THEME: LIKE PAUL, ORLEANS UNITED CHURCH IS THANKFUL FOR THE TRUST OUR FAITH FRIENDS HAVE IN ALL ITS MINISTRIES, AND FOR EVERYONE’S SUPPORT THROUGH GENEROUS GIVING.
Today’s reading from scripture is the conclusion of a letter from the Apostle Paul to his Christian friends in the Macedonian city of Philippi. It’s an expression of his gratitude to God for how they financially supported his ministry even after he moved on to other places. May we too find inspiration from their generosity and his thanksgiving.
From Philippians 4:14-20 in the New Century Version: 14 It was good that you helped me when I needed it. 15 You Philippians remember when I first preached the Good News there; and when I left Macedonia, you were the only church that gave me help. 16 Several times you sent me things I needed when I was in Thessalonica. 17 Really, it is not that I want to receive gifts from you, but I want you to have the good that comes from giving. 18 And now I have everything, and more. I have all I need, because Epaphroditus brought your gift to me. It is like a sweet-smelling sacrifice offered to God, who accepts that sacrifice and is pleased with it. 19 Our God will use his wonderful riches in Christ Jesus to give you everything you need. 20 Glory to our God and Father forever and ever! Amen.
Just in case you didn’t hear it when I was talking with our kids earlier, everyone’s offering makes a huge difference in the way our church can share God’s goodness – in our congregational family, in our neighbourhood, and in our world.
So what did you make of Paul’s thanks in the Philippians reading this morning? Although Paul tends to personalize it, referring several times to ‘helping him,’ I sense it’s really more than that … it’s about sending him the things he needs to share God’s goodness with others in the love of Jesus Christ. And when I imagine what impact that has on us today, this is what Paul’s ‘thanks’ sounds like to me.
Friends, I’m not sure you realize how much your generosity helps make good things happen here. Without your gifts, from the very beginning until now, those good works would not have been possible. So many times your kind offerings have proclaimed, “what Orleans United does here in the love of Christ really matters.” And even though it’s about way more than money, I want you to appreciate the blessing you receive from your faithful support. It’s about seeing ourselves as partners with Jesus and each other through investing in God’s work. And I see God smiling in pleasure with each faithful offering. That, my friends, is how God’s goodness is shared, now and forever. Amen.
Yes, that’s what it sounds like to me; Paul reminding us today that our giving positively affects God’s possibilities here; that without our collective, ‘money’ gifts, shared through the ministries of this church, we … and our neighbours here and beyond … we all would be poorer in the blessings of God.
Together we are followers of and partners with Jesus, who join together to serve others as Orleans United Church, doing our best to make the kind difference that God wants. So what difference does your offering make, really? The kind of difference God wants.
A few weeks ago I was reading a favourite blogger of mine, Arlene, who I mention here periodically. She quoted a teacher named Lynne Twist, whom I never heard of before, but evidently has recently written a book titled, The Soul of Money. So I ‘googled’ Lynne Twist and found this 10 minute ‘youtube’ teaching. It strikes me as yet another curious way of looking at what difference your financial support of good work makes.
So, our second reading for today comes from Lynne Twist on ‘youtube.’ Because of the title of her book, The Soul of Money, I suspect, she observes:
People often ask me, “Does money have soul?” Well, no. Money is our invention; we made it up. We forget that. But we have soul and we can give soul to money in the way that we use it – how we earn it, spend it, save it, invest it, and contribute it. We can keep money from being a soul-less force in our world. We can have money really rain on the people, on the projects, on the things we care about. We can move money and keep it flowing towards the good, the highest, and the deepest commitments of the human family. We have that power every day. And you don’t need to have piles of money to be a philanthropist – the word means “love of humankind” and … as a lover of humankind you can use your financial resources (however much or little you have) to nourish the world in which you live.
(from a teaching called “Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life” found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5xlJg9WxJg
What touches me about Twist’s insight here is her honest yet gentle encouragement to look at your relationship with money and to embrace the power you actually hold to make a difference for others, and not just to take care of yourself. She seems to suggest that if you want money to mean more than selfishness, waste, obligation, debt, and material possessions, then you can breathe into it the Spirit of goodness and love. How? The more your money can be exchanged for what we followers of Jesus call blessing, the more meaningful it becomes to you and those you bless. I really do appreciate her awareness that you don’t have to be super rich to make a difference … you simply can move a meaningful portion of what you have towards the good of others.
