Homily of 12/4/11

These are the notes of The Revd Arnold Bush in preparation for his homily at Episcopal Church of the Epiphany December 4, 2011, the first of two sermons on Christian Giving.

I. Introduction
Please pick up a blank sheet of paper. I want you to imagine what this piece of paper represents. You skills, and abilities, our physical investments, home, autos, property, bank accounts, relationships in your family, and friends.. Some have large homes some smaller, some more expensive cars and some less expensive. You have varying incomes. This is you and the folks you live with. The NT and Jesus tell us that we need to give, to share some of the resources with have. He asks us to make a decision to give a percentage of our financial income and the Body of Christ, and the Work of Christ though the Church. He does not say for all of us to make a vow of poverty and enter a convent or monetary, But expects us to give a 10th or a tithe of my work. This is a symbol of our offering each Sunday.
I want to just read off a list of “External Motives” for giving to the work of Christ through His Church, Epiphany Church.
Give to the Church out of duty: I am supposed to give… my Dad and Mom told me to give… BCP, catechism.. my bounden duty is to work, pray and give for the spread of his kingdom. To give to the church is obligatory. “Those persons” are not giving a sharing the load of expanding the ministry here. A type of external voice, “Do this, Do your part…Give this… you ought to be ashamed our yourself for not giving”

Give out of guilt: Sometimes we feel guilty when we do not carry our load… or we give to remove any guilt. Some of us guilt is surfaced easily with any appeal for a need, a house fire, purchasing food for a homeless person, giving to Bishop’ Dollars, A house fire, Special Needs after Hurricanes on April 27…

Give our fair share: Zoe and I make a pledge to the United Way.. Their brochures refer to “MY FAIR SHARE”… One days salary for a yearly pledge. Or if the vestry creates a budget of 200,000 for the year and there are hundred giving units in the congregation…. Then one can see my fair share is $2,000. When I retired in 2002, the average annual pledge was $2500. This assumes all have the same amount of income.. Some can easily give more than $2,000, some cannot give this amount. Not based on a % of their actual income.

Some say, I want to give until it hurts: Some say I am going to give and deny myself some luxuries, such as eating out several times a week, delaying that expensive trip, postponing a large purchase, etc, I want to give till it hurts…. However, each person has different thresholds of pain. Physical Therapy? On your level of pain, what is your level of pain on a scale of 1 through 10?

Some, do not want to make a pledge, but their motive is to give when they feel like it. Some say my motive is to give when I feel like it. Some will say “I do not like to make a pledge” even though they pledge a monthly mortgage on their house, or have a monthly car payment or a monthly note on an appliance, or a large card debt. They like to give to special appeals the church carpet, roof repair, painting or AC/Heating or sending members on a mission trip. These make them feel good.

Give the same each year. To give the same old same old. These tend to be very small amounts. Some have given the same $50.00 each month for years, yet their income over the 40 years has moved from $5,000 a year to $50,000 a year. Sometime call “token pledges.”As a teenager growing up in Laurel, MS working in my father’s construction company, I gave the same $.50 earning minimum wage through college. When I gave folding money in St. Andrew’s, Jackson in college, I had doubled my weekly gift to the church.

Give what others are giving: When I retired from St. Jude’s the average annual pledge was about $2,500 a year. $2,500 is a tithe of $25,000 annual income. We had two Inquirer’s or confirmation classes a year. In these sessions I had a unit on the habit so Christian Giving. What do folks give here… the average is $2,500.. my estimate of average income was 40-70,000.

“The Meat Motive” Malachi 3:10 reads: “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house.” Paying the bill sto keep Epiphany open, clergy salaries, utilities, upkeep, outreach, communications, and administration. This is not related to a percent of income going to do the work of God’s Kingdom.

“Come beg me.” In some congregations I have served, there was always a few who said, when the pledges are all in, come let me know what you need and I will then give to meet the budget for the next year. I will fund a the music, or youth. The is the “Big Daddy” in the congregation.
”If it is a secret,” then it is bound to be good. I do not want anyone to know what I am giving each year. Sometimes that is a family who gives 25% of the total budget, but they want this to be a secret.

II This sermon is about our need to make this percentage of offering.
What motivation to give this offering? And some of the benefits.

Our need to give
How to live happy within a family? How to have a sense of fulfillment and meaning? How experience the summit of our emotions as a human being?

Paul speaks the great value of combining godliness with contentment. He says with what food and clothing we have we are to be content with these. Philippians 4:10-13: I have leaned to be content in all circumstances with little or with plenty.
Anyone remember Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs in 1943? Physical (food and shelter); Security; Social, Belonging; Esteem; and Self actualization. That was on a test in Psychology 101. God has created us with a DNA with a need to give, to give ourselves to help and support others.

Today people a searching for meaning? What experiences can a young adult have that will give them meaning?
How many know where the fraternity houses are in Tuscaloosa, AL? A family in Gulf Shores,AL had their son as the Pledge chairman for a local fraternity took a risk to bring his pledge class and several members to Gulf Shores. E.G. Fraternity at Univ. of AL coming to Gulf Shores to do house repairs after Hurricane Ivan. In reporting to his parents he said: That felt good!!! That was so meaningful to the pledge class… the brothers.

What seems to expand the endorphins and dopamine in our bodies? (See Compass of Pleasure David J. Linden, MD,) An experience of Giving… helping… doing something for someone. People will feel good. God has created the human brain so that helping others allows us to experiences waves of satisfaction as we do acts of kindness, giving help to those in need, giving financial gifts to the ministry of helping others.

