Gifts from God

September 1, 2019

Summary

We are currently between pastors here at the American Lutheran Congregation. I am Eric Mandeville, President of the ALC Council and I will be sharing some thoughts with you today.

Please pray with me:

 

Prayer:

Dear Lord,

We pray that the words that are of You

  • touch our hearts,
  • nourish our souls
  • give us wisdom and insight
  • draw us closer to You

 

We pray that any words uttered, that are not of you;

  • Fall dead to the ground and
  • be forgotten

Amen

 

 

—*—

 

About 10 days ago, our Pastor Joel Rova-Hegener and family moved back to the Mid-west in the States after serving this congregation for about 4 years

And on the coming Friday, Pastor Tim Petersen and his wife, Donadee, will be arriving from the Mid-West to serve here at the ALC as an interim Pastor.

 

The area of the Mid-west seems to be a recurring theme in the life of this congregation.

 

For some reason, this brings to mind a story of a small church in the Mid-west. The congregation was struggling financially. The congregation turned to the manager of the local Gristmill, and asked that he serve as the Treasurer of the Congregation and help turn around the finances of the congregation.

A “gristmill” or “corn mill” is a local mill where farmers bring their own grain and received back ground meal or flour, minus a percentage called the “miller’s toll.” Most towns and villages in the Mid-west had their own mill so that local farmers could easily transport their grain there to be milled.

So, when the congregation turned to the manager of the local Gristmill and asked for his help, he said that he would accept, but on one condition; ….. nobody asked him how he turned the finances of the church around.

The congregation gladly accepted the terms and manager of the local Gristmill was elected to serve as the Treasurer of the Congregation.

During the ensuing year the congregations finance improved significantly. The church was able to help the needy of the community, strengthen their ministry for the youth, perform needed improvements to the church property and much more.

The members of the congregation were curious as to how the new Treasurer was able to improve the churches finances in a way that none of his predecessors had.

Yet, when they asked him, he reminded them of their promise not to ask him.

A year later, at the congregation’s annual meeting the Treasurer explained how he had turned the congregation’s finances around;
All the members of the congregation used the services of the local Gristmill. As the manager of the Gristmill, the Treasurer of the Congregation had extracted 10% of each farmers profit and given it to the church.

He had helped the farmers pay a 10% tithe to the church and they had not even noticed that the money was gone.

Yet, previously the members of the congregation had complained that they were not able to give to the church, and definitely not 10%.

The new Treasurer had proven to the congregation that they were in fact able to give an offering to God, without even noticing.

—*—

Why did I tell this story?
Well, look around, look at the church building, and look at the ministries this congregation provides.

Whose church is this, anyway, who owns the ALC?

We do,

It is ours, both the congregation, the ministries and this building, all to the Glory of God.

The ALC is ours,

  • Not the Norwegian church’s
  • Nor the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America in the US
  • Not the Norwegian government, not the US government

We do not have any rich uncles, or wealthy benefactors hidden away somewhere.

  • Most things that must be done in the congregation,
    you and I have to do.
  • Most of the things that the church has to pay for, such as Pastor’s salary or upkeep of the building,
    you and I have to pay for.

If I don’t do anything, and you do not do anything,
nothing gets done.

 

Having have been involved with the life of this congregation since the 1960s, and also having served in positions of lay leadership in the congregation, I would like to share some observations related to volunteering time and talents and Tithing.

Permit me to share a story that is not unique to the ALC, it is frequently told around the world, yet should speak volumes to our hearts.

This is a little story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody.

There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.

Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.

Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job.

Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.

It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.

 

Sound Familiar?

 Have you ever wondered where the coffee after worship service comes from? …or the waffles? Everybody can prepare it, but often Nobody does.

Anybody can help in preparing for a large church Fellowship dinner, but generally Everybody assumes that Somebody will help out…..and Nobody offers to wash the tablecloths after the event.

…and Somebody can definitely help out paying tithes or offerings, which will help the churches finances

…..and that is something Everybody can do.

Bear in mind, we are talking about sharing our time and talents and possessions,

  • All of which are gifts from God.

