II Corinthians 9:6-15
November 1, 2015
I want to tell you about Reverend Leroy. Reverend Leroy was a character created by Flip Wilson on his TV show in the early 70’s? Do you remember that show? It seemed like everybody had a variety show in those days!
So on his show, Flip Wilson used to do a routine about Reverend Leroy, who was Minister of the “Church of What’s Happ’nin’ Now!” (Remember that?) And one Sunday, after the offering, Reverend Leroy started preaching.
“Brothers and Sisters,” he said, “this church is moving forward, but it’s going at a crawl! This church has got to stand up and walk!”
And the people started to get into it. This was a black church. And in the black church they give the preacher feedback. So when he said, “This Church has got to stand up and walk!” they shouted, “Make it walk, Rev! Make it walk!”
Well, Reverend Leroy started getting excited, because the black preachers feed off of those interactions.
So he said, “Once this church starts to walk, it has got to start to ruuuuun!”
And the people shouted, “Make it run, Rev! Make it run!”
Then, Reverend Leroy really ramped it up and he shouted, “And in order for this church to ruuuun, it’s gonna take moneeeeeey!”
And the people shouted, “Let it crawl, Rev! Let it crawl!”
So here on Stewardship Sunday, the question – the challenge – is to ask yourselves what are we shouting? Are we shouting, “Make it run!” or are we shouting “Let it crawl!” And a big part of the answer to that question has to do with our attitude. When we think about our pledging and our giving, is it a burden? Is it drudgery? Is it done reluctantly, or excitedly? The people in Reverend Leroy’s church were excited that morning. They were excited until it looked like they had to make sacrifices. Then their excitement was not so great!
Paul saw attitude as the key to Stewardship. To the Corinthians he said, “The point is this: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind… (that’s our pledge!) “Each one must do as he has made up his mind, and not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (II Corinthians 9:6-7) I read that just a little while ago.
I’ve been observing for years that, in order for a Church to run, it has got to have spirit! (Do I sound like Reverend Leroy?) And I don’t just mean “The Holy Spirit,” though that’s certainly part of it. The church also needs a spirit of excitement, like “team spirit.” It needs “enthusiasm.” As I pointed out to several people this week, “enthusiasm” is a word that contains the Greek word “Theus,” which means (what?) “God.” “Enthusiasm” literally means “to have God within!” And the implication of that is that, if we have God within, we will be enthusiastic. We will be excited! So think about that! With that definition in mind, ask yourself, “Are you an ‘enthusiastic’ person?”
That’s what was so great about projects like our Fall Open House, or some of our fund raisers. It’s great when we work together on things like that! When we do so, we share camaraderie, we share excitement about our church and our image in our community. And yes the day of the Open House was cold and windy. But we gathered together. We worked together. We shivered together! It was good for our spirit!
It’s the same with our Stewardship. Actually that Open House project was also part of our Stewardship! But the same thing is true of the Stewardship of our “treasure.” “God loves a cheerful giver!” God loves an excited giver! God loves an enthusiastic giver! God loves people who work together in that way, too. He loves people who are excited about their church, their faith, and their witness.
So we’re talking today about the “Attitude of Generosity.” And as you’ve often heard me say, attitude is something we must choose, or it will be chosen for us by our circumstances. And Paul would tell us that our attitude makes all the difference in our faith and in our Stewardship.
In the first letter to the Corinthians, we find the famous chapter on “Love” – that’s chapter 13. In the beginning of that chapter, Paul says, “If I give away all that I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned…” That was probably the most extreme form of giving he could think of – giving everything, and even giving up one’s body in sacrifice. “But, if I do even that,” he said, “and have not love, I am nothing!”
So I would ask you. What is your attitude toward Stewardship? Do you feel like you are “reluctant or under compulsion?” Or are you choosing(!) to be a “cheerful giver?” And notice here that when we do that, it’s tied in with this thing called “abundance.” Paul continues with these words. “And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work!” (II Corinthians 9:8)
Now, I want to be careful here not to talk in terms of “giving in order to get.” There are plenty of preachers out there who will try to tell you that. They’ll have a person from their congregation testify that when she gave a certain amount to the church, she got an unexpected check in the mail the very next week. That’s not what I’m saying. Not that God can’t do that kind of thing! But that’s not the abundance we’re talking about here. This is much bigger! This is an abundance of joy, and an overall increase, as we take on this “attitude of enthusiasm.” This is about the abundance we all share in.
So, I ask you again. What are you shouting? “Let it crawl, Rev!” or “Make it Run!”
Eternal God, we know that all good gifts come from you. Help us to see, and to know the abundance of your kingdom. Help us to be joyful people of faith, enthusiastic in our generosity, and more wholly committed to Jesus Christ, our Lord, in whose name we pray, Amen.