What another Generous Year!

I believe that it is pretty typical for us to look back over the past year and see what we have accomplished, how much we have grown together in Christ, and of course look forward to the coming year.

As, I look back over 2015, I am so awed and honored to be a part of the community of faithful members of St. Paul United Methodist Church.  Let me take a moment to remind ourselves of some of the things that we have accomplished this year.

  • … $4,547.06 was sent to our conference for Wider Missions ($314.00 was given for Special Sundays and UMCOR.)
  • … We raised over $1800 at our annual Christmas Bazaar and Fund Raiser for operating expenses.
  • … We collected over $200.00 to go towards Persecuted Christians throughout the world.
  • … Church gave $1000 to our friends who lost their second son to suicide.
  • … We collected over $1,000 to go to our Church’s Good Samaritan Fund.
  • … Over 360 lbs. of food was collected for Crossroads Urban Center for the Golden Celery Contest in July, for which we won 3rd place!
  • … Over 100 goodie bags for the homeless were given out thought the valley and now other churches are copying this idea!
  • … Many, many bags of clothing and household items were given to Crossroads Thrift Store.
  • … We helped raise $175 and a car load of pet food and pet supplies for the Cubbies Cause for Paws which provides Pet Food to the Utah AIDS Foundation Food Bank, at the Lesson and Carols performance by Sotto Voce.
  • … We collected over $270.00 at the Christ United Methodist Church’s Wesley Bell Ringers concert held at our church to go towards prevention of Teen Suicide and awareness.
  • … Our second annual SCUG’em project where we collected several boxes of Socks, Coats, Underwear and Gloves for the Crossroads Food Pantry and Crossroads Thrift Store.  They were delivered on December 23rd!
  • … We collected 295 lbs. of food during our Souper Bowl of Caring; this food was given to Crossroads Food Pantry.
  • … In a short 6 months, we raised over $18,000 for a new roof!  Thanks to many many generous donors including Manny’s Bar and Wheeler Machinery, Sotto Voce, extra tithing, and yes, even a yard sale that we will all never forget.
  • … Donated over $150.00 for Kayla Loftin to be able to buy fleece to make blankets for Primary Children’s Hospital.
  • … We continue to receive a certificate from the Rocky Mountain Conference for our Stewardship and generosity, which is for giving our title plus 3% to the conference each year for wider missions.
  • … I am sure that I have forgotten many other acts of kindness and generously that we have exhibited this past year.  But, and finally— Our church family spent lots of their time and money and talents on cleaning, decorating, maintaining and upgrading our church building and outdoor yard.  It is easy to forget all the efforts that people made this year to make our church home an attractive and inviting place to gather because they are done quietly, without any fanfare.

Wow!  That is quite impressive!  I am so proud to serve such a wonderful and generous congregation.

It comes down to an issue of trust in God.  For those of you missed my sermon on Generosity, here is part of it.

The Legacy Journey”, By Dave Ramsey tells us a story about the Dead Sea, it goes like this:

For centuries, the Sea of Galilee has served as a source of life.  During His time on earth, Jesus based much of His ministry in the towns surround the sea and some of His disciples worked the area as fishermen before they left their net to follow him.

A few miles downstream, the Jordan River empties into one of the planet’s harshest bodies of water.  The Dead Sea earned its name because nothing can live in it.  The sea’s salt content is higher than any other body of water *including the ocean) and its water is so dense that swimmers literally float on the surface.  (BTW, the Salt Lake is very close to having the same percentage of salt.  Dead Sea is roughly 33% while the Salt Lake ranges from 5% to 27% depending where you are at.)

The contrast between the life-giving Sea of Galilee and the toxic Dead Sea goes beyond the arenas of geology.  It also illustrates two basic attitudes toward giving.  On one hand, the Sea of Galilee receives fresh water from the north, but it also releases water in the south through the Jordan River.  One the other hand, the Dead Sea only takes it.  It never “shares’ the water it receives and so it’s essentially lifeless.

Generosity works the same way.  Selfish people who only receive and never give end up living salty, toxic lives.  But generous people give freely and they spread life and joy along the way.  In fact, here are five ways generous give can improved your life.

He says that there are Five ways Generosity improves your life:

  1. Generosity takes the focus off you and puts it on others. When you give, you realize that the world’s axis doesn’t run through the top of your head.  You start to see that it really is better to give than to receive.
  2. Generosity helps you see needs around you. It refuses to let you blow them off or act like they don’t exist.  The more you give, the more you want to give.  You start looking for opportunities to share instead of looking the other way.
  3. Generosity allows you to join God where He is already working to change the world. Pastor and writer Henry Blackaby says that God is always working in the world, and He’s always inviting us to join Him.  Generosity creates a desire to join Him-and an excitement when we see Him using us!
  4. Generosity gives you the chance to reflect the true Owner of everything. God is a giver.  He always has been, and He always will be.  One of the great ways we can show the world what He looks like is through generous giving.
  5. Generosity frees you from worrying about money. When you figure out that your stuff is really God’s stuff, it’s easier to release it for His glory.  You don’t worry so much about generosity because, like the Sea of Galilee, you freely share because sharing produces life.

And now a question for you.  Are you reflecting a Sea of Galilee attitude or a Dead Sea attitude?  You make your choice each day—and generosity is the key.

Billy Graham tells us “God has given us two hands one to receive with and the other to give with.  We are not cisterns made for hoarding, we are channels made for sharing.”

John Wesley tells us to “Make all you can, save all you can, and give all you can”.

And, 2 Corinthians :9:5-8, says this:

This is why I thought it was necessary to encourage the brothers to go to you ahead of time and arrange in advance the generous gift you have already promised. I want it to be a real gift from you. I don’t want you to feel like you are being forced to give anything. What I mean is this: the one who sows a small number of seeds will also reap a small crop, and the one who sows a generous amount of seeds will also reap a generous crop.

Everyone should give whatever they have decided in their heart. They shouldn’t give with hesitation or because of pressure. God loves a cheerful giver. God has the power to provide you with more than enough of every kind of grace. That way, you will have everything you need always and in everything to provide more than enough for every kind of good work.

From a book titled “Thou Shall Prosper”, by Rabbi Daniel Lapin, has this to say:

Jewish tradition strongly establishes the principle that each person makes his or her own needs the primary concern, although not the only concern.  One could say that Judaism declares it necessary but insufficient to focus on one’s own needs first.  As the Sabbath ebbs away each Saturday night, Jewish families prepare for the productive work week ahead by signing the joyful Havdalah service.  This observance divides the Sabbath from the upcoming work week and asks God to increase both the families’ offspring and their wealth.  It also highlights their hands, as if to beseech blessing on the work of those very hands. The Havdalah service is recited over a cup of wine that runs over into the saucer beneath.

The overflowing cup symbolizes the intention to produce during the week ahead not only sufficient to fill one’s own cup, but also an excess that will allow overflow for the benefit of others.  In other words, I am obliged to first fill my cup and then continue pouring as it were, so that I will have sufficient to give away to others, thus helping to jump-start their own efforts.  Judaism views attending to your own vineyard not as shameful, but as a moral obligation.

I close with this.

As God has so generously given you enough to fill your own cup to fulfill your needs, continue to give generously out of the abundance that God has given to you, so that you may give in turn to others.  This is not only monetarily, but also with your time, your gifts and your talents.  Continue to do the good work in 2016, as I know and Trust, that is going to be another great year of Generosity. Amen.

~ Pastor Carol

~ Pastor Carol