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Sermon and Liturgy For Ordinary 13 - Proper 8 - Year B
Deuteronomy 15:7-11; Psalm 30; and II Corinthians 8:01-15
"The Grace of Giving"

READING:  Deuteronomy 15:7-11; Psalm 30; and II Corinthians 8:1-15
SERMON :  "The Grace of Giving"

Rev. Richard J. Fairchild
b-or13se.y-b 376000

   The following is a more or less complete liturgy and sermon
   for the upcoming Sunday.  Hymn numbers, designated as VU are
   found in the United Church of Canada Hymnal "Voices United".
   SFPG is "Songs For A Gospel People", also available from the UCC.
   Sources, if any, are as indicated in the text.
    Note that this sermon and liturgy is based on an expanded reading of
   the Epistle for the Upcoming Sunday, the First Reading is selected
   for it's thematic unity with that reading.  The Psalm is selected
   the Roman variant of the RCL.

GATHERING AND MUSICAL PRELUDE                            (* = please stand)

L  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, 
   and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
P  And also with you.
L  The world and all that is in it belong to the Lord.
P  The earth and all who live on it are his.
L  Who shall ascend to the hill of God 
   and who shall stand in God's holy place?
P  Those who have clean hands and pure hearts, 
   who are not false or deceitful.
L  The Lord will bless them and save them.  
   God will declare them innocent.
P  Such are the people who come to God, 
   who come into the presence of the God of Jacob.

* INTROIT: "This Is The Day" (Verse 1)                             - VU 412


* HYMN:  "Morning Has Broken"                                      - VU 409

- Announcements
- Birthdays and Anniversaries
- Sharing Joys and Concerns 


- with the children discussion their plans for summer vacation: what are
they doing, where are they going.  Then bless them on their on way with a
short "repeat after me" prayer followed, as usual by the Lord's prayer.


* HYMN: "Praise Our Maker"                                         - VU 316

   (NIV) If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of
   the land that the LORD your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or
   tightfisted toward your poor brother. {8} Rather be openhanded and
   freely lend him whatever he needs. {9} Be careful not to harbor this
   wicked thought: "The seventh year, the year for cancelling debts, is
   near," so that you do not show ill will toward your needy brother and
   give him nothing. He may then appeal to the LORD against you, and you
   will be found guilty of sin. {10} Give generously to him and do so
   without a grudging heart; then because of this the LORD your God will
   bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to. {11}
   There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you
   to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in
   your land.

L  This is the word of the Lord
P  Thanks be to God.

RESPONSIVE READING: Psalm 30 (VU 757 and refrain) 

   (NIV)  And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God
   has given the Macedonian churches. {2} Out of the most severe trial,
   their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich
   generosity. {3} For I testify that they gave as much as they were able,
   and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, {4} they urgently
   pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the
   saints. {5} 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.
   {6} So we urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring
   also to completion this act of grace on your part. {7} 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. {8} I am not commanding you, but I want to test the
   sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.
   {9} 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. {10} 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. {11} Now finish the work, so
   that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion
   of it, according to your means. {12} For if the willingness is there,
   the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what
   he does not have. {13} Our desire is not that others might be relieved
   while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. {14} At
   the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in
   turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be
   equality, {15} as it is written: "He who gathered much did not have too
   much, and he who gathered little did not have too little."

L  This is the word of the Lord
P  Thanks be to God.

* HYMN:  "In Loving Partnership"                                   - VU 603

SERMON: "The Grace of Giving"

   Let us Pray - O God, light of the minds that know you, life of the
   souls that love you, and strength of the thoughts that seek you -
   bless the words of my lips and the meditations of our hearts. 
   Breath your life into us that we may live in the manner you have
   appointed unto us and better love and serve you and one another. 

Today's sermon is about the grace of giving - and both texts we heard speak
of giving - of giving to the poor and the needy amongst us.

Moses, speaking to the people of Israel 
just before they enter the promised land 
gives them this message:

   If there is a poor man among your brothers in any of the towns of
   the land that the Lord God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or
   tightfisted toward your poor brother.  Rather be openhanded and
   freely lend him whatever he needs.

Oh what nasty words these are at first glance!

How often we hear them today - some four thousand years after Moses first
spoke them.

