Predecessors of Plenty: Our Legacy Proverbs 11:24-28

There is no greater blessing than being part of people who are the body of Christ in generous ways.  Being a part of a vibrant community of faith that breeds generosity despite circumstances is a blessing unmatched.

The good in my life gushes from a childhood church.  In 1960, my parents were vested in a new church, Shiloh Terrace Baptist Church located on the corner of LaPrada and Oates Drive.  They supported it monetarily and in every other way.  My mother served as a teacher and various committees.  My father directed the choir and held leadership positions.  I have fond memories of friends and the things we did together. The church grew to become one East Dallas’ strongest churches.  My mom still tells stories how certain events took place that she ascribes to the hand of God.

The church had pastors who were excellent pulpiteers, with short tenures.  The laity bought the land, built the buildings and conducted the business.  The changing pastoral leadership concentrated on spiritual matters.  My parents were in their twenties, and figured giving themselves and their resources to the Lord through that church was right.  There I fell in love with the church, and what I would come to understand was the Body of Christ.

An important life-event occurred in that church when I was eight and my sister was four years of age.  We sat in the pews with about 600 other people as my 36-year-old father was memorialized after his life ended too soon.  His faith and his coffee were alike-strong.  His faith made such differences in lives; people still tell me what he meant to them.  That corner of the Body Christ, despite being the place of my father’s memorial, shaped my life and reinforced the value of being a part of a faith community.

I was blessed to belong to a place where I came to faith in Christ.  I was blessed to belong to a place where I observed models for ministry that I emulate today.  I was blessed to belong to a place that spurred me to attend Baylor University; to acquire a great education and hear my call to ministry.  I have been blessed by that church in ways I am unable to fully describe 30 plus years later.  Whatever I am today goes back to that church.  I have been blessed a hundred times over because my parents blessed my life with the Body of Christ at LaPrada and Oates Drive.

The text comes from the book of Proverbs; the wise sayings of our forbearers of faith.  The Jewish Bible, the Tanakh, translates it:

There is one who scatters and yet is given more, and one who withholds from [giving] what is proper, only for a loss.  A generous person will become rich, and he who sates [others] shall himself become sated as well.  He who keeps back grain-the nation will curse him, but a blessing will be bestowed on the head of him who sells grain.  He who desires good seeks acceptance, but he who seeks evil, it will befall him.  He who relies on his wealth will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a leaf.

I join our Jewish friends in the belief generous life is rewarded.  This idea generosity is rewarded was rooted by my childhood experience and was confirmed in numerous ways throughout my adult years.

I cannot prove cause effect; there are thousand other factors that contribute to a blessed life.  Life isn’t a slot machine; where we put in X tithes and offerings, X time teaching, X hours in prayer, and then pull the lever and life come up 7s.  We are not to start out with the reward in our sights.  God will not let generosity from a faithful heart go unblessed.

We will choose to believe generosity is rewarded because our lives have been enriched by the generosity of others.  Any generous ways in my life are connected to the generosity I’ve experienced connected to the Body of Christ.  These connections have produced relationships, which feed my soul because of the generous ways they share their life.  My connection to the faith community has graced me with people who were more than willing to engage ministry in generous ways.  I have prospered as a part of the fellowship of faith.  Somewhere along the way I discovered I don’t just serve a church, I am blessed by THE CHURCH that has shaped my life.

I want to generously give the children of the next generation the same generous gift our parents gave us.  This can happen when we are as generous as our predecessors of plenty who handed us this Body of Christ they generously built.  Anything we do, builds upon their generous work.  Our limited time in this place and on this side of heaven prevent us from being able to contribute more than we have received, so we need to get busy becoming the next generation of predecessors of plenty.

Today, we pause to remember those who have died since we held this service last year.  This is a day to thank God for all the ways their generosity help build FUMC, Irving.  We will remember them by calling their names.  As we call their names, some of us will be able to specifically recall their generous ways and we will stand in honor of their memory.  We are not calling their names because they are extraordinary.  We are calling their names to thank God for the ways they made ordinary things seem extraordinary people.  We call their names because they are our saints.

I am struck on this day of the difference between saints and celebrities.  Recently, a celebrity stepped on the elevator with Terri and I with his son.  He was actually quiet friendly and wanted to talk baseball.  We enjoyed the chit-chat for a few moments before getting off on our floor.  We turned to each other after the doors closed and asked who was that person.  It took us to the next morning to recall this person’s name who has enjoyed celebrity status for multiple decades.  If you are curious who, CLICK HERE.

I am reminded how celebrities busy themselves branding their name on our culture; while our saints busied themselves branding the marks of God on this church.  I consider how a celebrity cannot be anonymous, while our saints are just fine not being too well-known.  I think how we are to keep our distance from celebrities, but we share common ground with our saints by our service together of Christ at FUMC, Irving.

They are our saints because they generously connected their lives to this Body of Christ.  They have blessed others in their generous ways as they served First United Methodist Church, like I was blessed by the generous saints I recall at Shiloh Terrace.  Their lives tell us a generous life will not go unnoticed by God.  We aren’t promised the more we’re involved in a church, the more material blessings.  Their testimony and mine is the deeper we root ourselves into the Body of Christ, the more God is able to bless us with spiritual abundance that is greater than our imagination.

In the Body of Christ, we count differently.  In the fellowship of faith we count our bounty, not our booty.  If we will spend our life in a faith community counting our blessings, we will lose track of our blessings; discovering again we cannot out give God.  The wisdom of the proverb is true: A generous person’s life is enriched because those who live generously end up with more than they can ever give.

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