know their story – are they a victim of violence in Zimbabwe or the DRC? Have they travelled far from home because of their loved ones? Have they lost husband, father, all other support. Are they victims of child abuse and have run away from home? Their story may be one of loss, and perhaps mistakes made along the way, but it also includes love and loyalty and faithfulness.

Many people would have dismissed Ruth, almost penniless, ragged clothes begging for scraps in the field.

Look how Boaz gives to her –

Ruth 2:13-18Common English Bible (CEB)

13 She said, “May I continue to find favor in your eyes, sir, because you’ve comforted me and because you’ve spoken kindly to your female servant—even though I’m not one of your female servants.”

14 At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come over here, eat some of the bread, and dip your piece in the vinegar.” She sat alongside the harvesters, and he served roasted grain to her. She ate, was satisfied, and had leftovers. 15 Then she got up to glean.

Boaz ordered his young men, “Let her glean between the bundles, and don’t humiliate her. 16 Also, pull out some from the bales for her and leave them behind for her to glean. And don’t scold her.”

17 So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she threshed what she had gleaned; it was about an 10 kilos of corn. 18 She picked it up and went into town. Her mother-in-law saw what she had gleaned. She brought out what she had left over after eating her fill and gave it to her.

The first thing is that he spoke kindly to her – A few years ago the Cape talk team sold Big issue for a day and they said what was the hardest was not that many people didn’t buy. They only expected a few to buy. What was hard was that people were not kind. They refused to look, they did not treat you like a human being. Kindness costs us nothing – to say ‘not today’ ‘maybe another day’ and to smile.

Secondly he empowered her (she picked her own food). he could have easily given her a bag of corn, but he enabled her to pick her own and to feel that pride in bringing it home. A good principle is to say: “never do what disempowers” to the people at door, to the homeless. for example when you see a young child begging ask your self if I give him R5 am I empowering him, or keeping him on the street and away from school? Rather take that sorrow you feel and make a donation to an organization dealing with street children. We need to equip ourselves with information, which organisations do what in this area so that we can direct people to the help they need.

One of our churches opened their doors during the xenophobic violence and took in refugees, they brought food and cooked for them. After a few weeks some of them came to see the ladies and said – please we are really grateful for the roof over our heads, but allow us please to buy our own food and cook our own meals in our way – many of us are working and can contribute food and we can all contribute by cooking.. it is not good for us to just sit, we feel more hopeless and sad..

Mary Glovers prayer.

Jim Wallis tells the story of Mary Glover

Mary Glover was a regular volunteer in our weekly soup kitchen so poor that she too needed the bag of groceries passed out every week, Mary often said a prayer before we opened the door each Saturday morning simply because she was the best pray-er. You got the sense that she had been carrying on a conversation with her Lord for a long time. She would start by saying something like this – thankyou lord for waking me up this morning, and then she would always pray the same words.

Lord we know you will be coming through this line today so Lord, help us to treat you well’.

What a lovely story – this church saw in Mary that she had a powerful faith and in fact she could best minister to those in the line because she knew their pain. And she brought them the wake up call to see Jesus in each person standing in that line.

So how do we give to charity? What to do ? Life is so busy and you feel so stretched.. People are always asking us to give to this cause or that one and making us feel guilty if we don’t.

What is the best way to know what God wants you to do? It is quite simple – follow your heartbreak.

What breaks your heart? When you read the paper do you cry for the kids with no books to read, or do you cry for the woman who has been beaten by her husband? Or are you touched by the unemployed 17 boy who is dancing on the container throwing stones at the N2 because he has no hope in his life. Do you cry for the rhino or the illtreatment of animals? Or does your heart break for orphans?

Follow that call – That is your heartbreak. Other people will follow other issues, they will follow their own heartbreak. Pray about the issue, educate yourself, give of your money, give of your time. Connect your network of resource people to an organization working in that area. Follow your heartbreak and you will bring great blessing, and be blessed yourself.

Rachel Mash

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