You all know the routine - the doorbell rings, normally early Saturday
morning, just when those of us who are not farmers are trying to saw a few
extra logs, and there is a person, well dressed, receipt book in hand,
asking us to give some of our money to someone who really needs it.

Because you are literally caught with your pants down,
   or your nightie on instead of your dress,
and because you are tired,
   and because you can not think fast enough,
and because you know that the collector knows that no one doesn't have a
least a couple of dollars lying around, you cough up a donation
       to the Cancer Society,
       the Red Shield Appeal,
       the Boy Scouts,
       the March of Dimes,
       the Food Bank,
       the Fireman's Fund,
       the Foster Parents Plan
       the Conservation Fund,
       or whatever,
and then you close the door, you look at your wallet,
and the receipt in your hand,
you shake your head - 
you turn to your kids who are watching the morning cartoons,
and you tell them that if they want an ice cream cone today,
to tell the next person who rings the door bell that you are not home.

That is, at least, the scene in a lot of homes,
if it is not the scene in your house.

Giving is a painful thing for a lot of people.
There is not a lot of grace in it for them,
nor do they do give gracefully.

There seems to be just too many demands, too many hands out, too many
collectors who totally ignore the needs we have and the fact that they are
coming to us as but one more person in a long line of people.

What is a person to do about it?  Where will it all end?

The biblical answer at first glance seems to be small comfort.

Both Moses, and Jesus tell us that there will always be poor people in the
land.  And then Moses goes on to say "therefore I command you, be
openhanded toward the poor and the needy in your land".

Where is the recognition of our needs in this?
Where is the grace of God for us?  Why must we be the givers?

I suppose some will say 

   "we must be the givers, because we have so much.  We have a
   responsibility to share because we have homes and cars and food and
   others do not" 

and there is truth in this...  there is great truth in it - but there is
not much grace in it.

It makes our giving a matter of duty,
   of obligation,
   of command,
and quite frankly this kind of giving is a pain in the neck.

Admittedly giving by command meets needs,
   just as taxes meet needs
but all too often it doesn't do anything for the giver,
   except leave them staring at their wallets and their receipts and
wondering who will knock next.

There is very little grace in this kind of giving,
   and it is the grace of giving that I want to communicate today,
grace - not only to the recipients of our giving,
   which is always there,
but grace for the giver as well,
   the grace in the giving.

The Macedonians at the time of Paul were an interesting lot.

Paul speaks of them when writing to the Corinthians and reminding the
Corinthians of their promise to support the starving Christians in

Paul says how surprised he was by the Macedonians and their response to the
needs of the church in Jerusalem.

One gathers from reading the text that Paul had refrained from asking the
Macedonian Christians for a donation to the cause.

They were persecuted,
   under severe trial,
       and suffering from extreme poverty,
yet Paul writes, they had overflowing joy,
   a joy that welled up in rich generosity,
       and they gave as much as they were able to give,
          even beyond their ability,
and further they had, entirely on their own, pleaded with Paul for the
privilege of sharing in this service, 
   they had, in other words, thrust their giving upon him, asking that
   they might have a part in the "grace of giving".

That is a different kind of response than the one that is often heard by a
collector of alms and tithes - the response that goes "I gave at the

Paul explains it by saying that the Macedonians, before doing anything
else, had given themselves to the Lord and his service; and then, having
done this, they made themselves available to the needs that they thought
God wanted met, the needs that Paul had spoken of.

The lesson is clear: the grace of giving arises out of the grace of
dedicating oneself to Christ first and foremost and allowing his will to
shape one's actions - -        the will of the one who, for our sake became
poor so that through his poverty we might become rich.

Let me explain this with a story:

A clerk in a shoe store in Nova Scotia witnessed this event one day.  He

   One day I noticed a little barefoot boy standing by the hot air
   register outside the bakery shop next door trying to keep warm.  I
   wasn't sure if I should invite the boy into the store or just what
   to do with him, when a middle-aged lady came by and began to talk
   with him.  About five minutes later, she brought him into the store
   and bought him new shoes and a pair of heavy woollen socks.

   I then overheard the boy ask the lady a question.  "Are you God's
   wife?", he asked.  Her reply was, "No son, I'm just one of his
   children.", to which he said "Well, I knew you must be some kin to
   him.".  He quickly thanked her and ran out the door.

