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Archives - June 2018

The Greater Storm

June 24, 2018
By Rev. Peter Heckert

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The Greater Storm
Mark 4:35-41

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation is from our Gospel lesson, specifically where Mark records, And [Jesus] awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Here ends our text; dear Christian friends.

It would be very easy, as I’m sure many pastors have done before, to use this Gospel pericope to remind you of how God will see you through the trials – the storms, if you will – of life, plentiful as they are. It’s not that this is a wrong idea; God does, indeed, promise to bear with you through the storms of life, promising that He will never leave you nor forsake you, but this is not the overall point of the text. No, to find the fuller meaning, we must look in a bit of an unlikely place.

On the surface, our Old Testament lesson for today does seem to jive with our Gospel text, especially with the theme that God is in control of all things, and far be it from me to question the lectio continuum. That said, in my humble opinion, the story of Jonah is a better fit, because the parallels are staggering. Indulge me for a moment, if you’ve never considered the parallels between these two texts. We all know how Jonah was called by God to be a prophet to the people of Nineveh, the capital city of Assyria, an enemy nation. We all know how Jonah, for whatever reason, did not want to do it, but instead ran in the opposite direction, chartering a ship to take him far away to Tarshish. Well, the Creator of all things does not take lightly when His chosen prophets rebuff His call, so a brief reading from the prophet of Jonah:

But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.”

And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.

Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.” Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them. Therefore they called out to the Lord, “O Lord, let us not perish for this man's life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.” So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.

This is followed by the more infamous part of the story, with Jonah being swallowed by a God-appointed whale/fish and staying there for three days and three nights before being hurled (literally) back onto dry land, at which time Jonah proceeds to do what God had told him to do: go to Nineveh and preach. And the story continues from there.

Let’s see … a great wind and storm … people on a boat in the midst of said storm … a protagonist who is also on the boat but sleeping … questions raised over the apparent indifference of said protagonist as he sleeps … how the sea is eventually calmed. The parallels, as I’ve said, are impressive. However, the meaning of our Gospel text is not derived from the parallels, but rather the differences.

In Jonah’s story, the reluctant prophet tells the pagan sailors that he must be thrown overboard into the sea in order to quell and still the cacophony, to quench the anger of the one true God. Jesus simply stands and, in a stronger word of rebuke than is often piously translated, muzzles the pure chaos of this hurricane-like storm, almost in passing. It’s almost as if He’s got more important things to worry about – which probably explains the disappointment in and apparent annoyance with His followers when He asks them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

See, unlike Jonah, whose storm seemed to define his narrative as God rebuked him through natural means, Jesus has no need of such rebuke. Indeed, this storm that He and His disciples had crashing around them in their dinky fishing boat is not the focus. As the King of kings and Lord of lords, a roaring, menacing violent storm as is described in Mark was as nothing but an irritation. Does He Who created the wind and the waves have any fear of them? Of course not; He’s still in control of them, as He is with all things! No, there is a much larger, more deadly squall that Jesus has come to deal with.

This greater storm began spinning with the calamitous decision of Adam and Eve to rebel against God’s single law. It took form over all creation as it descended from the perfect and good order God had originally created into the chaos and brokenness that now impacts the entire cosmos. It’s likely that this greater storm of sin, death, and the devil was more on Jesus’s mind as they crossed the Sea of Galilee to Gerasa. This greater storm would require that, like Jonah, Jesus be sacrificed to the chaos and cacophony in order to save those who don’t even know Him or, really, love Him. He does it to save the world and all that is in it. And in the same way that the seas and winds backed down, obeying with no protest or grumble, so sin, death, and the devil shrink away and are silent before the Creator of all things – we actually see this literally happen throughout Mark’s Gospel account as Jesus forgives people their sins, commands the devils to release those they are oppressing, and certainly in His victory over death in His glorious resurrection, as well as the promise that this victory will be delivered to all who hold fast to His promises, at His return!