As a faith community striving to be a source of God’s goodness for others, we humbly welcome the money that people rain on us, and dedicate ourselves to exchanging it for blessings as honestly and as carefully as we can. You can see examples of those blessings in the ministries described in OUC’s Financial Partnership page (at the end of this sermon), and how the money you give is distributed to support our Worship, Learning, Care, Resource and Outreach ministries. In particular, after worship today, we hope you will take time to visit and explore some of the unique neighbourhood outreach and justice programs with whom OUC collaborates. And it’s all possible because you choose to channel some of your precious financial resources “toward the good, the highest, and the deepest commitments of our [faith] family.”
Earlier in the Spring, at the UCC annual Conference meeting in Montreal, our keynote speaker was Eric Law, who presented on his book, Holy Currencies: The Cycle of Blessings.
He too focuses our attention on what money exchanges into; for Law it’s part of a cycle of flowing currencies that include relationships, truth, wellness, leadership, time, and of course money. In one exercise that he led, Law asked us to recall a time in our lives when money was flowing in a way that gave blessings … an experience when family, friends, church, or other groups have used money in a way that blessed you personally.
I thought of how my mom and dad promised me and my four sisters that they would do their very best to help us complete our university educations without debt. He pushed us to name who was involved, where the money came from, what it exchanged into, what the long term benefits have been, who else has benefited from it, what was learned through it? As I look out among you today, I realize that you are just a few of the many who have been blessed by my parents’ generosity.
I wonder what memory comes to your mind …. when money was flowing in a way that blessed you? And how that shapes your understanding and approach to sharing a faithful portion of your money for the good of others?
Now’s a good time to consider how money can bring blessing, and what your financial support of this community of faith might set in motion in the years ahead. We’re not asking you to give TO the church, but to allow your offerings to flow THROUGH the church’s ministries, blessing many lives along the way.
That’s what Paul was thankful for … for the trust his faith-friends had in his ministry, and for the blessing they shared with him and with those whose lives were touched and whose hearts were warmed with the love of Christ because of their generosity. May our gratitude flow through our generosity.
Financial Partnership with God in Ministry
How your regular giving supports sharing God’s goodness through Orleans United Church
Celebrating God’s love together with others who share our faith.
Here are some ways we worship together:
|Sunday morning worship||Devotions at meetings|
|Wedding ceremonies||Special seasonal worship|
|Funeral services||Senior’s residence chapel services|
|Baptisms and Holy Communion||Small group celebrations|
$21 out of every $100 you give is dedicated to OUC’s Worship Ministry.
Nurturing each other’s spiritual growth and faith in God.
Here are some ways we learn together:
|Sunday school (Preschool to Grade 6)||Retreats and workshops|
|Youth programs (Jr High and Sr High)||Choir rehearsals|
|Nursery care during Sunday worship||Baptism & newcomers programs|
|Bible studies & adult education||Stewardship education|
$20 out of every $100 you give is dedicated to OUC’s Learning Ministries.
Sharing God’s compassion with people in our church through our prayers and deeds.
Here are some ways we care together:
|Caring casseroles during trying times||Compassionate listening at funerals|
|Comfort bears as reminders of God’s love||Home and hospital visits|
|Telephone calls and care notes||Counselling with our ministers|
|Prayers for loved ones near and far||Friendly Sunday morning conversations|
$18 out of every $100 you give is dedicated to OUC’s Care Ministries.
Encouraging each other to look beyond our congregation to the embrace the needs of others.
Here are some ways we reach out together:
|UCC Mission & Service Fund||Refugee support and assistance|
|Centre 507 & Multi-faith Housing||Green Church Initiative|
|Neighbourhood use of our building||Food banks & OUC emergency cupboard|
|Emergency Assistance Benevolent Fund||Outreach Information Fair|
$19 out of every $100 you give is dedicated to OUC’s Outreach Ministries.
Striving to use our church, our money and our people for good.
Here are some ways we serve together:
|Encouraging volunteers and staff||Program and activity administration|
|Financial & property oversight (Trustees)||Denominational assessments|
|Building improvements and maintenance||Organizing & highlighting ministry teams|
|Budget planning & mortgage repayment||Collaborating with Ottawa Presbytery|
$22 out of every $100 you give is dedicated to OUC’s Resource Ministries.