TEXT: 2 Corinthians 9:3-15; Isaiah 55:8-11
We have been looking at our church’s core values over the last number of weeks. We’ve focused on GROW, CARE, and SERVE a couple of times. I’ve mostly saved the fourth value, STEWARD, for November since that is when we typically focus on stewardship, that is how we support the ministry and mission God has put before us as a church.
As we’ve done the last several weeks, we will hear later in the service from an elder and from a church member. Mark Katibah is elder over the STEWARD area along with Diana Horne. And Susan Slade will be sharing with us about what our church means to her. We’ll also be coming to the Lord’s Table for communion today.
The passage I’ve chosen for today is long, but our focus will be narrow. The scene is Paul writing to the Christians in Corinth about continuing generous support for ministry to the poor in Jerusalem. They had a strong start, but Paul is concerned that they continue in faithful giving. So it certainly fits the STEWARDSHIP theme! I want to focus in on verse 6 this morning and the idea of sowing bountifully.
Paul really liked gardening analogies. 😊 We saw that in recent weeks as he talked about sharing in God’s work growing the Kingdom of God through the church here on earth. Remember, Paul planted, Apollos watered, but God caused the growth. It’s not lost on me either that I’ve suddenly spent more time in a garden than in the rest of my life combined as I joined Christy, several adults, and our youth to clear out the weeds overgrowing our community garden. Maybe God is finding some new ways to speak to me!
Here’s the analogy, meant to encourage generous giving to God’s work:
Here’s how that verse is translated in The Message version of the Bible:
“a stingy planter gets a stingy crop; a lavish planter gets a lavish crop.” (v.6)
Now I realize it’s an analogy and no analogy is perfect. You and I can think of exceptions and scenarios where that might not make sense. But the point is not gardening advice, it’s Kingdom-advice. I think what Paul was trying to say was that when it comes to the Kingdom-work of God, go all in, give abundantly and generously, don’t ration out your giving to God. Because what we plant will come back to us and be multiplied out even more.
I’ll be more specific and concrete….
Budgets, Faith, and Discernment
I remember a Session meeting early on in my time at Good Shepherd. Several things stand out to me. I remember being complimented by one of our banking executives on how well I understood budgets and numbers and communicating about them. I was pleased at that and mentally noted my grudging appreciation of how my banker/businessman dad used to make me do presentations – financial and otherwise – when I wanted to do something. I remember early on hearing about how the session took a leap of faith to fund our first full-time youth director position. They did it because they believed God was leading them to invest in ministry to young people. It was WAY beyond what the budget and then giving levels warranted. And I remember the first time we really hit a financial crunch when I was here. I put on my businessman hat – the one I inherited from my dad – and talked to the session about what hard choices we might need to make, what ministries or even personnel we might need to cut back. And one of those banker elders suggested that maybe God wanted us to stretch out in faith again, like we had years earlier around youth ministry. I was simultaneously inspired by the spiritual counsel coming out of someone I had pegged as a numbers person, and a little embarrassed that as the supposed faith person I was so focused on the numbers. It was the first of many times that I realized the wisdom in a church led by a group of elders and not just one person.
As I said, that hasn’t been the only time that happened. And time and again our elders, elected by this congregation and led by the Holy Spirit, have challenged me and us to stretch in faith to follow where the Lord is leading us. Does it make sense on the spreadsheet? No, it does not. However, God has blessed us year after year, many years exceeding projections or even being able to carry a surplus over to the following year. What kind of math is that? I think it’s God’s math. In our call to worship we read from Isaiah 55:
We are not just a faith-based business or non-profit. We are part of God’s Kingdom work and when we sow bountifully, we will reap bountifully.
The Message translates 2 Corinthians 9:8 like this:
“God can pour on the blessings in astonishing ways so that you’re ready for anything and everything, more than just ready to do what needs to be done.”
Sometimes this preacher needs to be reminded of that, especially when he’s sweating the numbers!
So where is God leading us? That’s what we have been trying to share over the past few weeks and today. God is pouring on the blessings in astonishing ways! God is leading us in these core areas of GROW, SERVE, CARE, and STEWARD. We’ve been blessed through the Covid season by our deacons and the CARE and prayer ministries. Once again we have invested in youth and children’s ministry and we are already seeing the fruit of that in Christy’s ministry among us and sustained participation and inviting of friends with our youth programs. After the long Covid season we are excited about re-connecting with our neighborhood to serve and love our neighbors and have been seeing an enthusiastic response to that. And you’ve heard some of the stories of why folks are still choosing and connecting to Good Shepherd as a place where God shows up faithfully. God is pouring on the blessings. Will we sow and reap sparingly or sow and reap bountifully? I can’t wait to be astonished… again! Amen!
Some Music Used
- Death Was Arrested
- Who You Say I Am
- We are an Offering
- Goodness of God
- To God Be the Glory
- Give Me Jesus (Patterson) – GSPC Choir
- I Will Offer Up My Life