In pm's words
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February 25, 2019, 8:00 AM

the one about abundance...


No sermon for Sunday morning on February 24th, but this is the sermon I preached for our Service of Thanksgiving and Blessing that evening. A service in which we gave thanks to God for the Lutheran Church of The Redeemer Endowment Fund for Mission.

Texts: Deuteronomy 26:1-11, 2 Corinthians 9:6-16, Matthew 13:3-9

Grace and peace to each of you this evening in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, I’ll be perfectly honest, this is a weird sermon to write and to preach. You’d think it’d be easy, just write about God’s love and generosity! But, there’s a fine line between giving thanks for God’s abundance and also sounding pretty ‘braggy’ when that abundance is handed over to you. This isn’t an easy thing to do, and I think it mostly comes down to the fact that for the last year, I and many others in this community have asked the following question when we received word of this financial gift given in memory of Carl and Dot Amick to be used at the church however Redeemer saw best fit our collective ministry; the question of “why us?”

Seriously, why us? What makes this community of faith any different than the other churches here? There are countless other Lutheran congregations here. In fact, I like to joke that there are more Lutherans than people in Newberry. That’s not even mentioning the other numerous traditions of the church that reside in this community. So, what makes us stand out? There is so much good that occurs in Newberry that is facilitated by the faith community, that it at times is hard to see what exactly is it that has set us ‘a part’ to have received this generous gift.

As I pondered that, I thought about the history of this church, and specifically the history – that we know – pertaining to Legrand when he was coming here regularly. From what I know, Legrand had a particular way of approaching things, from a young age and throughout his life he was just a bit different. I’ve had numerous conversations with folks who grew up with him and they’ve attested to that. In conversations with his sister, Gail, she acknowledged that too.

And here’s the thing I know when people are just a bit different from others around them; they typically aren’t treated very well. If you don’t happen to fit the general ‘mold’ of what the culture thinks is right or complete, you usually get pushed to the side. Apparently, that happened with Legrand as he was growing up.

Yet, from what he told his friends, who have in turn told us – in spite of the pain he may have received as a result of people outside these walls – inside this space was a place of comfort, safety, and love. It was here that he saw God’s work at hand in the life of the people around him.

It is here that he saw his parents faithfully devoted to God and their community to bring wholeness, welcome, and love to people in need. This place was also a place of welcome for him and others – and it continues to be. Throughout our history, we’ve stumbled and bumbled at times (as all faithful communities have) in that welcome, but on the whole, this is a congregation that continues to strive into that radical welcome that Jesus invites us into.

I think it speaks volumes of God’s goodness and presence in this place that a man who hadn’t set foot in this place in a number of years, was still able to remember that welcome and that love – that love shown to him and shown to others through this community and especially through his parents. He remembered and wanted that legacy to continue for others. No matter what may have transpired in that life, that remembrance of love, welcome, and acceptance is something that was held on to and something that continues to be lived out in this place.

So, why us? I’m still not sure, but I don’t think it solely ‘us’ that makes this community one of welcome but, instead it is God’s love that is shown and lived out in this place. That love that is shown and lived out through the people who continue to be a part of this community of faith; the ones who continue to strive and struggle to live into this life that our Lord Jesus has called us into. People that are like Carl and Dot – two folks that I’ve heard countless stories about – stories that show and tell of God’s love through them to others.

And in that knowledge, I look to our readings that we have before us this evening, because it is in that knowledge – that God’s love is shown and lived out in this place – that God is up to something here – that can lead us from the questions of ‘why us?’ and ‘how can this be’ and into questions of ‘what’s next?’ or ‘how can we faithfully use what we’ve received?’

In any time that you transition from the ‘why us’ to the ‘what’s next’ there are moments of praise and thanksgiving. Praise and thanksgiving given to God who is behind all of this and all of us. The one who has come down to be with us, the one who walks with us and guides us, the one who pushes and pulls us to see faith at work in the world, the one who calls us to see life, hope, and light in a world that at times seems so dark.

