November 14, 2023
• Rev. Mindie Moore
The Blessed Life Week 3: A Generous Life
1 Chronicles 29:10-14
Today we continue our series “The Blessed Life” and it is Commitment Sunday—a day where we focus on generosity, we make financial pledges for the year ahead, and we get curious about how we can be part of what God is working on in the world.
And as we turn our focus to generosity, I want to share a story with you from NPR’s Storycorps. This is a story of a man known as Dreamer who runs a barber shop in Los Angeles. But it’s not like most barber shops you’ve ever seen. Take a listen and check out the images on the screen:
(NRP AUDIO CLIP WITH PICTURES- 2 MINUTES)
“Never underestimate the power of a haircut”. This story shows us what simple acts of generosity can do. And it’s true that this is a pretty unique story, but if I was going to make the message here a little more applicable to all us non-barbers out there, I would say: (SLIDE)
Never underestimate the power of a generous life.
Because a life of generosity, where you look at what you can do for others, living that way naturally leads to this thing we call a Blessed Life. We’ve been talking about what kind of life we want to live over the last few weeks- we've looked at what it means to create something meaningful, how we live in a way
that shapes our legacy, and today it’s about how we show up generously in whatever form that takes.
And if we look at our scripture for today, out of 1 Chronicles, we see that this is what King David wanted to make sure everyone knew about him and the way he lived. That passage we heard read, these were some of his final words before his death, and it is so interesting that this king who was known for SO many things—his military victories, his wealth, his good looks, his fame, all these impressive things...that wasn’t what he wanted to be remembered for. He wanted to be remembered as someone who loved God and gave generously as a result of that love.
As David’s last act, he makes this commitment and dedication to what he is personally going to give to help his son Solomon build the temple where they can worship God. And there’s got to be a little bit of bittersweetness here for him. Because he wanted to be the one who would build the temple. But it’s not going to be him. And so he really has this choice here at the end of his life—he could keep all the things he has acquired along the way, he can die a rich man surrounded by his stuff...or he can give it away. He can pass it on. He can give, even if he won't see what that giving is going to create. He can choose gratitude, no matter what shape his story takes.
And what David shows us here is that (SLIDE) the truest moments of generosity come from a grateful heart.
And part of David’s ability to have that kind of grateful heart comes from the fact that he realizes, even with all his hard work, even with all his success—none of this stuff is really about HIM. None of it really belongs to him. Listen to what he says in v. 11 and 12:
11 Yours, O LORD, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. 12 Riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and it is in your hand to make great and to give strength to all.
The bottom line here—all this stuff that David can give, all that the people can give, all that WE can give...we can give it, but at the end of the day, it’s all God’s in the first place.
I know that’s not always how we look at what we have, and especially not when it comes to money. We work hard, we want to save and be comfortable and have the things we want or need. And, you know, we also have bills and life to take care of. So we typically think about our resources as these things that we earn, that we’re responsible for, and that we allocate out in the ways we think are best.
But David’s taking a different view. And in fact, what’s he’s doing here is he is really going back to an older law that today we find in Leviticus—and look, I know. It’s like, we’re talking about MONEY and LEVITICUS in the same sermon?! What!
But hang with me here, because this is good. So in this part of Leviticus, it’s talking about the land that the people are living on. And just for context, this was the group of people who had waited SO long for the land. They had wandered the wilderness for a generation, like this MEANT something to them. They had WAITED and WORKED for it. They didn’t take it for granted one bit that they were stable and rooted and had something that felt like home.
And it would have been EASY for them to say—this is MINE. I’m going to hold on to it as tightly as I can. But that’s not what God says to do. Instead, God says:
23 The land must not be permanently sold because the land is mine. You are just immigrants and foreign guests of mine.
So…understand that what you have…at the end of the day, it’s not really yours. What you have, how you live, it’s all from God. Everything belongs to God and we just get to borrow it. And whatever we have, we need to take care of it but (SLIDE) we need to be sure that we hold on tighter to the one who gives than the things we’ve been given.
And if we can do that, I think that changes how we view this idea of Stewardship and giving. Because then it’s a lot less about dollars and cents and what we feel like we have to do or don’t want to do...if we can really have this same attitude that David has here, then it becomes about what’s in our hearts. It becomes about our relationship with God. It becomes a
response to the love we’ve experienced. It becomes a lot less about WHAT we give, and about WHY we give.
It makes me think about when my kids were really little, Zack’s mom would always take them to a local High School’s holiday gift mart so they could buy presents for us parents. And she had taken her own kids to this kind of thing when they were young too. And I just loved this because the gifts these kids would pick out were just absolutely from the heart and also absolutely ridiculous. When Zack’s sister was little, she bought her mom, with her mom’s own money, a mug that said “I Love Grandma.” And look, all the moms out there are like, yeah, we know! And when my kids went, they bought things like socks, and a bright green cup, I think a slinky one year.