So, yes, it is no secret that, in the “storms of life,” Jesus has given you His promise to bear with you, to suffer alongside you while you are in the midst of it. Storms will come – financial, medical, familial, what have you, and you can be sure that Jesus will be there with you in the heart of it. However, that doesn’t mean that He will bring you through it and everything will be okay in the temporal sense. Indeed, ultimately, a day will come when you and I will likely enter into a most violent storm, the one spinning in the valley of the shadow of death, and we will not come out of it alive. But that’s okay. Why? Because we hold fast to the promise that, while the temporal storms faced here may claim our life, goods, fame, child or wife, though these all be gone, the victory has been won! The kingdom ours remaineth! The Day is fast approaching when the Lord of creation will return and will tell sin, death, and the devil, once and for all, to sit down and shut up, and they will have no choice but to obey.

“Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” My dear friends, this is Jesus of Nazareth, Who is the Christ. This is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity – true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary. He is our Savior, the King of kings and Lord of lords, and all storms will be silent before Him.

+ In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.

The Seed Thing

June 17, 2018
By Rev. Peter Heckert

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The Seed Thing
Mark 4:26-34

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation is from our Gospel lesson, specifically where Mark records Jesus’s parable, The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come. Here ends our text; dear Christian friends…

A farmer goes out and scatters some seed. He goes to bed that night, knowing he’s done what he was called to do. He rises and he sleeps, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. Sure, he waters it. He probably spent some time preparing the ground beforehand in order to receive the seed. He makes sure there’s no fungi or parasites that may harm the seed, he adds fertilizer, BUT HE DOES NOT MAKE IT GROW. The earth does that, of itself. That seed does its thing, and eventually it grows into a healthy plant (hopefully).

That’s the gist of the first parable Jesus tells in our text today. The second one, while not identical, is similar in purpose. That mustard plant has humble beginnings, starting as the smallest of seeds, and the speed of its growth is unimpressive – it’s very slow, even causing one to question whether it is growing at all anyway. If a first-time farmer is intentionally planting mustard, he’s likely sitting on pins and needles, waiting and waiting for that plant to grow. However, while he may not perceive it, that seed is growing, and once it reaches maturity, that former speck of a mustard seed has become one of the largest plants in the entire garden – large enough, strong enough, substantial enough for birds of all stripes to rest and nest in its shade. There’s no way the famer could have known this, but it happened – whether he knew it, understood it, was able to see it, or was able to do anything about it, the seed was doing its seed thing.

Seeds have that tendency. They do what they do. You may not see what’s happening. You may not think anything is happening. You may think the seed is a dud, empty and dead, and that it’s not going to amount to anything. But frankly, the seed doesn’t care what you think about its growth, or how you perceive what’s happening. That seed is going to do its seed thing. So it is with the kingdom of God … or, at least, that’s what Jesus seems to think.

But we don’t seem to understand that. I think I can speak for myself and every other person here when I say that I like to think that I’m in complete control. Nature, however, puts that hubris in check; in much the same way that we cannot will a seed into growing, or force the sun to shine, or the rain to fall, we cannot force any growth in the kingdom of God. And that really bugs us.

It’s hard to blame those who feel this way when there’s all this negativity floating around in whispers and outbursts – how church attendance is down, how our cash flow isn’t where it needs to be, how we need more volunteers for committees and  teaching Sunday school and helping with the youth. True as those statements may be, and while we should step up and do whatever is in our power to help, are we really so arrogant as to think that our actions are needed to help God with His work? Does the Creator of the universe need our help? No, my friends, He doesn’t. He invites us to participate in what He is doing, but He doesn’t need our help. God is doing His God-thing, and He is doing it the same way that He has for the past few millennia: bringing sinners to repentance and forgiveness through the faithful use of His Word and Sacrament. It may not be new or innovative. It may not be the latest program sure to increase church attendance. It’s not a sure-fire way to make our kids want to come to church or go to Sunday school. But it is the Word of God, and it comes with a promise, courtesy of the prophet Isaiah, “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My Word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

That’s right. Even if you don’t see it, even if you don’t understand it, even when it seems like nothing is happening and you’re just banging your head against the wall, God is doing His thing, of Himself, working through the means that He has established. He is, often in spite of us, growing His kingdom. He is faithful, even if we are not. Paul sums it up nicely in his first letter to the Corinthians when he wrote, I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. We don’t see all ends; God does, and we trust that, as He has promised, His Word will never return to Him void.

