The Gift That Keeps on Giving
October 21 and 22, 2017
Psalm 145:8-21 / II Corinthians 9:6-15 /Luke 21:1-4
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9
Dear Friends in Christ,
He just kept on (giving)
No doubt you all have two or three people in your lives that have particularly impressed you and blessed you with their generosity. One of those two or three people in my life was my father in law, Lester. He was an early riser, a hard worker, a Green Bay Packer backer, and he could talk smart with the best of them. There was nothing he could not fix, and there was nothing he wouldn’t do for family, for friends, and for his local church. He and Joyce would use up weeks of vacation at a time work on projects with their two daughters, their one son, and families. It seemed to me that he didn’t have a selfish, a stingy, nor a lazy bone in his body. He passed away over 21 years ago, and if you want to see Debi and her mom tear up, go ahead and ask them how much they miss Lester. No doubt you could all name one or more people in your lives who are famous in your minds for giving and helping and serving and befriending whether they were being appreciated or not. They were and are gifts that keep on giving.
In today’s sermon, we fix our eyes on Jesus Christ, who was, is, and ever shall be the gift from God that keeps on giving. Jesus Christ is synonymous with the grace of God. The grace of God is, by definition amazing, contagious, and generous. There you have the three parts of today’s sermon – the grace of God is by definition amazing, contagious, and generous.
First of all, Grace is, by definition, (amazing). Our appointed Scriptures for today make this abundantly clear. In Psalm 145, we find the wretched sinner King David amazed at how great, how merciful, how compassionate, how gracious, how mighty, how amazing is the one true God. King David, famous for disrespecting the military he commanded, famous for committing adultery with a soldier’s wife, famous for trying to cover up that sexual misconduct, famous for homicide and lying repeatedly through his teeth, now forgiven, now cleansed, now declared righteous concluding this song of praise with “My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord and let all flesh bless his holy name forever.”
And then there is St. Paul the wretched persecutor of the church transformed by the grace of God into perhaps the greatest missionary of the Gospel. In today’s Epistle we find him inviting the Corinthians to be amazed, as he is amazed, at how God just keeps on giving, amazed at how God is able to make his grace abound and then multiply out into the community and throughout all the generations.
In our Gospel lesson for today, we find Jesus Himself amazed at how the Holy Spirit could work such a faith in the heart of a widow that she would give away the very money she needed to live on.
Lesson #1 today is simply to be amazed by the grace of God, as a little girl would be amazed the first time she sees for herself the ocean. A couple of questions for you, to chew on in these days.
Lutheran Hour preacher Ken Klaus recently told a story of a Christian church that was conducting a food drive. Congregational members were asked to contribute non perishable items. One mother and her six year old daughter were going through their pantry, and came across a bottle of beets. The mom set the beets aside, along with some condensed milk and lima beans. The mom said, “There, that will do, and we won’t miss these things, nobody here likes them.” To which the daughter politely replied, “But if we give them only what we don’t want, aren’t they helping us?”
This story and the story of the widow giving her two small copper coins reminds us that both generosity and stinginess are contagious. Let me repeat that, both the habit of generosity and the habit of stinginess are contagious. Paul teaches us today that God loves a cheerful giver. The Psalmist tells us that the Lord, who really owns everything, isn’t at all impressed with left over contributions, nor is He going to be pleased when we just go through the motions. What the Lord wants, first, foremost and always is a Christian heart which has seen the Savior’s sacrifice and is moved to respond. That response may be shown forth in terms of treasure, or talent, or time, but always it will find its source in a broken and contrite heart.
Lesson #2 is that God’s grace is by definition contagious, as contagious as a good belly laugh can be in a room full of people who like to giggle. Two questions for you to chew on in these days today, as we think about which of our habits are catching on with other people.
Paul knew what we want to know again today. That as often as the amazing grace of God is received, that often it shows up as an amazing generosity towards others. Generosity isn’t so much a decision that we make, it’s an attitude worked inside of us as we daily drown the old sinful nature, leaving room for Jesus Christ to rise up on the inside of us and rule. Generosity isn’t something we can muster up by trying harder to muster it up, it’s a gift worked on the inside of us as we recognize and ask God to take away every bit of our stinginess, every bit of our self -centeredness, every bit of our foolishness. Generosity isn’t something we can manufacture, but it is something we can imitate from others, it is something we can encourage in one another, it is a gift from God that He invites us to pay forward always with the next generations in mind.
Lesson #3 is to observe the natural progression from amazing grace on the part of our God turning into an amazing generosity welling up on the inside of us and bubbling over into the lives of others. Two questions for you to chew on in these days:
When I asked Louise if there was one teacher in particular that inspired her to be a teacher, she said, yes. Miss Peterson, her 3rd grade teacher at St. John Lutheran School in Good Thunder. Miss Peterson, she says, was ever so sweet, ever so kind, ever so ready to let her assist her classmates in their multi grade classroom. These and thousands and thousands of other teachers and parents and supporters of Christian education all over the world, this is what they are doing, they are paying it forward. It all started with Jesus Christ paying all that was necessary to pay, and it continues as often as the next generation is invited to receive the gift of God’s grace. God’s grace, which is by definition amazing, contagious, and generous. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Worship Sermons & Letters