And the joy from these gifts didn’t come from the fact that it was their own money (it wasn’t), or that they were fancy or useful gifts (they weren’t)…they joy came from the fact that these gifts were absolutely given out of love.
Whatever we give, when we give with that kind of gratitude and openness...it matters. And the joy we feel, the joy it brings God to watch us respond...that flows out into our world. (SLIDE) It creates opportunities for joy for other people too. It makes whatever story we’re living in bigger.
I thing my favorite part of this Scripture is where David just outright says, “who am I, who are my people, to even GET to do this? Why do WE get to give these things and be generous?” There’s this feeling of WOW. We get to do this. And we get to
do it together. We get to experience and create hope again and again and give it away as much as we can.
Not quite one year ago, we started this campus. Last Commitment Sunday, this room was not quite as full, it was the launch team and a few folks who had heard about us in random different ways. We were getting ready to launch, we were praying that on December 4, people would come. We were looking for hope in this new place and this new way of being St. Luke’s in this specific community.
A year ago, when I stood up here and we prayed and we made commitments...I just couldn’t have even started to imagine the story we’d be living in a year later. When David says, “who am I” to get to have this experience? I get that. Maybe that’s why I love it so much. Because I feel spoiled as the person who has a front row seat to all these things God is doing here at St. Luke’s Midtown and it almost seems unfair! And I don't know if we can all see that full picture, so I just want to take a second a tell you what I get to see every single day:
I watch people who did not know each other 365 days ago, stay after worship every week just to check in and catch up and I have to turn the lights out on them.
I’ve seen people who were sure they weren’t qualified to lead a group take a risk and say yes and bring folks together week after week to create community.
I have listened to kids cheer and yell downstairs before we get into the sermon most weeks, and put communion bread in their little hands as we tell them God loves them.
I’ve watched our youth lead us and serve in so many different ways around this place and create their own community together with bean bag chairs and Taylor Swift and most of all with a safe, caring space to work out what their faith is all about.
I’ve seen an Outreach team start with some dreams and ideas and create concrete, real life partnerships in our community. We’ve weeded gardens, dreamed about affordable housing, and wondered how we can be part of what God is doing in this place.
I’ve watch us get to know a different artist every month and celebrate the creativity in our city. We’ve made a space for welcome and kindness and celebration for every person who has hung art on our walls.
I’ve watched us eat donuts and drink coffee and Lynn recruit volunteers in her donut suit, and all the while knowing deep down that hospitality is so much more than that, and that you all are so committed to making this a place that is welcoming and safe for every single person.
And every single week, that is not an exaggeration, SOMEONE tells me—this is my first time here. Maybe it’s their first time in a long time. Maybe they’ve been really wounded and unsure if
church could ever be for them. Maybe they’ve been told that they or someone they love doesn’t belong and they just want to try one more time before they walk away from the whole thing. And every single week, I hear, “this place feels different. This place feels safe.”
And I can’t believe I get to hear that. I can’t believe I get to witness these things and so many others.
And whether you see that full picture or not, you need to know: all of those things—those things happen because of you. You have shown up over the past year and said yes to creating this beautiful, safe, sacred community together. YOU have shown up and said, “God, this is yours and we’re taking care of it and we want to make it the best it can be.” YOU have given with your time, and your gifts, and your resources and because you’ve done that...these are the stories that we get to tell today.
And these stories are happening here, they are happening at our North Indy Campus, they are happening through our online community—and we want you to see that whole picture of what God is doing at St. Luke’s here in just a moment.
And as we review, we look ahead. We make commitments for 2024 so God can do more of this in the year ahead. (lift up card) If you are new to St. Luke’s and this idea of making a pledge is unfamiliar, this is just a way of vowing to God our intention for the coming year. This pledge is basically our response to all God has done for us and what we hope to do in the coming year to
support God’s work through St. Luke’s. It’s really a trust that says, “We believe there will be stories of people and pictures of life changing events next year because of what God will do with what we pledge.”
Right now, with you card in hand, take a moment to be reminded of the difference our giving makes as we watch this Year in Review video, then I’ll come back and lead us in prayer as we fill out our cards and during our closing song we will bring them forward and place in baskets.
We also have a gift for you. These are the tumblers we will give visitors in 2024. For everyone making a pledge you get to be the first to receive. So after placing your card, grab a tumbler, then return to your seat and we will close with our benediction.
So let’s see our video now…
I want to remind you that Starting Point is happening right after this service. There is pizza and a chance to sit down with me and other leaders in our church to learn more about St. Luke’s Midtow.
And look, if you’re coming to Starting Point you might be thinking—where did I fit in that commitment moment. What was that supposed to mean for me? I mean, I’ve only been here a few times, I don’t even know if I’ll be here next year! But here’s what I know- no matter where you are...God will be working in you next year.
No matter WHERE you are in your church involvement or your faith in general, that’s something I am sure of. That God is at work. So as we go from this place, as we think about what will come next in our church and our world, we remember what generosity can do. And we remember what generosity has done.
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, go and live that generosity out in the world. Amen.