The grace of giving arises out of knowing that we are one of the children
of God.

It arises out of knowing that we are safe, we are cared for, that Jesus is
watching over us and leading us.

It arises out of knowing that not only are we the children of God,
   children for whom Christ died and rose again,
but that all other people, are also children of God, 
and that we can be for them, 
   the healing hands of God,
   the giving hands of God,
   the comforting hands of God.

I said earlier there is very little grace in giving out of duty,
   little grace in giving in accordance with command,
       and this is completely true.

The abundant grace of giving arises out of knowing that you can make a
difference to someone in need, out of knowing that you can help others, as
God has helped you.

It arise out of love for your brothers and sisters, and out of your love
for God, and out of God's love for you.

And miracle upon miracle - when you give graciously, openly, freehandedly,
you also receive.

What goes around, comes around,
and it multiplies grace upon grace.

Moses, commands the people to give to the poor, saying:

   "Give generously to the poor, and do so without a grudging heart;
   then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your
   work and in everything you put your hand to."

I may have told you the story before of the woman who had a hard time of

   She had many problems, she always felt anxious and worried about
   herself, her children, her husband, her house, and her world.  She
   had sought help in several places, but no one could assist her with
   her problems.  Finally, in desperation, she went to a minister and
   asked him to counsel her.  He listened to her story, then told her
   that he would gladly help her out, but first, she would have to do
   something for him - would she be willing before they met again the
   following week - to act as a homemaker and companion to an old,
   lonely, and crippled lady in his congregation.  All she would have
   to do is help her clean up a bit, cook her supper, and visit with
   her during the next five days.

   She willingly agreed, so desperate was her need, and went off.  The
   following week she returned to the minister for her counselling
   session and he asked her to tell him how things were in her life. 
   She replied that she really didn't know why she was there - that
   Mrs. Smith needed her that afternoon, and besides,  her problems
   really hadn't caused her any trouble all week.

The grace of giving...

God does command us to remember the poor and the needy,
   he does ask us to offer our tithes and first fruits in his service,
       he does order us to remember the widows and orphans, the oppressed,
the lame, and the blind.

But God does not command us to do these things regardless of their effect
on us, God does not command us to do these things to impoverish us.

Rather God does so to enrich both us and the world that needs us to be
God's hands of comfort and healing.

Paul interprets God's will and intention in this regard to Corinthians by

   "Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard
   pressed; but that there might be equality.  At the present time your
   plenty will supply what others need; so that in turn their plenty
   will supply what you need."

And he adds about the gifts that they choose to offer, 
the gifts that will show the sincerity of their love for Christ:
   "If the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to
   what one has; not according to what one does not have."

The Macedonians had very little, but they gave from it,
   perhaps even more than they should have given,
to help others who were as hard pressed as they,
   and they counted it a joy to do so.

They believed that it was what Christ wanted them to do,
and they believed that Christ would watch over them and take care of them
as they watched over and took care of those whom he placed upon their

They counted it as a grace to give,
and because of that they received grace as they gave.

Let us Pray:  Our Father, father of the Macedonians and the Corinthians,
father of Israel and of Christ, creator of us all, we pray you, place upon
our hearts those whom you would have us care for so that we might
experience the grace of giving and so that others might experience the
grace of receiving that which they require as our brothers and sisters in
this land, and indeed in all lands.

Hear our prayers too, this day O God for
- intercessions in normal form -


* SHARING GOD'S BLESSINGS: As the Offering is presented all stand for the
Doxology (Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow - VU 541) and Prayer of

      Prayer of Dedication in normal form.

* DEPARTING HYMN: "To Show By Touch and Word"                      - VU 427

* COMMISSIONING (Unison):  In the power of the Holy Spirit we now go forth
   into the world, to fulfil our calling as the people of God, the body of

Go in peace, love and care for one another in the name of Christ;
- and may the love of God the Father rest upon you 
- may the grace and the mercy of Christ Jesus the Son dwell within you 
- and may God the Holy Spirit strengthen, comfort, and sustain you 
both now and forevermore.  Amen

* THREE FOLD AMEN & CHORAL BLESSING:  "Go Now In Peace"            - VU 964

copyright - Rev. Richard J. Fairchild 2000, 2003
            please acknowledge the appropriate author if citing these sermons.

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