Summary: This is a stewardship sermon that looks at how we reap what we sow

bibliography: Shenandoah

Almost exactly 10 years ago, a group of people began meeting at the Wesley Foundation on the University of Central Arkansas Campus. They came together as fellow Christians. They came together for the purpose of a mission. They came to form a new church in Conway to reach out to new residents and to people without a church home.

They came with a smile and a heart for God. They had no home of their own, no building to call their own. I came with hope for the future but with no assurances. They came with you and I in mind.

As I look around this evening, I don’t believe any of us were a part of that group. We didn’t begin this church called Grace. And yet we have benefited from their work and labor.

As I look around, we - each and every one of us - are the harvest of their labor.

Tonight we read from a letter Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth where Paul introduces this idea of planting and harvest.

He is, of course, speaking in terms of offering. There are poor people in Jerusalem in need of help and another church in Macedonia has already participated generously in helping those in need. Paul holds the Macedonian church up as an example to the Corinthians and,

doing what Jesus did,

he kind of tells them a little story, uses a metaphor, speaks to the Corinthians using terms they can readily understand to describe in them what we - this group this evening - also have here.

We have a grand and glorious gift.

A bountiful gift is what Paul calls it. Perhaps it is that phrase that made Paul think of the metaphor he used.

Paul uses a farming metaphor and asks us to remember this:

Those who sow sparingly will reap sparingly, but those who sow generously will reap generously.

When it comes to cultivating the holy habit of serving the God with our finances, I believe Paul would ask us, how are we sowing?

How we sow will determine and demonstrate how well we have cultivated this holy habit.

J. Paul Sampley put it this way:

“If we thing about how hard we worked to arrive where we are, we are less likely to become a generous giver. There is something innately programmed into us to have us think either that by our hard work we deserve what we have or that we have even been shortchanged and do not have enough.

If, on the other hand, we think about how many doors have been opened to us , and how we have gotten where we are by God’s grace, the working of the Spirit, and the generosity of others, then we are more likely to think generously.

Paul helps us here. God graces. God sows. We do not deserve it, but we receive it. The grace that comes from God finds its fruitation as it flows through us to others.”

In the movie Shenandoah, Jimmy Stewart plays the part of Charlie Anderson. Charlie Anderson and his family are caught in between the Confederate and Union forces and Charlie does his best to stay out of the war and to mind his own business.

He’s also the father of several sons and a large family. He made a promise to his dying wife to raise his children in the church, but through his faith relationship with God, you can see the same reflection of disengagement Charlie Anderson has - disengagement from the Civil War, and disengagement from God.

As they gather for dinner, Charlie faithfully prays every day to bless the meal before they eat.

“Lord, we cleared this land. We plowed it, sowed it and harvested it. We cooked the harvest. It wouldn’t be here, we wouldn’t be eating it if we hadn’t done it all ourselves. We worked dog bone hard for every crumb and morsel, but we thank you just the same anyway, Lord, for this food we are about eat. Amen.”

Its like Paul Sampley spoke of. Charlie Anderson’s focus is on his own efforts, not on the actions of God.

We just sang a hymn moments ago written with a very different focus in 1923 by Thomas Chisholm. His focus is not on his efforts, but on the great faithfulness of God. Throughout the seasons - summer, winter, springtime, and harvest time. God’s mercy stays constant and faithful - offering us forgiveness, offering us God’s presence, offering us strength to get through the day and hope for a brighter tomorrow.

Thomas Chisholm tries to measure the grace we receive from God.

The best we can do is talk of blessings numbering in the tens of thousands. And each day, new mercies, new measures of grace we receive.

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