Saturday, September 8, 2012

Sermon for Sept 9, 2012; Proverbs 22:1-9

Rev. George Miller
Proverbs 22:1-9
Sept 9, 2012

Last week we talked about the theme “A God So Near” in which I admitted that there are some weeks when I wonder how that can be true when facts seem to say otherwise.

And then…God does something to show that nearness. It occurred this Thursday during the memorial service for Barry in which the sanctuary was filled with people from all walks of life, gathering to pay honor to someone they cared about so much.

Then on Friday, I found this article in the paper. It’s written by Rev. Bernice Powell Jackson, who is not only a UCC pastor in the Tampa area but president of the North America World Council of Churches; in other words a living bit of UCC history right in our own back yard.

Rev. Jackson’s article, titled “How the World Can Stop Preventable Child Deaths” was inspiring.

Rev. Jackson stated that during the political campaigns we will hear from a variety of voices, but the voices we will not hear from are the voices of children, especially those who are the world’s poorest.

She gave a startling statistic: 30 years ago 14 million children under the age of 5 died each year.

However, after decades of hard work and innovation, that number has been cut in half. Yet, 7 million children is still too high of a number.

So 55 health ministries around the world are focusing on one simple, doable goal: end preventable deaths of children by 2035. Scientists and health experts believe this can be done.

Rev. Jackson states that there are several health improvements that have already helped to reduce the number of deaths.

Vaccines, sanitary birth conditions and antibiotics all play a role in achieving this goal.

Can you guess what’s the 1st thing she listed as helping to eliminate childhood deaths?

Clean drinking water. The very topic of our Global Missions Fair today.

You’ve been hearing about it for weeks; we’ve received handouts, mailings, e-mails all about today, and now it is finally here.

Our 4th Annual Global Missions Fair in which everyone is invited to have a fun time participating and showing to the global community that we have “enough” and that we are blessed by our ability to share it with others.

Since April 29 when I preached on John 10, the topic of “enough” has been a reoccurring theme for the past few months.

In that reading Jesus said that his desire for us is that we have life and that we have it abundantly.

Not knowing what abundant truly meant, I looked it up in the Roget’s Thesaurus and it said “enough.”

So abundant life doesn’t necessarily mean that we have so much stuff we don’t know what to do with it, but that we have enough to live and to be happy.

This notion of having enough allows us to experience the glory of God’s Kingdom in the “here and now” as opposed to the far away and future.

Because of Christ we have enough.

We have enough time. We have enough family. We have enough friends. We have enough finances. We have enough food.

And once we realize this fact, we realize that we also have enough to share. And because we have enough to share, we are blessed.

That is what sticks out for me in today’s reading. All these wonderful, wise pithy sayings; bits of wisdom that an elder is passing down to the younger generation so they know how to live a faithful, fantastic life.

Verse 22:9 says it all: “Those who are generous are blessed, for they share their bread with the poor.”

Could it be any simpler then that? Could it be any more counter-cultural then that?

Don’t hog what you got, but share what you have, for you will be blessed. That is God’s good will for those of us who discover that we indeed have enough.

Church, can I get an “amen”?

Let me share with you a story about sharing that happened to me recently.

I’m one of those people who will never be rich; I’ll always have bills and student loans to pay. But yet I have never had to truly do without.

I have only bought about five pieces of furniture in my life, but I’ve always lived in places that had a place to sit, a place to sleep.

Years ago I was given a couch that was the most comfortable thing to sleep on. I spent many afternoons decompressing on it after
Sunday service.

Unwilling to part with it, I brought it to FL and put it on the porch, even though it did not fit and made everything else look cramped and tacky.

Then a few months ago, someone offered me their loveseat. Much smaller, virtually new, tastefully done.

It was a marked contrast to my couch, with its cat scratched fabric, gently stained cushions and too-cramped-for-words presence.

I asked my neighbors if they could use a couch. I was apologetic about it, embarrassed. They immediately said yes.

With two small kids and a third on the way, they had a small couch that was hard as wood to sit on. Coming from an extended family they always had siblings, cousins and friends staying over and often times people had to sleep on the floor.

With the new love seat on my porch, the old couch was brought over to their place…and immediately it was clear that it was more then “enough.”

Whereas for me as a single man it was too big, for them it was just the right size. The children who were present immediately jumped on the couch. They grew even more excited once they realized it could pull out into a queen sized bed.

With that part done, I went back to my porch and realized the patio table which I had for nearly 6 years no longer worked. So I went to the dumpster to throw it out, figuring who would want it.

Another neighbor, a veteran on disability, saw what I had and asked if he could have it. Immediately he cleaned it up, placed it outside his front door and it became a place for he and another veteran to sit and smoke and talk.

So, this one love seat that was given away became a source of blessing for three different households: mine, my neighbors with an extended family and a disabled vet.

Realistically speaking, how can one couch possibly bless more then 7 people?

The answer is simple: it’s a “God thing.” That’s what God can do. That’s what Jesus came to remind us about.

That the intention of God’s heavenly kingdom is that we have what we need right here, right now on earth.

After all, that’s what we experienced in the story about manna from heaven; that’s what we witnessed when Jesus turned water into wine; that’s what we recall when 5 loaves were turned into enough for 5,000 people.

In conclusion, in Christ, through the actions of the Holy Spirit, we have enough.

The challenge, the counter-cultural instruction we heard today is: are we willing to trust that God can take what we have and multiply it into abundance?

Abundant bread, abundant supplies, abundant water, abundant life?

And how cool would it be that if we truly live this way? Our church family can be known for not only our radical welcoming but for our compassionate sharing!

Today, we get to share and to show the world that in Jesus Christ we do indeed have “enough” and that we are blessed indeed.

Amen and amen.

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