Study done At Harvard Business School, published June 2, 2008. by Sara Jane B Gilbert. Appeared in March 21, 2008 issue of Science.
Professor Michael Norton and two colleagues from the University of British Columbia did the research.
Can money buy you Happiness? Yes…. So long as you spend the money one someone else. According to this new research, giving to other people even as little as $ 5.00 can lead to increased well-bring for the giver.
Their research indicates that how people choose to spend their money is at least as important as how much money they make. It is the way one spends money that tends to product more happiness.
Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthians (Chapt. 9) “God loves a cheerful Giver.”

In a “Mind and Body” article in that youthful magazine, AARP is helpful here. Organically published in National Geographic, states that growing body research discovering that persons in the second half of their life fine fatality and purpose as they connect to others in helping by “making a difference.” Dr. Harold G. Koenig, M.D, professor of psychiatry and behavior sciences at Duke writes this about persons who are guided and giving themselves to others. He says “they have stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, a lower risk of heart attack and cancer. And heal faster and live longer.” Dr. Koenig of Duke, notes that the correlation between religious faith and health has be analyzed in more than 2,200 studies over the past few years. The Research shows that people who give them self to worship in a church or the synagogue four times a month are less likely to engage in risky behavior, be depressed, or feel chronic stress. In a study of 20,000 indicated that African Americans live 14 years longer than the nonchurch going counterparts and American whites live 7 years longer than the nonchurch going persons.

Giving is part of our DNA… how we are wired.. created by God.. we are crated to be giving creatures… WE are not creatures that must always be taking in. WE want small children to learn how to share.

Our 7 year old grandson Zachary in Spanish Fort, AL. Alex in B’ham. playing soccer… “they took the ball away from me… the y won’t let me play with the ball… that is being stingy. Adults say I need to learn to share the ball… share to toy… share a piece of cookie.”.

All of us need to give. We have a need to make an offering to God.
All of us have a need to give… all of us.. all of us want to raise our children and grandchildren to experience the joy and delight in helping others…
We want to raise teens that mature in adolescent years to have events and projects in doing SERVICE TO OTHERS; Mission Trips; My youngest daughter was a youth minister at Grace Church, Charleston for 6 years. A large portion of youth ministry is providing structures so the growing teen can have the opportunity to be engaged in helping. Sawerville, Paint Birmingham, repair homes in poor neighbor hoods in SC.
Young adults as well as ourselves want to marry and live with a person who gives of them selves to the folks around them.

Sea of Galilee and Dead Sea( Did not use)
Using the metaphor of the Sea of Galilee ( Lake Tiberius) and the Dead Sea. The Sea of Galilee is filled with fish, beaches, forest around it shores, a place for recreation and fresh water. The water flows into the Lake from the fresh springs and rivers from the North. At the south end is the Jordan River flowing down to Dead Sea.

The Dead Sea has a high percent of salt. When you swim in it your body floats on the top. There is not fish, wild life, and fresh water. It is below sea level. It does not replenish itself.

A healthy Lake is one where fresh water flows into the lake and flows out. An unhealthy lake is one that only takes in and never flows out.

Is your life style more like the Sea of Galilee or the Dead Sea?
Giving your resources away, generous, unselfish, charitable, live with open hands…Altruistic OPEN HANDS

Or are you more like the Dead Sea… Hording your resources.. Selfish, tightfisted, closed hands, self-centered, egocentric, In the Epistle, do not be arrogant, or haughty with your financial resources.

If we are going to be healthy individuals… we have to develop a live style of giving our financial resources to the Work of Christ through His Church.

Our need to give is greater than the churches need for financial support. (X)Everyone affiliated with St. Francis’ has a need to give, than the financial needs in the year 2011.

Suppose, in December 2011, the vestry of St. John’s, Montgomery, received a letter from a gift from a charitable trust and percent of the will that you received 3 million dollars. The congregation could build a large church building, pay for more staff for several years. But would there be need for an every member canvass? Larger downtown congregations are often endowed with a high % of their budget. But they know an every member canvass is needed, because every person in the pew has a need to give. Yes!!! Our need to give is greater than the churches need for money.

Giving of our Financial Resources:
My rule of thumb is anything between 5% to 10 % is working toward the tithe. Or 5% is one dollar per week , as per one $ 1,000 annual income. If one makes $60,000 in 2011 and give $60 per week is 5%. If one gives a tithe then one financial gift is $120 per week or $ 480 per month. If all the folks in this room seek to be a healthy vibrant Christian, a well rounded human being is my need to give. Just as I take a senior vitamin every morning to facilitate my immune system.. so each week I need to give 10 % of my income to Christ’s Work. To become Lake Galilee Christians and not Dead Sea Christians!!!!

Our need to give is greater than the financial needs of the Church.
We all need God in our lives. Giving to God’s Work and His Church creates a deeper relationship to God. Every active or inactive person in the congregation needs to give. This is why we ask everyone to make a Statement of Intention to give to the Work of the Church.

As I stand before you I challenge you to make your pledge to the Work of Christ. If you are not challenged to give seldom will that person give a reasonable percent. How many folks wake up in a dream, the Lord told me to start giving to His Church. If one says I want to do what the Bible says… the Bible says Give to the Work of God. Your offering is an act of worship.

If you and I are not challenged, then we will be left us to our own selfish desires and wishes.

The Two Highest Motives are Our need to Give and Giving on the basis of gratitude. Next Sunday I will talk on Gratitude as the greatest motive for giving.

And our Need to Give. My need to give is greater than the Church’s need to receive. The Church will always have a need to give
The DNA in us is to wholeness involves giving to others, Giving to God’s Work.

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