June 26, 2006

Looking Forward to July 2, 2006 -- 4th After Pentecost

This week we begin using our Summer Bulletins. The same bulletin will be used throughout July and then a different one will be used through August and for Labour Day weekend.

The Scripture readings this week are:
  • From the Hebrew Scriptures: 2 Samuel 1:1, 17-27
  • Psalm 130 (VU p.853)
  • From the Letters of the Early Church: 2 Corinthians 8:7-15
  • From the Gospel: Mark 5:21-43

The Hymns this week are:

  • 333 Love Divine all Love's Excelling
  • 260 God Who Gives to Life Its Goodness
  • 518 As Those of Old Their First Fruits Brought
  • 427 To Show by Touch and Word

The Sermon will be based on the Corinthians reading and is titled What, You Want Me to Give More?

In his Rumours newsletter (To Subscribe: Send a blank e-mail to: rumors-subscribe@joinhands.com), Ralph Milton writes about this passage:

The congregation where I worship is probably typical. We can usually raise money for capital projects, but it's hard to keep up with the operating budget. And it's hardest to get people to give to a generic "world mission."
There have been a series of catastrophes around the world in the last couple of years and some pundits are calling our lack of response "compassion fatigue." It could also be plain, old-fashioned stinginess.
It's hard to say what was getting to the folks in Corinth, but Paul is reminding them that their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem are quite literally starving. They apparently raised some money, but now folks have started holding back. Paul is pleading with them to enter into the pain of the Jerusalem community and to share their abundance more liberally.

Early Thoughts: It seems that Ralph has described a lot of congregations. Certainly in the five years I have been here I have heard repeatedly the line "we need a project, we do really well when we have a project". And it is true. When we wanted to do the roof, or the insulation the money came in. But there is more to the church than having projects. There is that whole mission to be people and witnesses of faith thing.

The "solution" to the problems of compassion fatigue and stinginess may well be to remind people that we witness by our actions, we witness with our chequebooks. Our ongoing project is to live out God's vision for the world as best we can. We do have a project, it just is a harder one to get behind than the new roof or the new windows or the refurbished wall. AS Ralph says, it's hard to keep up with the operating budget. And it's hardest to get people to give to a generic "world mission."

Over and over again the church comes back like Oliver Twist saying Please, can I have some more. And we will keep doing it. But in the end our pleas will not be successful until we tie the request to a sense of what we are doing. We can't guilt people into giving, we aren't a service club that can set membership dues, in the end we have to rely on touching people's hearts and souls.

A wealthy man came to a church office. Chequebook in hand he jokingly said to the pastor, "well here I am to give you my widow's mite. "I don't think you are," the pastor replied. "The widow gave all she had to live on, you will give me some of your excess." Red-faced the man shoved the cheque into the pastor's hand and stormed away. Who knows what he thought about the exchange?

But the story tells a truth. Most of us give from our excess. While we may insist that we give all we can afford we really give all we choose to afford. Paul said to the church in Corinth, we need more. The charities in our lives continue to say, we need more. How will we choose to respond?

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