A NEW BEGINNING
It’s Annual Meeting Sunday which means that right after worship today, we are all invited to gather in the Fellowship Hall to do two things. The first one is to review the past year. What have we done? What was achieved and what can we learn from those experiences? The second thing that we do is to seek God’s will for our future. That involves dreaming dreams and seeing visions of what God has in store for Cottam United Church.
One of the key things that we will be doing in the midst of that is transitioning from the old structure to the new. The old Official Board system ends as of today and the new Church Board structure will take effect. One thing that I want to do today is to thank the members of the Official Board for the hard work and dedication that they have given to the work of Christ in this place – some of them for many years. Let’s face it; God has blessed us abundantly. I’ve been involved in a lot of churches in my day and I can honestly say that this is the best ever. And one of the main reasons why it is such a faithful place is because it has been run by faithful people. So, I’m going to ask anyone here who is sitting on the Official Board right now to stand as you are able. I want to thank you for your service. Please keep standing because now I want all of those people who have ever sat on the Official Board to please stand and join them. Thank you too for your faithful service. And now I’d like all of us here to show our appreciation to these brothers and sisters in Christ for all that they have done to enable us to be a faithful witness of Jesus Christ.
I a couple of hours from now, you will have elected a whole new Church Board. Some of those people will be carry overs from the Official Board but many of them will be brand new. It will be their job to carry on the faithful witness of those who went before them and that is an awesome and humbling undertaking.
The very last thing that the Official Board will do is present the proposed goals and objectives for 2017. Over that past few weeks, I’ve been talking about those goals and objectives and sharing with you both the practical and the biblical basis for them. Today, I want to branch off into one more thing. I want to talk a little bit about money and offerings and what the Bible has to say about them.
We don’t often talk about money in this church primarily because we don’t need to. You are faithful in your giving. There is always money available when needed. We aren’t in a position where we need to rely on the next fundraiser to pay the hydro bill. It wasn’t always like that and sometimes John, our treasurer, had to do some pretty fancy foot work with the books to make sure that the cheques didn’t bounce. But as far as I know, it was all legal. And right now John is the happiest treasurer in Essex Presbytery because when the books are in the black, all treasurers smile.
The reason why we are in good shape financially is because of the faithfulness of this congregation. You understand the biblical concept of proportional giving. The Bible calls it tithing. That same terminology is used in our bulletins. If you look at the order of service, we don’t take up the collection. We offer our tithes and offerings. That’s very intentional because that’s the biblical model.
The literal meaning of the tithe is 10%. That is what the Israelists were expected to provide for the work of God in the Israel. 10% off the top of whatever they earned went to the temple.
The tithe was first introduced in the Bible way back in the very first book of the Bible, in Genesis 14:20 when Abram offered the great high priest Melchizedek 10% of all he had. That concept was developed in the Old Testament right down to the very last book of the Old Testament where in Malachi 3:10 (NIV) we God says, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.”
The tithe literally means 10% but, as you know, I’m not a literalist and I don’t teach that you are required to give 10% of your income to the church. But I do teach the concept of proportional giving which simply means that you give an intentional proportion of your income to the work of the Church.
There are two principles to this view to tithing. The first one is that each of us needs to be intentional about what proportion of our income to give. Some of you are committed to that biblical tithe of 10%. Others are give less than that. Some give 6%, others 5% and others 3%. But whatever you give, you to do it prayerfully and intentionally.
I remember way back when Ruth and I were first married and we were deciding how much to give. I was a student and we didn’t have much but we thought we could afford – I believe it was – 3% so that’s what we gave the first year. But that’s not where we wanted to stay. We knew that we wanted to get to the 10% but also knew that we would not be able to do it all at once. It wasn’t long before our children were born and we had to provide for them to. So what we did was this; every year, we increased our percentage to the church by half a percent or maybe a full percentage point on a good year and eventually we made it to the 10% goal which we have now maintained for quite a number of years. It has worked out well for us.
But I am not going to push that 10% number on anyone else. You may or may not ever reach the 10% tithe but whether it’s that or less or even more, each of us should be intentional about what we give to the church. It is based on your income and the proportion that you feel called to give. Whatever percentage you feel led to give, whether it’s 10%, 5% or even 15%, that is your tithe. It is between you and God. So pray about it and seek God’s will for your life in this matter.
That’s the first principle, be intentional and pick a percentage. The second principle is that your tithe needs to come from the first fruits of what you earn. Proverbs 3:9 (NIV) says, “Honour the LORD with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops.” We don’t give to God what’s left over. We give to God from our firstfruits. Again, it has to do with being intentional. Every month, in our house, we take two things out of our pay cheques. We give 10% to the church and we save 10% and then we life off the rest. So we pay up with God and we pay ourselves. But the tithe comes off the top. What that means is that we’re not getting ready for church on Sunday morning and then looking in our wallets and purses to see what’s in there to put in the offering plate. When we do that, we’re not being intentional. We aren’t giving to God from our first fruits. Instead, we are giving to God out of what’s left over. And honestly, that never feels very good because that’s not the way God planned it. Being intentional is important. We need to decide what proportion we want to give and we need to give from the firstfruits of our labours. That’s what tithing means today.
UNITY IN THE BODY
I also want to make one more point based on Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV) that I read a few minutes ago because it says something important about giving our tithes and offerings. This is what it says: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” What that tells us that while God wants your tithes and offerings, God also put conditions on what you give. Before we give to God, God wants us to give to each other. What does God want us to give to one another? He wants us to give whatever it takes to be reconciled. What that means is this; that God wants us to give in a spirit of unity. As important as it is that we give God what is his due, it is even more important that we do it in a united people before God.