I learned this lesson the hard way a few years ago. I met a young man while I was working food service at Aspirus Wausau Hospital. For the sake of anonymity, let’s call him “John.” John was three years younger than I – still in high school, in fact, when I first met him. I saw a lot of myself in him, so naturally we became fast friends, but what really helped our friendship grow was his interest in Christianity.

See, he’d never grown up in a church of any kind, and he was very interested in what we Christians believe. Over the next few years while I worked there, I’d give him rides home, and on the way, we would have these deep theological conversations, especially revolving around the topic of creation. He was fascinated, and sometimes when we would actually get to his home, we’d just sit in the car and talk about God and who Jesus is. I even bought him a Bible for Christmas one year, which he received most gratefully. It eventually got to the point where I invited him to go to church with me and my family, and wonder of wonders, he took me up on the offer. Multiple times. I walked him through the liturgy, he started to speak the Lord’s Prayer with us, he listened to the sermons, and I may be misremembering, but I think he may have gone up with my family to communion to receive a blessing from my pastor.

Then the time came that I had to leave that job at Aspirus in order to go to Seminary. Before I left, I invited John out to Mickey’s Billiards in Schofield for a last round of pool – because that’s what you do in small-town Wisconsin when you aren’t old enough to drink: play pool or go bowling. The first few games were pleasant enough, but somehow the conversation turned to the Church’s position on homosexuality. I told him as gently and lovingly as I could that, while we believe all people are loved by God, homosexual behavior is nevertheless sinful in the sight of God, as is any sexual behavior outside the confines of marriage between one man and one woman for life. The conversation quickly unraveled, with him asking how I had the temerity to say that gay people, or anyone, for that matter, who doesn’t believe in Jesus as the Messiah, could be damned eternally to hell by a loving God. I was thrown for a loop; I felt quite unprepared to answer him, but in retrospect, I doubt any words of mine could have quelled his anger. We parted, and I felt wretched. I felt that all my work of witnessing to John, all the times we had prayed, all the conversations we’d had, was all for naught. I felt that I had let John, not to mention God, down. I felt like a failure, and even questioned whether or not I was qualified to become a pastor, if I couldn’t even get this one friend to be saved.

Spoiler alert: I did still go to Seminary in St. Louis, but I was still beating myself up over my inability to convert one of my friends. During new student orientation, though, I had the opportunity to speak with one of my future professors, Dr. Leopoldo Sanchez, about this situation and the guilt that I was feeling. His answer was exactly what I needed to hear. He said something to the effect of, “The Holy Spirit moves when and where He wills. We cannot, in our limited, broken, sinful nature, knowledge, and sight, see all ends, nor is it our responsibility to ‘make’ that person believe. We do what we can, but only God causes the growth. Who knows? The seed you’ve sown today, though you may not see any growth, may grow stronger than you ever imagined in the future. Soli Deo Gloria.”

We don’t need to find the silver bullet (as if one existed). We don’t need to innovate our “worship experience,” never mind that that attitude misplaces us at the center of worship instead of God. We don’t need to get the people pumped up to the same emotional high they can get at a ball game. All we are called to do is to simply do our Christian thing – we listen, we witness, we pray, we labor, we raise, we teach, we preach, all in the Name of Christ, and Him crucified. We remember that, for His sake, we are forgiven all our sins, that eternal salvation is ours, that we are to be faithful in the spread of this outstanding Gospel. We don’t need to see what the seed is doing; we simply watch, in awe and wonder, as the seed, the Word of God, does His thing.

+ In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.

