All Saints Sunday (11/2/2008)

Now

Lessons:      Revelation 7:9-17      Psalm 34:1-10, 22      1 John 3:1-3      Saint Matthew 5:1-12

Prayer of the Day:      Almighty God, you have knit your people together in one communion in the mystical body of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Grant us grace to follow your blessed saints in lives of faith and commitment, and to know the inexpressible joys you have prepared for those who love you, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Stewardship Text: 2nd Corinthians 8:1-15

8:1 We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia; 2 for during a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For, as I can testify, they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means, 4 begging us earnestly for the privilege of sharing in this ministry to the saints- 5 and this, not merely as we expected; they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us, 6 so that we might urge Titus that, as he had already made a beginning, so he should also complete this generous undertaking among you. 7 Now as you excel in everything-in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you -so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.      8 I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. 10 And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something- 11 now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. 12 For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has-not according to what one does not have. 13 I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between 14 your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. 15 As it is written, "The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little."


2 Corinthians 8:1-15, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. 

This month, at Saint Peter, we are conducting our Fall Stewardship Campaign. The theme is ASPEN, and the focus for this five-week series is:   10/5    Anxiety             St. Matthew 6:25-34   10/12   Sacrifice             St. Mark 12:41-44   10/19   Peace             St. John 14:25-31   10/26   Enthusiasm             St. Matthew 13:44-50   11/2    Now             2nd Corinthians 8:1-16 On November 9th, I'll return my attention to the Revised Common Lectionary, with a message based on St. Matthew 25:1-13.

 Let me see if I get the Apostle Paul's argument correctly:

abundant joy

+

extreme poverty

=

wealth of generosity

In this portion of his letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle Paul is dealing with one of his pet projects: receiving a financial offering from the churches he started, to support the Saints who were suffering in Jerusalem. He had recently received a generous gift to that project from the church at Macedonia - a church that was suffering great difficulty, and living in severe poverty. But despite their difficult situation, "their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity."

It is a remarkable show of faithfulness on their part. These Macedonians had every reason to hold back. Their economic futures were uncertain. Many of them were without jobs, and wondering how they would feed their family. Food was scarce. Luxuries were non-existent. Yet one factor changed all of that: they were filled with the abundant joy that comes from knowing Christ. Their faith, and their relationship with God, empowered them to step up above the difficulties of their circumstances.

On the other hand, the church in Corinth (a relatively wealthy community - made up of artisans and craftsmen and those who were profiting from a strong trade-based economy) had fully intended to participate in that offering, but never quite got around to giving the money to Paul. So once again, he encourages them: "Now as you excel in everything-in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you-so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking."

Paul encourages the Corinthians, who had made a commitment to support this effort a year earlier, not only to fulfill their commitment, but to "desire to" fulfill their commitment.

Paul knew that the need in Jerusalem was great. And he knew that the potential in Corinth was significant. But he wanted the Corinthians to do more than promise support. He wanted them to deliver on that promise, and experience what it is like to be generous with the gifts God had given them. He knew that they had been given much, and he was bold in encouraging them to use what had been given to them in order to make a difference for the Saints in Jerusalem.

I am always humbled when I think of these two groups. I know it is easy to be like the Saints in Corinth: aware of how blessed we are, and interested in being generous with those blessings. But to move from being interested to being involved is sometimes harder that we think it might be. We find ourselves waiting until the time is right; waiting until we have more of ourselves to give; waiting until other demands on our resources aren't so great. I am reluctant to admit how many times I fall into this group.

But there are also times (Thanks be to God!) when we fall in the other group. Times when a need or a situation takes hold of our hearts. Time when we genuinely respond with joy and hope to a situation God has placed before us. Times when our very impulse is to help, and there is nothing that can distract us from it. In those times, the abundant joy that goes along with knowing Christ is translated into an abundant joy at the opportunity to make a difference in someone else's life, and we give: immediately, and with a full heart.

This week, my prayer is that each of us might be so filled with the abundant joy that is ours in Christ that our giving becomes an example of what Paul called a "wealth of generosity." As we give to our church, as we support other Christian organizations, as we invest in Christian ministry, may we be bold and hopeful. And just as the Macedonians were an inspiration to Paul, and to the Corinthians, may our radical generosity inspire others in our day to give their very best as well.

Amen.

David J. Risendal

Exploring This Week's Text:

  1. What impressed the Apostle Paul with the faithfulness of the Macedonians?
  2. What does he assume about the Corinthians, as he asks them to get involved?
  3. In what ways do both the Macedonians and the Corinthians fit in with Paul's understanding of what a Saint is?

Connecting with This Week's Text:

  1. When have I, like the Corinthians, had good intentions that I just never got around to fulfilling?
  2. When have I, like the Macedonians, overcome my hesitancy, and responded immediately?
  3. What is being asked of me today, by God, that I need to respond to right away?