We give thanks to God for this gift – and it is a significant gift at that. We give thanks for abundance that is shared so that others might be helped and cared for. We give thanks, because God is indeed active and present in this place. That God continues to dive into the murkiness of our lives, hold us tight, remind us that we are not alone, that we are indeed full of worth and love, and in that knowledge of comfort and love pushes and sends us out to proclaim this radical welcome to a world in desperate need to hear it.

We give thanks for what God continues to do and for what God calls us into.

That’s why we are here this evening to give thanks and praise because of what God has done, is doing, and will do through this place. We are here to give thanks for God’s active love shown through this community for not only Newberry, but for South Carolina, the country, and the world.

And a part of that love shown through each of us – God’s work through our hands – is the ability and the call (and the willingness) to be generous in our gifts. To use what God has blessed us with – our time and talents for sure – but even also that abundance of wealth that we have – to be used and shared with all.

Paul talks to the people of Corinth and tells them about the church ‘back home.’ He invites them to give generously what God has made available in their lives. That their gifts will be used to support those who have supported them in their formation. That those who are given to have been in constant prayer that God’s love and grace and presence might be made known in the lives of those who live in Corinth.

Paul is asking the Corinthians to give to those that they do not know, simply because they are a part of them, and all are striving and working together.

This gift will enable to do that us well. St. Paul is known for saying that following the faith of Jesus is foolish to those who do not understand. And when you’re given a huge financial gift most look at you oddly when you tell them that you’re going to give – essentially – 90% of it away. It doesn’t make sense. You don’t hear of mega lotto winners doing that. You don’t see millionaires and billionaires doing that.

Yet, the first thing that the leadership wanted to do with this fund – to be thankful for God’s abundance and then to make sure that it is used – as much of it as possible – to the betterment and richness of those outside this place. That is commendable and I am still incredibly humbled as the pastor in this place that we followed through with that. This fund is set up to be given away – to help those in need, to begin new ministries, to help facilitate the mission work of God and God’s people for years and decades to come. I have been amazed at the ideas I’ve already heard from folks in this place and outside in how this money could potentially be used. Y’all have amazing and gifted minds for ministry and service. I cannot wait to see what ministries are able to take shape because of this fund that we bless and set a part today. It truly is indescribable what God has done and continues to do.

Finally, as we ponder and answer that question of ‘why us’ we remember that this is God’s doing. God is at the helm of this endeavor and we are truly along for the ride. I think of the parable of the sower that we read from Matthew’s gospel this evening and the first thing that I’m told by those who know a thing or two about growing and farming (because I know less than nothing) is that what Jesus describes is ludicrous. It doesn’t make sense. It is irrational and even wasteful how the sower in this parable just throws out seeds wherever he is. Not caring a bit where that seed might land. It isn’t planned, it isn’t thought out; it’s just done.

My response to that is usually, “Yep, and isn’t it great that that is what Jesus is saying about God’s love?” That God lavishly, foolishly, and determinedly loves and shares and spreads this life and grace to all. Not one place is kept from hearing and receiving. Not one place is sidestepped or around. God as that sower is just out there loving and blessing everyone – no matter what.

Nothing is held back.

Our response to that foolish abundance of love and grace is to first be thankful and then to respond in kind. Where we too love in abundance, serve without abandon, and cultivate God’s grace wherever we can. We follow what our Lord has called us into.

So, it is mind-boggling that the Community of Faith here at The Lutheran Church of the Redeemer has received this abundance. We are incredibly thankful for what God has done, is doing, and continues to do in this place. We walk together with God and with one another, living into that foolish sharing of abundance so that God’s Word and love might be known in places, in people, and in ways we might never expect and cannot even think of at this time. But, God has called us to be there – living into this life of faith for all and with all.

Amen. It’s going to be fun. Amen.

 

 


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