How to Be Rich toward God

June 10, 2018
By Rev. David French

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How to Be Rich toward God
Luke 12:13-21

In our lesson, a man asks Jesus to command his brother to divide the family inheritance with him.  Jesus ignores the argument and instead uses this situation to teach a vital lesson on the subject of greed.  “Watch out!  Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

Jesus goes on to tell the story of a wealthy farmer.  His fields produce abundant crops.  He loves his work and everything he does seems to turn to gold!  We don’t know what opportunities he had to develop his spiritual life, but apparently, he considered getting “more” a more valuable use of his time and energy.  A pattern that to this day is all too easy to fall into.

Eventually, the farmer decides to tear down his barns and build bigger ones to hold all his grain and goods!  Bursting with satisfaction, he says in effect: “I’ve got tons of money in the bank and my future is secure; now … I think I’ll just kick back eat, drink, and be merry!”

But that very night God said, “You fool!”  No doubt at his funeral, people were saying: “He was a genius, a shrewd business man, a wise investor!”  But God called him a fool - not because he was doing anything evil, but because of his greed.

And that leaves the obvious question: What good did his barn full of grain do him?  He invested all his time and energy into storing up earthly riches, while investing nothing in what mattered the most, and in the end, he stood before God a fool.  Jesus concludes, “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself, but is not rich toward God.”

So what’s important … is that we be rich toward God!  But, what does this mean?  It’s really not complicated; it simply means to invest our lives in our relationship with God!  We spend so much time and money investing in education, work, friends, families, and entertainment, but are we rich toward God?  A disciple, that is one who is always learning to trust Jesus, needs to learn to invest his or her life in serving God by meeting the needs of others.

One way for us to be rich toward God is to give faithfully and generously.  We need to ask ourselves: “What is God asking me to give?”  To be sure, 10% was the amount given in both the Old and New Testaments, but in Christ we’re no longer bound to that Law.

So, as Christians, what amount of our incomes should we give that shows our gratitude to God for Who He is and what He’s done for us through His Son?  We’re not commanded to tithe, but, just as Jesus encouraged the Pharisees to continue their tithing, we are encouraged to use the tithe as a guide for our giving. 

In the end, the amount we give means nothing when compared to our attitudes and motives for giving.  We honor God even if we give less than the tithe when we give our gifts cheerfully and from faith.  When God has your heart, the things of life, even money, begin to find their proper place in our lives.

But still, we must learn, and so we turn to the Scriptures to teach us what it means to be rich toward God.  For example, in Exodus 23:19 we read: “Bring the best of the firstfruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God.”  That is, we are to give first to what is first in our lives.

Remember, we are sinners and our greediness can lead us to spend until we have nothing left for the work of our God.  It’s a little thing, but set aside the money you want to give to extend God’s kingdom first.  It really will make a difference.

So, how much should we budget for Church?  Again, the tithe is a good goal, but as Jesus said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be expected.”  That is, the more you make, the more you are expected to give!

That means, beware of the temptation to think, “I give my tithe, so I‘m good!”  Not necessarily.  Ten percent isn’t the goal.  The goal is by God’s grace to give generously!  Usually when we get a raise, our first thought is, “Now I can get this or do that, when it should be now I can give a little more for the work of God’s kingdom!

Remember, God’s Word does not teach that you shouldn’t invest or prepare for emergencies and retirement and so on.  It does not teach that we can’t have luxuries, but it does teach that those who can afford luxuries are also “… to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.”

We need to keep a balance.  God gives the good things in this life as gifts for us to enjoy and to be generous in our giving.  You see, we are also rich toward God when we give cheerfully, as Paul writes to the Corinthians, “… for God loves a cheerful giver.”  The Church should never make people feel guilty about giving.  We give joyfully by God’s grace, and grace never threatens or condemns.

Consider the following story: Two brothers shared a field and a mill, and each night they evenly divided the grain they had ground together during the day.  One brother lived alone; the other had a wife and large family.  The single brother started thinking, “It isn’t really fair that we divide the grain evenly, because I only have myself to care for and my brother has children to feed.”  So each night he secretly took some of his grain to his brother’s granary to see that he was never without.

