In this series on Ways of Worship, we talked last week about the importance of scripture and study; how the scriptures are the story of God and the life of Jesus written down for us to believe and live out faithfully. ??God???s redemptive action on our behalf in Jesus is more than a gift???it is an invitation, a calling to a way of life that leads to life. ??So, today we look at giving and service.
Now, these two aspects of worship are incredibly significant given what today is. ??Today is the birthday of the Church. ??Pentecost for the Christian is the day the Holy Spirit was poured out on those who were waiting faithfully for the presence of God to come just as Jesus had said he would. ??Hear this account from Acts 2.1???21
1When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.??2And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.3Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.??4All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.
5Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem.??6And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.7Amazed and astonished, they asked, ???Are not all these who are speaking Galileans???8And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language???9Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia,??10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,??11Cretans and Arabs???in our own languages we hear them speaking about God???s deeds of power.?????12All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ???What does this mean??????13But others sneered and said, ???They are filled with new wine.???
14But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, ???Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say.??15Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o???clock in the morning.??16No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:??17???In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.??18Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.??19And I will show portents in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist.??20The sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the coming of the Lord???s great and glorious day.??21Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.???
There are more benefits to having the Holy Spirit than we have time to list, but one of the greatest blessings is his companionship. ??The Holy Spirit is a loyal and constant presence, always giving and always with those who have opened their heart to receive God. ??The Spirit gifts the children of God in all circumstances, raising them up to do every good thing under the sun. ??I think of Josh Groban???s popular song,??
???You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains; You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas; I am strong, when I am on your shoulders; You raise me up… To more than I can be.??? ??
And that is why the Spirit is so important, because we are raised up to be more than we can be by ourselves. ??The presence of the Spirit is evidence to Jesus??? words that he will be with us always, that he will never abandon nor forsake us.
The disciples on that Day of Pentecost were celebrating the Jewish Pentecost, a feast celebrating the giving of the Ten Commandments. ??These commandments were important because they made them more than just a people, they made those who obeyed them God???s people. ??Those who obeyed the commandments lived differently than others and were set aside for God. ??During THAT celebration, the disciples who were gathered in the upper room would receive the same Spirit that inspired and gave life to those holy commandments. ??Through this out-pouring they would be further separated for God???s purposes and now equipped to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to the world. ??Amazingly enough, the world was gathered around them when the Spirit came. ??Below the upper room were people from all over the known Roman world, Jews who had come to celebrate Pentecost in Jerusalem, and now they were hearing the gospel in their own languages as the disciples spoke to them. ??Those who heard that day believed and became disciples through the Spirit???s work. ??
After this, the people began to simplify their lives, putting God first through giving of their earnings and dedicating their lives to serving the needs of others. ??By doing this, the community always had what it needed by way of resources and the world around them was blessed by the hands and feet of Jesus as represented by his faithful disciples at work. ??What is important is that you understand that the Holy Spirit ??? through giving and service ??? is the gift that keeps on giving. ??Here???s how.
The Holy Spirit continues to give through you when you tithe. ??Okay, so where does tithing come from? ??Beginning with Abraham, the people of God have taken a tenth of their crops, flocks, or earnings and given them to God and his work. ??The practice was to honor God, to show that your own desires and wants didn???t come before God and his goodness toward you. ??Within each community, a tenth of the blessings given to people by God were divided up in order to shape and better the community. ??The tithe supported the mission and ministry of the Church. ??Therefore, the Church was able to accomplish its work according to the level of giving by its people.
Your tithe and your offerings are what equips the Church to do everything it does. ??From providing worship services or fellowship suppers, to feeding and clothing those who call and come to us for aid. ??Your tithe is not just money that you give. ??Your tithe is your ministry and your presence at work when you can???t be here. ??You can???t be here every second of every day, but your love and your generosity can. ??Through servants and leaders of this church, your tithe makes sure that we can do ministry. ??It helps us to follow up with people on the church???s Meals on Wheels route and meet their needs in ways the state can???t. ??It helps us to feed the hungry who contact the church for help and provide them with the right resources to meet longterm needs. ??It lets us make payments on the Missions & Ministry building that desperately needs your attention and involvement. ??It pays for Vacation Bible School, Children???s Church curriculum, youth retreats and events, Chili Cook-offs, Easter Egg Hunts, a van, repairs on the Sanctuary / Retreat Building / Fellowship Hall. ??But it can also pay for things that we haven???t yet begun to do. ??It can pay for a mission trip (local or foreign), a food pantry, a clothes closet, an Older Adults Ministry with outings and events . . . you name it! ??There???s hundreds of things that can be done in this community, but you???ve got to make it
happen through pulling the collective resources we have together and giving it our all.
I love what Paul told young Timothy in 1 Timothy 6.17-19, when he said,??
???As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. ??They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, ??thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life.??? ??
Paul wants the community to understand that this life is about preparing for the next. ??This life is the only one you have to store up treasures in Heaven! ??Why are we busy worrying about ourselves and how to spend our money when we should be pouring out on the community all the blessings that God has given us? ??Let this be an encouragement to you. ??This is a call to re-think your current giving level to this community called New Liberty and to begin to respond in ways that will testify that you want to put God first and enable his Church to help this community through what we have together. ??Now for service.
The Holy Spirit continues to give through your letting God use you to be his hands and feet in the community. ??You are the Body of Christ, redeemed by his blood and equipped with his Spirit to share the good news through your witness and to alleviate suffering through your commitment to be present with the hurting in their distress. ??Christian ministry when boiled down to its basic elements is being present with the world in the midst of their suffering. ??Christ said to those before the judgment seat in Matthew 25,??
???What you did to the least of these you did to me…what you didn???t do to the least of these you didn???t do to me.??? ??
I will ask you today, ???Are you providing for the least???? ??Whether through the money you give to equip your church to meet needs or through the face-to-face contact you have with the needy, are you providing for the least? ??What ministries are you involved in, O follower of Christ? ??Where is your treasure? ??Stored up in buildings or stored up in people?
According to Paul in Romans 12.1???2, your Christian service makes your body an offering. ??He says,??
???I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. ??Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God???what is good and acceptable and perfect.?????
Our lives are a sacrificial gift; all of our lives, not just part. ??Part of our life is made up of money, but it???s only a small part. ??The rest is made up of bodily presence that commits to being with the world as a representative of Christ and his love.
Will you do that? ??Will you equip your church? ??Will you serve the world? ??Understand that I am calling you to a deeper level of discipleship, to more than a Sunday appearance or a weekly to-do list. ??I???m calling you, as God is calling you, to give yourself, your whole self, to being a gift from God to the world. ??How will you respond? ??Respond through worship. Worship through giving. Worship through serving. Amen.
Rev. Whit R. Martin??
Pastor,??New Liberty United Methodist Church