First United Methodist Church
October 30, 2022
Rev. Lauren Hall
For the past several months, I have been trying to overcome an injury in my hip that has limited my ability to walk, let alone run. As I have slowly begun to regain strength and can do some normal things like going up and down stairs and walking without a limp, I dream about running and wish that I might be able to start training to race again. But because I realize that if I push myself too hard before I am completely healed, I will have to start all over again, and my goal of running will be postponed again. I have to remind myself that you have to be able to walk before you can worry about running a race. We need to keep this in mind as we consider our next steps in ministry, especially as far as our building goes.
In Philippians 3:14 Paul writes about “pressing on toward the goal for which God has called me in Christ Jesus.” Jesus talked a lot about the reign, or Kingdom, of God. God’s reign seems to be the goal of everything he said and did.
Let us pray…
Lord God of love and peace, open our hearts today to receive the invitation of Jesus to come and be present in our lives. Help us to hear your word and make it a part of who we are. By the power of the Holy Spirit, enable us to hear the message you have for us today. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
My heart has been encouraged these past couple weeks as we have checked the pulse of our congregation. You have been gracious to share the things you love about the church and the people you love. Today we will explore our bucket list for the church. This week’s card asked you to consider what you would most like to see happen in the church in the next year. Consider now what you would like to see happen in your life in that same time. In what ways do your passions for the church align with your personal desires?
Before we move on, let’s consider what we have expressed so far. When I asked you to share what you loved about the church, there were several categories that kept coming up.
· Caring People and Friendly Atmosphere
· Mission and Outreach Work, Mission Trips
· Choir, Organ and Other Special Music
· Educational Opportunities
When I asked about people who made a difference in you spiritual lives, you mentioned a lot of names, some who I recognized, and some that I did not. But I do know that these people were your Sunday School Teachers, Pastors, Youth Pastors, Choir Directors, and spouses, family members and friends. They either set an example for you in the way they lived out their faith or they took the time to guide you personally and made shaping your spiritual life a priority.
The first few words of the well-known passage from John’s Gospel we quoted in our call to worshp clearly states that the way God shows love for the world is by giving. Giving is part of the character of God.
The entire teaching of the 2 Corinthians passage leading to verse 24 is about giving. Paul concludes that giving is proof (or evidence) of our love of God. God doesn’t require our generosity. When we truly accept the generous gift of God’s love, our only possible response is to live and give generously. Is it possible to love God without giving in some way?
We have two goals associated with our giving through the church. One is the universal goal of the church’s mission and ministry to the world. Our giving is translated into spiritual and physical food. It teaches children in our Sunday School classes and offers education for adults through Bible Study and worship. Giving provides opportunities for spiritual healing within our congregation as well as providing basic necessities for people in our community.
The second goal is personal. We want to be generous people. For most of us, that is something we grow into rather than achieve instantly.
This past week our church provided ministry for several people in our community. We sent a mission team to Henderson Settlement to complete repairs on a house they have been working on for a couple of years. We provided about 140 meals to people in our community. Several people made brownies or contributed ingredients that were needed for these meals. Members visited and checked in on individuals who have been ill or are unable to get out very much. Rev. Cindy provided an alternative worship service and offered a midweek Bible Study. A group of women gathered to discuss a book they had read, another group gathered to pray, and others joined together for a Bible Study. The Children and Youth Ministry Committee met, and several members who are involved in community organizations met or served the people of Plymouth in a variety of ways. In addition, we also provided spiritual education for children, youth, and adults on Sunday morning. These are some of the things that happen between our worship gatherings on Sunday mornings.
They wouldn’t happen, they wouldn’t be available, if we weren’t here. These things happen because people like you have generously supported the ministries of this church since the mid 1840s.
The money you and I give makes a difference in this world. In a very real way, it is an investment in the lives of people in the name of Jesus Christ. Our church is the visual presence of Jesus Christ. I hope you see that the goal of generous giving is a rewarding kind of investment not only in the development of your own faith discipline, but also in the lives of others in both our community and around the world.
When you commit to support the financial goals for the church, you commit to making a difference in the lives of others and also make sure that this church continues to be a presence in this community and a place where our children’s children can learn how to love and serve God.
What I have been leading up to is this: I want to encourage you to set a giving goal. No one else can set that goal but you. All I can do is suggest that if you have never set a giving goal before, then set one. It makes a difference, because it is a commitment between you and God. Giving has its roots in the scriptures and has traditionally been the method used to raise funds to support ministry in the church.
Over the last couple of weeks we have considered what we love and value in our church, who has made a difference in our spiritual lives, and today we will share our best hopes and dreams for the next year. Thinking about these things helps us to remember why we are here. Now we will each make a critical decision about how we will express and grow in our generosity. If you are not ready to make that commitment now, take your card home and return it later in the week. It is important that our leaders know what they can count on to support our annual budget. Please be in prayer and seek God’s direction for your expression of generosity toward the life and vision of God’s ministry through this church. An usher will be in the center aisle to collect your cards and bring them to the altar at the end of this prayer.
Let us pray:
We thank you for this place and the people that we find here. We thank you for the call you have placed upon each of us, for the call we have together. Give us soft hearts, open minds, and attentive ears today. Help us to give ourselves to you and your call upon us as freely as you gave yourself to us.
Only you know all that you are doing through these people. Only you know how many hearts are turned to you here, how many kind words and prayers are offered all over our community, how many hungry are fed and disheartened are encouraged through the unseen acts of kindness of this congregation in their everyday lives.
Only you know what might be--what you might do in us, what might happen through us if we would put your call first and foremost and serve you completely. You have a dream for a day when every tear would be dry, when you would be all in all, when there would be no hungry, when every person would sit down to eat under their own fruit tree, and every sword would be beaten into a plowshare. You have a dream for a day when your glory would be so revealed that the whole earth would see it together.
And yet, hope deferred makes the heart sick. Our dreams have sometimes tarried, and we have often forgotten how to dream because it feels somehow easier than thinking that dreams will never come true. So teach us to cast aside our dreams and to dream with you. Teach us to abandon ourselves and to find the joy that comes from investing in your kingdom with all our hearts and lives.
Make us a haven of hope in the midst of despair. Make us a place of love in a loveless world. Make us a place that will be a family to those who are alone. May your kingdom come…in us. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.