One of the things that I appreciate most about this congregation is it’s ability to work together. Do we have differences? Sure we do. We are not in agreement on all things. Some of us express different theologies. Some of us have different ideas about how things should be done. Some of us have different dreams and visions about where God is leading us. But we deal with those things. We debate them. We talk them out. And we seek, as much as is humanly possible to come to that place of concensus where we feel God is calling us to be. That’s a great gift and that’s a great place to be.
We don’t have little power cliques that try to control things from behind the scenes. Everything we do needs to be done in the light as it says in Ephesians 5:8-10 (NIV): “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of the light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.” There is no place in the church for backstabbing and behind the scenes meddling. Those are things of darkness. If you have something to say, than say it because we are children of the light and we are called to stay away from the darkness and live in the light.
We have a mission statement here at Cottam United Church which is, “To know Christ and make him known.” That is the mission that we believe God is calling us to fulfill. That is the statement that guides everything that we do. This church functions well because all of us are called to be on board with that mission. It’s one of the things that unites us along with our common faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul talked about that in the passage from 1 Corinthians that Sharon read this morning. He was writing about the things that divide a church, the things that cause jealousy and quarreling in the body of Christ. What was happening was that some people in the church in Corinth were saying that they followed Paul and others that they were following another leader named Apollos. Paul responded by reminding them that no one should be following Paul nor Apollos because, as the children of God, there is only person we should be following and that is Jesus Christ. For as Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:6 (NIV): “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.”
The bottom line is this. We are called to give to God what is due to God. We also are called to give to one another whatever it takes to maintain unity in the body and, according to God, the unity of the Church is the higher priority for if the body is not united then all of the money in the world will not save it. But if we, the people of God, are united in our common mission for Jesus Christ, there is no power on earth that can stop us from fulfilling that which we are called to do.
be that church. Let’s be that people. Let’s keep that in mind later today as we
prayerfully consider where God wants us to go.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
Holy God, we give you thanks for your faithfulness in all situations. You are a God of hope and you lift us up above our difficulties into a new and glorious life. We appreciate very much the life that we live today. We are surrounded by many good and beautiful creations. We have the privilege of knowing many good and godly people. How can we fully acknowledge your greatness and our overwhelming gratitude for all that you have done for us? Still we thank you.
Thank you that we can be confident of your love and the certainty of your promises. When we turn to you, we can have joy in situations that would otherwise cause worry, anxiety, or despair. We can have that joy even before the solution are available to us because you are totally reliable. Thank you for the comfort and assurance that you offer. Your love is always a Rock upon which we can absolutely depend.
We pray for ourselves as we approach our Annual Congregational Meeting after worship. May we be always aware of your presence as we seek to move forward in the ministry of Jesus Christ.
We lift up in prayer the sick of our congregation and community. We pray especially for Millicent Wormald, Helen Upcott, Soham Lane, Jacqui Seguin, Alex Archer and all others who have been ill in body, mind or spirit. Heal us of all of our wounds by the power of your Spirit. In the midst of our prayers, we thank you for the wonders of medical science and the quality of life that it offers to us.
We also ask for your peace upon those who mourn, remembering today the family and friends of Sheila Gagnier, Lyle Miller’s sister, whose funeral will be on Tuesday. Give them, O God, the peace which only you can give.
Heavenly Father, we are thankful that you care about all that concerns
our lives. Enable us to always keep our hearts and minds focused on you and
your way of doing things. We hold fast to the hope that we have in you. In
doing so we will be able to make wise decisions and live lives filled with
wisdom and discretion. We can then rest secure in you, free of worry or fear
because we know that we have done the right thing. Thank you for peace in our
hearts and for your great unfailing and unconditional love. We pray these
prayers in Jesus’ name. Amen.
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
February 12, 2017 / Epiphany 6
Deuteronomy 30:15–20; Psalm 119:1–8; Matthew 5:21–37; 1 Corinthians 3:1–9
CALL TO WORSHIP
Blessed be the God of Creation
who watches over the assembly of the people.
Come, let us worship the one who gives us life;
let us give praise to our Shepherd and Friend.
PRAYER OF APPROACH
Father God, we seek to be open to you today. Open our hearts and minds by the grace of your Spirit that we be willing and eager to learn more of your wonderful Good News. Sometimes in can uncomfortable to follow you. Sometimes we are required to change our attitudes or our way of doing things. Enable us to always be willing to surrender to your will and way. We seek to embrace you as you have embraced us. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
God of Compassion, we wander away from your path and walk in sinking sand. We are grateful that present circumstances are never permanent in your sight. Regardless of what has happened in the past, you are able to restore situations that would otherwise be impossible. Enable us to focus on your unfailing love and your unlimited mercy and grace. Despite our sinfulness, you offer us hope and assurance. We desire to set our hearts to trust you in all of life’s situations. Lead us into greener pastures of service to you and others.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
The sinfulness of humanity has given way to the grace of God. The power of the Cross is the gift of forgiveness and eternal life. Receive the Good News. When we confess our sins, God heals us and makes us whole.
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
We express our thanksgiving through the offering of our tithes. We give in trust, not knowing what you, O God, will do or what difference our gifts will make. We give in faith, knowing that you waste nothing but rather make everything work for your purpose when we offer it in Jesus’ name. Receive our gifts, O God of Creation. Amen.
We have shared in song and prayers. We have offered to God our thanksgiving and praise. May we go back out into the world as transformed people, renewed by the power of the Spirit and the grace of God’s amazing love.