Remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ how He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Growing up in this parish, Church of the Holy Communion, I heard those words hundreds and hundreds of times. The Reverend Dr. Eric S. Greenwood, the first rector of this parish, spoke them for the offertory sentence at every single service, and I believed his words, because he said so! Before Dr. Greenwood would proclaim the offertory sentence though, he would give the announcements.
After finishing those, he would make a request for everyone who had a birthday the previous week, to come forward to join him in the chancel. While waiting for the birthday people to make their way up to him, he stood in the middle of the chancel, smiling and holding a plastic church bank that looked like a miniature replica of Holy Communion, down to the tall steeple!
Everyone who came forward, he would greet by name, and we would all sing Happy Birthday! You were expected to give at least ten cents for every year of your life and deposit it through the removable steeple on the church bank! I always saved every penny I earned in the weeks leading up to my birthday week, so that I could give God waaaay more than Dr. Greenwood was requesting, so that God would be proud of me. This was my first memory of being asked to give my gifts to the church, and it made an indelible impression.
The money collected was earmarked for a special fund, but in my young mind I was doing God’s work, and God was the recipient of my gift!
"It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Christian stewardship is a giving out of devotion rather than duty. It’s about the heart of the giver, the Christian willing to give out of poverty, not wealth. In Psalm 24, the Psalmist tells us, “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world, and those who live in it.” People do not truly own anything – even themselves – but hold their time, talents and treasure in trust to be used for God's purposes. Within this understanding, we cannot truly give anything to God – all that we have and all that we are is a gift from God. We can, however, return to God a portion of that which is God’s. We offer this portion, not out of a sense of duty but rather as a response to the gracious love of God. It is not merely the time we put in to our relationship with God, rather it’s the heart that we put into the time that we have.
In three short weeks on October 22, we urge all parishioners to realize the importance of their presence as we invite everyone to join in as we gather to worship and make our financial commitments on Celebration Sunday. We'll gather after the 10:30 service in Cheney Parish Hall for a luncheon and fellowship, to celebrate our collective gifts of time, talent and treasure that God has so generously given to us and that we gladly return to Him.
“Remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ how he said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”