20.10.08

God's economy and time to reflect

Spirituality Monday at St John's theological college provides us with an hour of prayer time so I was able to revisit 2 Cor and with God's help remembered some of what I'd heard in a sermon on this topic, although a lot of my own thoughts are now interwoven:

And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God’s will. So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But just as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in your love for us—see that you also excel in this grace of giving. I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter: Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means.


There are two seas in Israel: the Dead Sea and a freshwater sea: Galilee. They are separated by a thin strip of land and the river Jordon. In the Dead Sea there is, of course, no life. In the Sea of Galilee, there is life in all its abundance and this is the sea which the disciples fished. The water flows from the river Jordon into both of these waters but unlike the sea of Galilee, the Dead Sea has no outlet and so there is no life. Both seas receive but only the one gives. We need to have an outlet in order to be fully alive. If we receive but do not give, like the Dead Sea, there will be no life.


When we are the recipients of God's grace, there is an overflow. God gives us more than we need – in God's economy, like Boaz's economy there is an excess of grain.


What can we give? God doesn't deal in amounts and percentages, give of yourself and what you have – don't fulfill the letter of the law, seek after the spirit of life. Be a well from which your generosity can be poured out for others. Give yourself first to the Lord so that you are living in the ebb and flow of God's grace. We need to replenish, recoup and receive from God before we can give. Drink from his living-streams; soak yourself in his Word, feast on him in thanksgiving and rest in his open hands in prayer. This will mean that you have an abundance of joy from which your giving can overflow.


There was a small boy whose parents left him to care for his sibling as they took off to enjoy their lives with each other each weekend, thinking not of their responsibilities.


One day the local postmaster called at the house with a package and was greeted by the boy – there were no parents to collect the package and when the postmaster stepped inside, the boy told him that he was left alone each weekend to care for his younger brother. The postmaster continued conversations with the small boy on his weekly delivery slot and started to ask the boy if he had heard about Jesus and the boy wanted to know more and so the postmaster asked the boy if he would like to know Jesus for himself . The boy did. The postmaster invited the boy to church with him and the little boy started to experience those feelings of community and the love that Jesus has for him.


On his first visit to the church, the little boy was overcome by the spectacle of the collection plate. As it made its way down his aisle he was overcome by the feeling of wanting also to give something but after searching all his pockets he realised that he had absolutely nothing to give. He simply hung on to the collection plate, almost unable to let it go but soon enough he watched it sail off and weave its way down the other rows of people. Desperate again to contribute, the boy left his seat and ran to where the plate was. He grabbed it and ran with it to the middle of the church, he then simply set it down in the middle of the floor and stood in it: 'Lord Jesus, I have nothing to give', he said, 'so I give you myself.'


This is what Jesus asks of us; that we give him ourselves. This is what Paul asks of the Corinthian church for when he talks of the Macedonians, he says,'they gave themselves first to the Lord and, by the will of God, to us.' This is God's will. It will become the hugest of privileges to be caught up in this ebb and flow of God's grace, to the extent where we can't help but want to give, we beg to give of ourselves and our resources: 'they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.'


And so trust God, he will provide. When it seems as though we have little, give and you will be caught up in the flow of those living waves of God's grace; you will become like the sea of Galilee, teeming with life. Let God's grace flow through you and give it an outlet so that it might bless and comfort those around you.Receive and give, give and receive.




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