Living With an Attitude of Generosity

Pastor Kim Gilliland
Easter 5/Mother’s Day
SCRIPTURE: Acts 2: 42-47
All the believers were together and had everything in common.
Acts 2: 47 (NIV)

SHARING

Today is not only a day to worship God, it is also Mothers Day. This is a day when we celebrate our mothers and give thanks for all that they have done and all that they still continue to do not only for their families but also for the their communities and even for the world. I think about my own mother who would have been 101 this week. She sent to be with the Lord thirty-one years ago now but I still think of her often, especially today.

I think of my wife, Ruth, who is an amazing mother to our four children and now our grandchildren. I can’t say enough about all that she does for our family and for the church.

And now there are also the mothers of our grandchildren, our sons’ partners who are now raising their own children and doing a wonderful job of it.

My mother, like many mothers, taught my sister Judy and I many things. In fact, Mom and Dad, in raising us, laid the foundation for the people we would eventually become. One of the things that they tried to teach us was the importance of sharing what we have.

I know that sharing thing can be a bit of a hard sell for an eight year old. I recall one time I had done something for Mrs. Stevens, a dear old woman who lived down the street and she had given me a quarter. A quarter meant a lot more back than than it does now. So what did I do? I marched right down to Stanley Park Variety Store where they sold penny candy. And with that quarter, I bought a massive bag of gum drops, jaw breakers, Sweet Tarts, Milk Duds, Double Bubble and those candy necklaces strung on those super stretchy elastic strings. Now, there’s a trip down memory lane. And it was all so good.

I remember getting home with my treasures. I sat down on the couch in the living room to watch the latest episode of Big Al’s Cartoon Capers on channel 13 from Kitchener. And there I sat stuffing my face.

Judy, my sister, eventually walked into the room and wondered where I had got all of the candy and why wasn’t there any for her? So she went to where children always go when faced with unanswered questions; she went to Mom. Mom, of course, knew nothing of what had happened and so asked me where I got all of the candy so I told her. She was most happy that I had helped out old Mrs. Stevens but then suggested that maybe I could share some of my candy with my sister.

That didn’t go over well. I saw no sense in it. I’d earned the money fair and square. It was mine to do with as I pleased so I bought my candy. If Judy wanted some candy, she could go out and get her own. I wasn’t stopping her. Why should I share with her?

I supposed Mom could have got mad but I expect she was more disappointed than anything. She kept her cool, looked at me and said, “You share because you have more than you need and your sister doesn’t have any. That’s why you share, because it’s the right thing to do.” I confess that I shared some of my candy probably more because I had to than because I wanted too but that lesson looks very different now to an adult than it did for an eight year old boy. Sharing is something that we are all called to do. We are called to share out of our abundance with those who don’t have enough.

GENEROSITY AS AN ACT OF FAITH

Sharing is also an integral part of today’s Bible reading from the book of Acts. So, if you have your Bibles and want to follow along, please turn to Acts 2:42-47 (NIV) which says this:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

This is such a fascinating passage because it talks about what happened immediately after the Holy Spirit filled the disciples earlier in Acts 2. If you’re unfamiliar with that story, what happened was that disciples were still in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit filled them. It says in Acts 2:3 that they saw what appeared to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. That Spirit empowered them to go and start spreading the gospel and building the church.

Right after that, Peter went out into the streets and delivered his first Spirit-filled sermon. It must have been a good one because it says in Acts 2:41 that 3,000 people came to Christ that day. That’s amazing. I sure wish I could preach like that.

The Holy Spirit filled them, changed them and empowered them to do some pretty amazing things. And one of the most amazing thing that it did was change the way the treated each other. And that’s what today’s passage at the end of Acts 2 is all about.

One of the key things it talks about is the need to share what they had with others. That is highlighted in verse 44 where it says that all the believers met together and had everything in common. Verse 45 says that some of them even sold their property and possessions so that they would have something to give to those in need. This is pretty radical stuff but it goes back to what my Mom said when she told me that the reason I needed to share my candy with my sister is because I had more than I needed and she didn’t have any.

Sharing is a foundational concept for anyone who wants to follow Jesus. In fact, we are called to live with an attitude of generosity. We see it in many places in the Bible. We see it here where Jesus’ disciples sold what they had so that they could give to others who didn’t have enough. We see it in Ephesians 4:28 where the faithful are encouraged to work. Why? So that they will have something to share with those in need. It is also in James 2:16 where we are encouraged to put our faith into action by meeting the needs of other.

LIVING GENEROUSLY

This is foundational to the idea of being a Christian. God’s call on our lives is to be generous with what we have, to voluntarily give out of our abundance so that others may simply have enough. That’s why Andy is in our parking lot every Tuesday from 10 am to noon collecting food items for the food bank. And that is why every week, his car is loaded down with your generosity. That is why we, as a congregation, support Murchadha House right here in Cottam. It’s why we support The Downtown Mission in Windsor. It’s why many of us sponsor child through World Vision and Compassion. It’s why Teen Challenge is always willing to come here and share with us the healing work that they are doing with those suffering from addictions.