The married brother also said to himself: “It isn’t really fair that we divide the grain evenly, because I have children to provide for me in my old age, but my brother has no one.  What will he do when he is old?”  So every night he secretly took some of his grain to his brother’s granary.  As a result, both of them always found their supply of grain mysteriously replenished each morning.

You see, as we cheerfully and generously give the first fruits of our labor to God, we are, by His grace, being rich toward God.  So, how much should we give?  The bottom line is, God is pleased when we offer our gifts from loving and thankful hearts.  Today the tithe acts as a biblical benchmark and, if needed, an encouragement for us to grow in the spiritual discipline of giving.

Very few of us give as generously as we should; I know I don’t.  But then, very few of us obey God in any area like we should: Bible study, prayer, loving others – I don’t do any of those as well as God demands, and yet God still loves me.  Even if you never give a penny, God will not love you any less.  Christ died for all our sins, including our lack of generous giving!  But if you don’t give even a penny, and we all can give that, at least ask yourself why not?  Why don’t you feel the need to share in God’s work here at St. James?

You see, it’s through Word and Sacraments that we grow as disciples and we do come to understand more and more of what God has done for us in Christ, until we are led by the Holy Spirit to respond by sharing the resources that God has given to us to help meet the needs of others. 

My friends, God will transform our selfish hearts into hearts filled with a desire to share if we have the courage to let Him.  In doing so, we also are growing in the grace of becoming rich toward Him who sacrificed His Son for you.

In His Name, Amen.

A Tip or a Tithe?

June 03, 2018
By Rev. Peter Heckert

See the Weekly Bulletin

A Tip or a Tithe?
Genesis 28:10-22

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation for this first stewardship education Sunday is from Genesis 28:10-22, specifically where Moses records, “Then Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s house, then the Lord will be my God and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will give You a tenth.’” Here ends our text; dear Christian friends…

A couple invited some of their close friends to go with them to a popular restaurant.  Both the food and service were great. When they had finished their meal and conversation, the host wrote out the tip on the credit card slip. As they left, the waiter gave them a warm and friendly smile implying that the tip was good and generous. This scene is played out in restaurants all across our country. The standard tip seems to be hovering around 20 percent or more.

As the couple who paid for the dinner was filling out their offering envelopes, it dawned on them that they paid a waiter for an hour or two of service four times what they were giving God in their weekly envelope. They gave the waiter the tithe and more, but to God they gave leftovers. There lies an irony that we make such a limited and poor response to God for all His goodness, mercy, grace, and love shown throughout our lifetimes and certainly into eternity. This may be why a wise person once said, “Surely there is something wrong with our standard of values, when we compare what we spend for incidentals or amusements and what we return to almighty God.”

A tip or a tithe? For Jacob there was no hesitation about what his response to God’s abiding presence would be. Jacob’s story is not about a saint so holy that he awakes to find himself in the presence of God because of his good actions. It is the story of a scoundrel who awakes with a startling sense of wonder as he realizes that God had visited him in his dreams in spite of all the mistakes he had made.

Jacob was in a jam because the choices he had made turned out to be selfish, calculating, and dishonest. His conniving had caught up with him. He had deceived his aged father, cheated his brother Esau, and was running for his life to escape the consequences. It is on the first night of his flight into the wilderness that he finds himself pursued not by Esau but by the grace of God. He has a vision of a ladder to heaven with angels ascending and descending. The Lord stood beside him and said, “Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go…” In amazement Jacob murmurs, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I did not know it.”

Jacob’s situation is symbolic of the human condition threefold: a wrong relationship with things of this world, a wrong relationship with people through deceit and dishonest dealing, and a wrong relationship with God by not acknowledging His presence and via our disobedience. Yet, because of his vision, Jacob begins to see all that he is and has are gifts from God. He promises to use the stone which was the pillow for his head as the foundation for a pillar in the building up of God’s house. Then he says, “… and of all that You give me I will give full tenth to you.”

