Predecessors of Plenty: Our Foundation-Exodus 35:20-36:3

What we see changes what we do.  We act scared when we see scarcity.  Something has to change in the way we perceive, before the fear of not enough is overcome.  We must know inwardly we are connected to a source that provides abundantly and never runs dry, before we will live and give in plentiful ways.  This view of life requires not just information, but inspiration.  No amount of information will persuade us that our anxiety is unnecessary.  The Holy Spirit inwardly inspires us to see our material and spiritual blessings come from a God who is faithful to give every good gift.

Our stewardship emphasis will cast a bright light on our predecessors of plenty.  We will review their lives not just for information, but inspiration.  I will not try to persuade minds; instead I will pray God stirs hearts.

Predecessors of plenty inspire us to offer material gifts to God.  Moses told Pharaoh God said, “Let my people go”.  Pharaoh refused.  He didn’t like losing his slave labor force; there wasn’t a good outsourcing group within 1000 miles.  The plagues motivated the Egyptians.  The last plague was the angel of death; taking the firstborn male child of all who didn’t place the blood of a lamb on the doorposts of their homes.  Pharaoh cried uncle after losing his son, he let the people go.

God didn’t want the people leaving empty-handed.  They were told to ask for their silver and clothing.  The Egyptians were ready to get rid of them; so they gave them plenty of booty to carry into the wilderness.  Their wealth and freedom birthed the need for a new way of organizing themselves.  Moses issues a state of the union that includes ten new initiatives; giving community and religious life new structures.  The people would not have a king; each member of the community would have an equal stake in their lives together; the seedbed for democracy.  God was king; they were to earn and give back what was needed to sustain the community.

The children of God started out with plenty.  God always gave them and us what is needed.  In return for the plenty in their lives, they were to participate as equal stakeholders in the community.  Therefore, they equally brought their material gifts to build a portable sanctuary and support priests to lead their religious lives.  These newly freed entrepreneurs brought their plenty to the temple for the benefit of the community.

Each one of us has been blessed with plenty.  Some of us are paid to work and have possessions, which we steward on God’s behalf.  Some of us have inheritances or accumulated wealth, which we steward on God’s behalf.  Some of us have cash, stocks, and real estate; the principle is the same.  We bring a portion of what we have to benefit the community.

A congregation enabling all to be equal stakeholders mirrors the children of Israel.  We’re to organize; acknowledging God is the king among us who gives to us plenty from God’s generous hands.  Among those gifts are leaders who help us be responsible stakeholders in the work of God.  Each of us are gifts from God-given to each other.  The more we behave as if there will always be enough, the more attractive is the Body of Christ, even to those allergic to organized religions.

We have plenty!  We’ve a great facility to gather, a hardworking staff that looks after holy matters, and stuff that makes ministry possible.  You can’t run a car without fuel, a body without food, a business without capital, or a church without funds.  We want our church to provide the finest ministry; we can’t expect others to pay for it.  Just as we will spare no expense with our houses and kids; neither should equal stakeholders cut corners.  We are equally responsible for the flourishing of God’s work among us.

People who participate as equal stakeholders trusting there will be enough aren’t tempted to bring material gifts for personal interests.  Pet projects threaten the strength of everyone being an equal stakeholder.  They erode people’s confidence there will be enough.  It’s fine to designate money once we have given to the common treasury.  Unified treasury does what it suggests: unifies; builds trust; and fortifies community.  We are trending to a societal approach to giving, where each group promotes its self-interest.  Choir members don’t pay for robes and music just because they sing in the choir.  Young adults are not solely responsible for funding the children’s ministry.  Take care designating gifts; lest we risk the unity of the church.

People who participate as equal stakeholders trusting there will be enough-tithe.  The tithe is the biblical mandate for funding the mission of God in the world.  A tithe is ten percent of income; no one is exempt.  Sometimes we step up to it; making lifestyle choices that represent a greater faithfulness.  Invested stakeholders who are working toward the tithe are people who are on their way to being the next generation of predecessors of plenty.  These are people who bring a tithe of their gold, silver, brooches, earrings, pendants, fabrics, cash, pesos, shekels, stock, real estate or whatever else.  They are stewards of God’s material blessings.  That means they share a portion of what they have for the benefit of the whole community.

Predecessors of plenty inspire us to make spiritual gifts to God.  The congregation of Israel had plenty of spiritual gifts.  Bezalel  was endowed by God, Moses says, with divine spirit, with skill and knowledge of every kind of craft.  He and Oholiab  were master artisans who offered spiritual gifts for the building of the sanctuary.  These were their service pledges.  We have plenty of Bezalels (Beau) and Oholiabs (Ollie) who sit in the pews.  We couldn’t do church without their spiritual gifts; any more than we could have church without their material gifts.

Our material gifts provide buildings, furnishings, curriculum, hymnals, instruments, bulletins, heating, cooling, the communion bread we eat and the coffee we drink.  We’re grateful for every monetary gift.  We’re equally grateful for the plentiful ways you offer yourself to make every Sunday a miracle of biblical proportions.  Church happens by those who come early and stay late-teachers, ushers, greeters, singers, instrumentalists, and prayer warriors.  We rob God in the same way when we withhold our tithe if we are not offering ourselves in service.  God has given us plenty of knowledge and skills shared each week.  Pray about your pledge!

Predecessors of plenty hearts are stirred.  No matter how straight we are with each other about our responsibilities to God and church; no one should be shamed into giving.  This pastor will not be party to a spiritual shakedown.  Apologies to James Bond, our hearts have to be stirred, not shaken in the work of the Lord.  We don’t threaten; we allow the Holy Spirit to show us all the ways God shower gifts all around, until eyes are opened and we see we have all we need.  God woos us with love, so we might see our lives are filled with bounty, rather strong-arm us into submission.  Love keeps on after duty.

These are scary financial times.  You can give more reasons not to give, than I can give to give.  I don’t fool myself into thinking if we put together a flawless stewardship campaign with bang up sermons the church will be flush.  You will not be generous because I ask; that job is above my pay grade.  God’s Spirit must stir hearts so people feel the need to give is greater than the need for the church to receive.

I point you to our predecessors of plenty, who believe God extravagantly gave them more than they deserved.  I direct your attention those who generously offered spiritual and material gifts because their hearts were stirred.  I pray my heart along with yours will be stirred by the plenty in our lives that comes from the hand of a generous God.

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Published in: on October 16, 2011 at 7:21 am  Leave a Comment  

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