People of faith don’t just talk about generosity. They actually do it and every study that I have ever seen demonstrates it. I was reading yet one more study this week that was very clear. Those people who are actively involved in a worshipping community are more likely to give to charitable organizations. A report in Philanthropy Daily found that those who attend worship regularly are 50% more likely to give than those who don’t. And to be fair, this isn’t something that just Christians do. It’s also true of Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus and people with other religions affiliations. And when they give, they give more. A Statistics Canada report shows that people of faith actually give on average three times as much as those who are religiously unaffiliated. That’s significant. And I’m not saying that to boast and I’m not suggesting that those who do are not part of a faith community don’t do their share. I’m just sharing what studies tell us, that worship attendance, on average is a key indicator of generosity.

The reason for that, I think, is that generosity is part of the DNA of people of faith. It is an integral part of the Christian ethos. After all, we follow Jesus who gave everything, even his life, for us. When we give, when we share with others out of our abundance, we are simply following in his footsteps.

That’s what the early Church was doing in Acts 2. It was involved in generous sharing so that those who had more than they needed were able to give to those who didn’t have enough.

But what was the result of that sharing and generosity? We find that in Acts 2:47 which says, “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” The result of their generosity was that people saw what they were doing, started asking questions and decided that they wanted to be part of what these early Christians had. And so they came to Christ and experienced his salvation.

One of the reasons that they church exists is to lead people to Christ. To do that successfully, we need to look at what the early church did in Acts 2. Here is something that I’ve learned over and over again in my time as a pastor. People want to be part of something that makes a difference. That’s just as true of churches as it is of other organization. We all know that there are all kinds of churches out there that are struggling to stay open but there are also churches that are thriving. What’s the difference? The difference usually is that churches that are growing and thriving are the same ones that are reaching out beyond their four walls in real and tangible ways to make positive impacts in their communities. They are doing things. They are helping out in large and small ways to improve the life of their neighbours and friends. In a word they are being generous with their time, talents and money to make a positive difference to those around them.

But let’s be perfectly clear about the motive for our generosity because this is important. Is the goal of our generosity to build the church? Absolutely not. We don’t feed the hungry to build the church. We feed them because they need food. We don’t visit the lonely with the motive of getting them to start attending on Sunday morning. We visit them because they are lonely. We don’t provide space for community organizations in order to get them to support us as a church. We offer space because we have it and they need it. Generosity can have ulterior motive. We live generously because there are needs to be met and we have the ability to meet them.

Our goal in being generous is no to get more bums in pews. The goal must always be to do our part to help those in need. Period. But I am also aware that when we do what God calls us to do and live the way God calls us to live, God blesses our efforts and often the result is that the church does grow because people see that we are making a difference and people truly want to be part of something that makes a positive difference. And maybe that’s why it says in verse 47 that the Lord added to their numbers daily those who were being saved.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

We come, O God, from our busyness and the stresses of everyday life to find refreshment for our spirits. You, O God, offer us what we can find nowhere else. You nourish us and nurture us. You give us peace and security. You protect us from the powers that would harm us. You lift us above the difficulties of life and enable us to deal with whatever is thrown our way. Thank you for staying with us. Thank you for walking beside us and never leaving us alone. Even when we forget about you, you do not forget about us. How great and awesome you are.

And, of course, we thank you for mothers. Each of has someone who was a mother figure for us whether she was our birth mother, adopted mother, grandmother or special friend. Thank you for the work of love that they did on each of us. We also pray for mothers as they continue to nurture their children regardless of what age they might be

We lift up in prayer those on the front lines of the battle against Covid-19. Thank you for the selfless work of front line health care workers, EMS, truck drivers, store owners and the military.

We pray for those who are ill this past week from whatever cause. Bless them, O God, with healing and wholeness. Be with their families and calm their fears. Soothe their anxieties and give them the peace that only you can offer.

God of Heaven and Earth, hear our prayers and the prayers of all those who, in faith, seek you. Feed our hungry souls and lead us onto your path of peace. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE

May 10, 2020 / Easter 5 / Mothers Day

SCRIPTURE

Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16; John 14:1-14; Acts 7:55-60;1 Peter 2:2-10

CALL TO WORSHIP

God is our Rock; the stronghold of our lives.

God is our Rock; the foundation of our salvation.

Come, let us worship him in Spirit and in truth.

PRAYER OF APPROACH

We come to you, O God of Life, as newborns awaiting your spiritual milk. Come and quench our thirst. Feed us with your Spirit. Refresh us by your streams of living water. We need your hand to hold us and your light to lead us if we are grow and mature in faith, hope and love. Enter our worship. Enter our hearts. Renew our lives by your Holy and Indwelling Presence. Amen.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION

We seek your presence, even in the midst of our own sinfulness. Like our ancestors, we turn away from your prophets when they say those things that we do not want to hear. Our resistance to change leads us to ridicule those who call us to holiness. We prefer the familiar and the comfortable even if they are not your ways. Forgive us, O God of Mercy, when we stumble and fall. Pick us up and set our feet back upon the way of life. Amen.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON

The Glory of Christ is like a shining star in the dark skies of night. It twinkles and glows and gives us reason for hope. Be assured that that glory is able to overcome even the greatest sin. In Jesus, we have forgiveness and reconciliation with God, with one another and with all Creation.

DEDICATION OF OFFERING

Your gifts, O God, are greater than our imagination. We cannot begin to comprehend what you have given and done for us. Our desire is that you would take what we have and use it for your purpose. May your love and your compassion be shown in our gifts and our lives. Amen.

COMMISSIONING

God’s love is everlasting. God’s mercy is eternal. God calls us to live our lives with love and mercy for all people. Be born again as new creations in Christ, not only today but everyday. Live the lives that God has called us to live.

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