David says in 1 Chronicles 29:14 (NIV)

14 “…….. Everything comes from you,

and we have given you only what comes from your hand.

 

All we have are gifts from God,
yet we tend to cling to our time, talents and possession.

Over the years in the ALC I have heard the following exchange between a church member and a council member.
(…..and I have been guilty of it myself….):

The Church should do/make/ provide …… (insert whatever is on the church member’s mind)

To which the council member responds; “we do not have the volunteers to do this, would you like to volunteer to get this accomplished?”

To get out of volunteering, the church member rapidly states that “we should pay somebody to get it done”

The council member explains that the church does not have the funds to pay for what the church member is proposing; maybe the church member can provide the funds?

Whereby the church member triumphantly closes the argument stating that the church leadership should raise the necessary funds….

….does this sound familiar? I know that I am guilty of having said something like that …..

 

We are talking about sharing our time and talents and possessions,

  • All of which are gifts from God.

 

But there is also a social aspect of this sharing:

The great part of volunteering and tithing is that Everybody can join in, it is a wonderful way to meet Somebody, there are lots of things that Anybody can do, …and Nobody will be left out.

Our time and talents and possessions,

  • Are all gifts from God.

 

One Sunday afternoon, a Father asked his children. “who would like to go for a drive and get some ice-cream?”

“me, me, me” cried all the children.

So, the whole family piled into the car and drove to the local ice-cream parlor.

The Father lovingly bought each of the children their own ice-cream cone.

One the way home in the car, the children were happily eating their ice-creams.

The Father asked; “who would like to share their ice-cream with Daddy?”

  • “Not I”, said the oldest, “this ice-cream cone is rather small, so I want it all”
  • “Not I”, said the youngest, “this ice-cream cone is my favorite flavor, so I do not want to share”
  • “Not I”, said the middle child, “I do not get ice-cream cones very often, so I want enjoy the whole cone myself.”

The Father had lovingly given his children ice-cream cones, and yet not one of the children were willing to give their Father back even a taste.

 

Does this sound familiar?

Our time and talents and possessions,

  • Are all gifts from our Father.

Are we willing to give back to God a little bit of our time and talents and possessions?

Think about that when the offering plate comes around, or somebody asks for volunteers to help out with Sunday School.

 

We are the body of Christ.
Yet, as part of the body we all have different Gifts, Skills and Talents.

To paraphrase part of 1 Corinthians 12

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body   ….

 

There are lots of fun and interesting areas where you can join in.

 

  • Sing in the choir
  • help prepare for communion
  • paint a wall
  • work with our Internet site
  • make coffee and waffles on Sunday
  • rake leaves
  • teach Sunday School
  • wash windows
  • ….and the list goes on.

 

There are many verses in the bible, both Old and New Testament, about tithing, or giving back to God, and about sharing.

Even today’s Reading and Gospel remind us of this.

In today’s reading Hebrews 13, we hear in verse 5:

5 Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

 

This is another comforting reason to tithe and give back to God. There is no reason to hoard or hang on to your money.

because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”


In verses 15 and 16 we heard:

15 Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise—the fruit of lips that openly profess his name.

 

Give praises to God, …. And, in verse 16:

 

16 And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.

 

And why should we share?

Today’s Gospel reminds us in Luke 14 verses 13 and 14

 

13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind,

14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

We will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous

 

—*—

 

This Church is ours, the congregation, the ministries and this building, all to the Glory of God.

  • Most things that must be done in the congregation,
    you and I will have to do.
  • Most of the things that the church has to pay for, you and I will have to pay for.

If I don’t do anything, and you do not do anything,
nothing gets done.

 

If you go outside of the building and look at the corner stone, you will see the inscription;

“Gloria Deo Soli”

All Glory to God Alone.

 

  • This is God’s Church
  • This is God’s Congregation
  • This is God’s ministry

 

Let us together praise God, give thanks and give him back from our time and talents and possessions,

….. All of which are gifts from God.

 

Amen.

Bible References

  • Hebrews 13:1 - 8
  • Hebrews 13:15 - 16
  • Luke 14:1 - 1
  • Luke 14:7 - 14

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