We usually think of the tithe as a form of legalism no longer part of our lives as Christians – perhaps something that is only emphasized by Baptists or the likes of televangelists. The general assumption is that the tithe is an expression of archaic demand, something you do or else. Instead of a threatening ultimatum upon a fearful people or a capricious requirement for impoverished nomads, the tithe was part of a plan for salvation and security for a precarious, fragile nation. It set Israel apart from the barbarous and callous cultures that sought to engulf and destroy them in the land of promise. It was a gift from, rather than an extraction of, gifts. Douglas Johnson in his insightful work The Tithe: Challenge or Legalism? insists: “that the tithe of the Old Testament is a testimony to the interconnectedness of people and God. It incorporates a cycle of giving and receiving and using. It signifies a relationship that can’t be content with using a strict formula from the past. The tithe, like the message of the Old Testament is a living witness of God.” Tithing therefore is not driven by legalistic compulsion, but rather arises as the spiritual response of a thankful soul.

I realize that for many this topic is about as welcome as a snowstorm in June. The biblical concept of the tithe is often understood as an ancient, archaic, legalistic intrusion into our lives, which is compulsory and restrictive, painful to ponder, and inappropriate for pastors to preach upon. Hearing about it hits home. We are like the farmer who was asked if he had 200 cows would he give 20 to God? “Yes, of course!” he said. “If you had 100 cows would you give ten to God?” I most certainly would,” was his response. “If you had ten cows would you give one to God?” “Now that’s not fair,” he said, “You know I have only ten cows!”

Our faith does not deny that economics has a place in the human condition. By the same token, it was Martin Luther who said that a religion that gives nothing, costs nothing, and suffers nothing is worth nothing. Tithing places before us a standard by which we may center our lives in gratitude to God. It has nothing to do with raising a budget or supporting a program. It has everything to do with making a spiritual response to God. Jacob’s story is timeless and relevant because it describes how this impoverished soul chose to respond.

Tithing is not a barter with God. It’s not a financial contract assuring an increase in profits if you participate. It’s not a mathematical formula for assuring the presence of God, or a clever device for lining the coffers of the church. Tithing is essentially, fundamentally a testimony of faith in the creativity and goodness of God.

Studies actually verify that the more money we make, the smaller percentage we give to the church. In other words, the biggest percentage givers to our church are those who have the smallest incomes. I don’t say that to embarrass anyone. It’s a fact. The biggest percentage givers in our church are not the big-salaried people with fine jobs, as you may have guessed, but the average member. In some instances you would be thrilled to know what some of our retired people are giving, and others who are on limited incomes.

Does your giving resemble a tip or a tithe? In the context of your own relation to God in Christ, you must decide. This is my prediction: if you do decide to accept the tithe as a standard, you will be starting a grand adventure in faith. When the tithe is practiced, a desire for even greater generosity fills you for God doesn’t just have the tithe; He now has the tither as well. Furthermore, you will be amazed by how happy you are living on the other nine-tenths.

Therefore, as I use God’s word for my guide. I find that the principle is valid as a starting point in my faith journey. In giving a proportion, using the tenth as a guide, I can be spiritually comfortable knowing that I have not robbed God. Moreover, I have been emotionally comfortable knowing that, no matter how large a budget our church may have, my share of the burden is simply God’s share of my income. Finally, I have been physically comfortable, knowing from experience that our household gets along better on the nine-tenths of our blessings than we ever could with one-tenth more without God’s benediction.

Our giving expresses our gratitude for Who God is and what He has done for us especially through His Son, Jesus. How blessed we are to have a God Who loves us and watches over us. In spite of all our blessings, we give less than we should, but God forgives us. He is patient with us, and He keeps moving us along our journeys as God’s stewards. I am asking you to prayerfully consider giving a tithe next Sunday, June 10. If you are already tithing or giving above the tithe then that Sunday will be no different, but for many it can be the start of something new and exciting in your journey as God’s steward. It is my prayer that God will give you the strength to take a leap of faith in your giving and start giving God your first and best, not out of obligation, but in thanks for what Christ has done for us all.

+ In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.

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