Reading: 2 Corinthians 9:12-15
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Phil continues our “Gifts of God” program by going back to basics and focusing on God’s amazing gift to us; and we will tie it all together by sharing together in communion. And yes, there will be buckets and we will use them as a symbol of the wonderful, generous and excessive way that God blesses us. We will also be reflecting on the reality that sometimes it feels that there is a hole in our bucket and how we might go about refilling our spiritual bucket.
So here we are – the last day of our three week “Gifts of God program”. So far we have experienced the program launch, pondered 15 daily reflections, nearly 130 people experience hospitality at it finest across 9 Dessert events as we looked through the Gifts of God booklet … and today we will culminate in the Gifts of God Mission Fair. It has been a huge effort and I want to publicly thank all those who have helped in different ways – Kevin & the reflection writers, the proof readers, those who worked on mailing lists, the dessert hosts, Mark working on the mission Fair and all those who attended. Thankyou.
Hopefully we have clearly communicated the message of the program – based on the words of 1 Peter 4:10 – that both we as individuals and also we as a church, should use the gifts of God that we have received to serve others as faithful stewards of God grace in its various forms.
We have asked people at the dessert events – with no pressure, expectations or guilt – to take some time to review our giving to the church and at the end of the service today we are going to ask you to look at the different tasks, ideas and job that are listed in the mission fair – the things that need to be done to bring this vision to life – and consider how you can use your gifts of time, passion, energy and skills in serving others in a way which is best for you.
That’s what today is all about. And I could really stop my message here – except that this would not be a sermon, that was more like an announcement. So hear that point, because that is what today is all about – but let me share two more gems to make this into a sermon!
GEM #1 – Our bible reading today was from 2nd Corinthians. It might be helpful to understand that by the time this letter was written, Paul has had a long connection with the Corinth church and the relationship is so solid that he can be quite personal and direct with them. In the chapter before our reading – 2 Corinthians 8, Paul is talking about giving and resourcing God’s ministry and mission, just like we have been for the last 3 weeks. Paul says in verse 7 that just as the Corinth church has been excelling in faith, speech, knowledge and love, they also should excel in the grace of giving.
Paul doesn’t command them to give … but rather encourages them to look to Jesus – and to give in response to what God has already given to us! Paul adds in verse 8:13 that we shouldn’t give in a way that we become hard-pressed but rather our giving should be balanced … but Paul does add that when we have extra we should consider investing that extra in God’s work.
In chapter 9:6 Paul reminds people of the farming principle that the harvest is in proportion to how much you sowed in the first place. If we want to see a great harvest in God’s ministry and mission … then that will take investment into it.
Then in verses 7 and 8 Paul says these fantastic words:
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver” [That is why in this Gifts of God program we have not asked you to give more … we have asked you to review your giving both your financial giving and in using your gifts to serve others in a way which is right for you]
Paul goes on “And God is able to make all grace abound on you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work”
Did you get that … this flow of Grace and gifts is sort of circular.
- God has blessed us with gifts and grace
- We in turn we are encouraged to share the gifts we have received through serving others
- By serving others we are blessing them and the cycle of grace increases
- Which God loves and so God blesses us with even more Grace
Can you see how this cycle works? … but it is more like a growing spiral. Every time it goes around, the grace and blessings increase. Paul calls it “surpassing Grace” … it just keeps growing. It is always surpassing our dreams or expectations! It is no wonder that Paul finishes this by saying, “thanks be to God for his indescribable gift.”
GEM #2 –zooms in on one word from verse 12 in our bible reading: This service that you perform (or when we use the gifts of God to serve others) is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Overflowing.
This word was also in our bible reading we had last week from Romans 5:15 – “If the many died by the sins of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift of God that came by one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!”
The Greek word for overflow is perissós and mean excessive, way too much. (Like our experience of desserts over the last 2 weeks). It gives this idea that God pours so much of his grace into us that it is impossible for us to contain it – it is so much Grace that it is immeasurably too much for us and so it overflows to others. Cool image, eh?
This idea of God’s generosity overflowing is a common theme in scripture:
- Psalm 23:5 – You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
- Phil 1:9 – I pray that your love will overflow more and more …
- Hosea 11:8 – “Oh, how can I give you up, Israel? How can I let you go? … My heart is torn within me, and my compassion overflows
- Luke 6:38 – Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.
I am just scratching the service here – I haven’t even started on the stories of Jesus – like how when Jesus was asked for more wine he produces 500 litres of it. When Jesus feeds 5000 people there is so much that there are 12 baskets of let overs. This imagery of the excess generosity and giving of God is all through the bible. Here is a list that you can look up later
- Love – 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13
- Joy – John 15:11
- Hope – Romans 15:13
- Praise – Psalm 119:171
- Thanksgiving – 2 Cor 4:15; Col 2:6-7
- Service – 2 Cor 9:12
- Redemption – Psalm 130:7-8
- Compassion – 2 Cor 1:3-4
We love others out of the overflow of God’s love in our lives.
We show compassion to others out of the overflow of God’s compassion poured into our lives. It is supposed to overflow.
Are you seeing this? Because this is something that we should recognise in our own lives and actions. Our giving and our serving others is simply an overflow of the blessings that God has poured into our lives!
It is my prayer that we all see this truth. God has blessed us with grace – has poured so much love, forgiveness, hope joy, grace etc in our lives that it is immeasurable. More than immeasurable – it is far too much for us to contain. It overflowing.
So … as we prepare to head into the mission fair and spend some time prayerfully reviewing your giving and serving, I once again encourage you from the words of 1 Peter 4:10, ““Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
And as you do I am sure you will experience the surpassing nature of God’s grace and in turn give thanks to God for his indescribable gift. Amen.