Sunday, November 8, 2009

Giving everything you have

Today's sermon is based on Mark 12:38-44

"Beware of scribes who like to walk around in long robes."

I am not so sure I like the sound of that in the gospel today.

So, I’d like to tell you about a friend of mine. Her name is Caryl, and she celebrated her 90th birthday last night.

Caryl is not poor, but she is certainly not rich. She lives modestly, and she enjoys going to baseball games with her many friends. She has one of the greatest laughs you will ever hear and always has time to talk. She is someone you want to be around.

Caryl is one of the mainstays of the altar guild in hr church. Once or twice a month, she takes fresh baked pies to new members of the church. She also volunteers at a food closet in the community.

My friend Caryl leads a life of giving. Everything about her is about giving.

There are many Caryls here in this parish. They are people who give of themselves freely and fully, working on our altar guild, coaching our acolytes, working in the kitchen or arranging flowers, ushering, serving at communion, visiting people in hospitals, cooking dinner at the Salvation Army for homeless people, or leading discussion groups for university students who are trying to figure out life beyond their studies.

And the list Caryls and Bobs and Jeans and Bills is much, much longer than that.
The story in the gospel today is about one of these people, a woman who gives two copper pennies, and gives everything she has.

I am always struck by how people with so very much react to this story – you mean she gives everything?

Yes, everything.

But how will she survive?

But that is not the question Jesus would have us ask.

Jesus gives us this story for a reason: to show us that someone who outwardly has very little can give abundantly, and it will always be enough.

The poor woman gives knowing that there will be two more copper coins coming her way, and more after that. She trusts that God gives her everything she needs because it is all really God’s anyway.

Like my friend Caryl, and all of the Caryls in this world, her life is richer by her giving. There is freedom in her giving, freedom to stop worrying, to stop being anxious, and freedom to live life fully.

By her giving, she is fully present to everyone and everything around her. By her giving, she is a full participant in God’s miracle of creation, in God’s miracle of life.

This morning, I would like to encourage you to give everything you have to life itself. Everything.

And by doing so, I’d like to encourage you to think about how you can live your life as fully and completely as God would have you live.

What would that look like for you if you really lived fully? What do you have to give, and what do you need to give up, to lead such a life? What holds you back? Maybe you already are living this way – you are a Caryl – so what wisdom do you have for the rest of us? Give us that.

This kind of giving truly needs to start in prayer. Can you find a place this week to sit somewhere quietly and ask God to point you in a direction?

Listen for the answer. It might come loudly, or it might come as the small still voice that is inside you. The answer may take time to unfold, and it may not come immediately. Or it might be so obvious you don’t notice for a time.

But it will come.

And then act by giving everything of yourself to this project of life on earth.

Give abundantly of yourself in all you do, in your home, in the workplace, at school, to everyone you meet, and in everything you do. Be wealthy in your giving.

When you fall short, start over. Be generous to yourself, as you would have others be generous to you. Those who give sometimes have a hard time receiving; be gracious in receiving the gifts that come your way. We are never too poor to give, and never too rich to receive.

And then I’d like to invite you to give generously to the mission of St. Paul’s. Even if you give only 10 percent of yourself to this church, it will be enough.

I don’t think you should give merely because this institution needs to stay open as an institution.

I hope you might give because the mission of this church is important to your life, and this church lifts lives including your own.

I think it important that you know where the money goes, because the money follows the mission of healing, hope and redemption that this faith community serves.

Yet I strongly resist preaching a sermon about the budget, because none of this is really about numbers on a page.

It is about the mission.

The cost of our mission is about $900,000 a year. Seventy-five cents out of every dollar we spend comes directly from you as contributions.

Here are a few facts about how we spend our dollars on our mission: We will give $55,000 this year to organizations that are especially skilled in bringing our ministry beyond our walls to those in the greatest need in our community.

A hard working committee led by Marsha Trimble and Doug Little recently looked in detail at each of these organizations, and they will be speaking about their work after the 10 am service in the chapel.

We are also committed to our ministry with the University of Virginia community, and we will spend at least $50,000 on the costs related to that ministry this year, probably more depending how you add it up.

We are also hugely committed to our children and teenagers, and the cost of that ministry exceeds what we spend on university ministry.

Our participation in the mission and ministry of the wider Episcopal Church costs $67,000, which we give to the Diocese of Virginia, which in turn uses those dollars not just for a staff in Richmond but for work in Sudan and Haiti.

And perhaps largest of all is our commitment to the pastoral care of this congregation. People come here with many needs; they are young, old, rich and poor. Pain and hurt make no distinctions, and neither do we. Without our dedicated clergy and lay staff, the care of this congregation would be greatly diminished if not impossible.

All of these ministries are essential to our mission as the people of God in this time and place; as people called to be the hands and feet of Christ’s healing and hope in the world, and to each other. All of this happens only because there are people named Caryl, and people named Bill and Jean, Buck and Wayne – and people like you. AMEN.

No comments: