About Our Church

 Sunday Services

 Mission

 Education

 Youth Fellowship

 Music Programs

 Join a Group

 Interfaith Ministries

 Sermons
  Current Year
  Prior Years
  Other Writings

 Pastor's Page

 

 

A Great Harvest

Sermon - 10/17/10
Rev. April Oristano
First Christian Church, Eugene, Oregon

2 Corinthians 9:6-11 (from the New Living Translation)

“It is possible to give without loving;
it is impossible to love without giving.”

 

Printed at the top of your bulletin, put this to the test – think for a moment of a person you have experienced as being generous. Your family’s ritual of giving, either when you were a child or now as an adult. An act of generosity you have witnessed in the community, at work, at school. Where you have seen God’s abundance in the world.

These are acts of stewardship, these memories you’re revisiting.  And I would put a lot of money that any memory/story you could tell this morning would eventually get to love.  The giving a natural effect of the love  – trust – joy – hope experienced. For it is possible to give without loving, but it is impossible to love without giving. 

By now you probably got the memo that it’s Stewardship Sunday – with a tour of our ministries, a healthy lunch afterwards.  If you are a visitor today I hope, we hope you will feel comfortable to stay and take the tour, you will learn a lot about this church. Stewardship means a few things to this world but at its base in Christianity it is the care for resources for which a person or a group has no ownership – resources entrusted to a person or group.  using what you have to help all you can in as many ways as you can. 

We are responsible for the ministries of this church, we are the teachers and elders and organizers and missionaries. We consider each year how we will pledge our support into the next year.  We are responsible citizens of Eugene, we work, we pay our taxes, we maintain our yards and obey, uphold the laws. We aim to be responsible Christians, giving voice to those who have no voice, speaking the truth in love, respecting others and ourselves, valuing life and the experience of knowing God.  We are some very busy stewards -  

Paul’s words to the community in Corinth speak to me today of the hardships of continued stewardship.  The vision has been cast, the community is organized, and time has passed.  Some goals reached, others in process, others left behind.  Paul is everywhere but in Corinth - And he asks that they stay the course, even though they can’t see the result of their stewardship, they have no control over the outcome, only doing their part to care for the message of Jesus and the building of the kingdom:

2 Corinthians 9:6-11 (from the New Living Translation):

 

Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. 7 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” 8 And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. 9 As the Scriptures say,

   “They share freely and give generously to the poor.
      Their good deeds will be remembered forever.”

 10 For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.

 11 Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God.

 

He is concerned with more than the gift itself – in this context I believe he is encouraging them to finish a giving project  they have pledged to – but Paul is addressing the spirit of the person giving, the intention with which things are given. For staying the course out of obligation, out of anxiety, out of guilt, out of pressure is not sustainable.  Those are not building blocks they are stumbling blocks.

Let’s experience verse 6 firsthand, okay? A farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop.  How many have heard of Laughing Yoga? How many have participated? I have twice – both in California. 

One of my daughter Hannah’s favorite activities is to keep laughing.  She hears a joke and laughs and loves that laughing so much she will go to great lengths to keep it going.  It’s contagious and fun.  Turns out its down right healthy for you.   This is the essence of laughing yoga, I think.  The concept of Laughter Yoga is based on a scientific fact that the body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter. One gets the same physiological and psychological benefits whether its fake or real laughter. And works with breath and movement, like all yoga. 

The goal of Laughter Yoga is to bring good health, joy and peace -  through Laughter. C’mon, laughter IS the best medicine, right?  I mean, anyone can Laugh for No Reason, you don’t need jokes or comedy, someone to slip on a banana.

It soon turns into real and contagious laughter.  

Let’s do it. Just a couple, just to get a taste of it.  Please keep in mind that the Laughter exercises are supposed to be playful and you have permission to enjoy yourself. And of course you have permission to not play at all, there is nothing worse than being forced to participate in a religious activity - but to that I would just say this:

The Dalai Lama calls himself a professional laugher.  I read an interview related to a new memoir recently published -  and I’ve heard him say it in other ways before, but that with all the difficult circumstances and loss he feels in his life, all the suffering he knows the only way he has survived emotionally, with strength to go on and focus to stay the course is through laughter.  That it’s the Tibetan way, he says. 

Let’s make it the Eugene Disciples way today, shall we? 

Practice with breath, into ho ho ha ha ha,

            **

Discovery Channel has a news video, just a little brief detailing a factory group of workers in India who come together for work and before they start work they have a laughter session.  Seriously, can you imagine? They do this same warm up exercise! They stand by it, it was the workers who started the group, and they happily testify to the difference it makes in their whole day, on the way they perceive all the circumstances of the day. 

Let’s try another one, now that we’re warmed up. 

Simple one, you can do this standing or sitting, however is most comfortable.  Stand up if you’re able, it’s good to add movement.  Using only laughter as your words, of whatever sort of laughter you’d like, shake the hand of the person next to you, as if you’re greeting them for the first time this morning.

            **

Simmer down now…

The vision of this congregation – a vision of transformation –  to be a church that people who don’t normally come to church will want to come to – this is a serious vision – one we are all responsible for - When I think about building that church, the blood pressure starts to rise, there is a lot of work to be done –

Transformation was the business the Corinthian community was in as well – helping other communities transition, sort of like church planting – well that’s our business too – transformation – You know the whole point of the tour today is to give you a taste of all that we are and what we are hoping to be.  You’ll be in groups of about 10-20 and you’ll move from place to place together.  Your tour guide will give you some general information but it is your eyes and voices that will experience the tour – you’ll see many displays and posters - you’re going to hear about 44 areas of ministry - things that we are already doing – well more than enough – but we want to be more, do more – you have ideas you haven’t even pitched yet because you’re waiting until things settle down – well guess what people!  It’s not going to slow down, again…the blood pressure rises.

 

This little laughter experiment illuminates this little lesson from Paul to the Corinthians:  give cheerfully from your heart, even in the form of a few seeds – it will come back to you and you will have enough to give more.  Your laughter – it moved from you to your neighbor, they can’t help but laugh, or at least smile, and then you are hopelessly bound in this growing circle of laughter.  Starting your day with  laughter is guaranteed to lower the blood pressure and shape your outlook on the day. 

 

 

We have promised to build something that needs our focus, our patience, our determination, our every gift.  Gifts that are seeds planted, planted to grow, to build on one another. We can’t afford to put anything out there but love.  Leadership, stewardship, they can be contagious too, can be joyfully given, when given from the whole person in love.  And when you give in that spirit God provides generously all you will need. 

Want to laugh together one more time?  Paul’s letter to the Corinthians says that many seeds are going to make a great harvest.  So we’re going to practice planting laughter seeds (get your basket, any tools you might need)

Oh, that’s fun, isn’t it?  Good for the soul.  I know that feeling of contagious spontaneous joy – specifically the feeling of wanting to laugh longer but also keep the feeling of hope alive with presidential elections, the joy and acceptance that happens on a spiritual retreat or church camp experience.  I’ve felt it at a dinner party when I didn’t want to go home. 

When the chemistry is just right in a youth group or small group of friends or co-workers and the group meshes, and learns together, grows together, accomplishes the task at hand.  They are good stewards of each other.  I know that feeling.  I live on that feeling – watching other people laugh together or accomplish something together?  Love it.  

Mother Teresa once said “It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving.”  Feel Good about what you can give. It doesn’t matter how much you give but how much Love you put into your giving.  Like it didn’t matter how you started  laughing but that you did.  Plant a seed of love in someone else.  Plant a seed of laughter in yourself.  If we continue to sow in love we will harvest righteousness/justice.  If we continue to give because of our joy we will harvest compassion and equality. Plant seeds generously, pray generously, as each are able.

That’s why breakfast isn’t about standing behind a counter but having pancakes yourself!  The sign used to say Free breakfast for all who need it or the needy.  Dear God I need it.  We all need it, that sense of growing relationship, the growing hope that being a person of generous love is worth it, makes a difference, heals the broken world.

Let Paul speak to you today, right into your heart, where you make your important decisions, where you weigh your abilities and your passions and your hope grows.  Love what you give.

You have so much to give.  May we joyfully laugh our way into the future together.

[Editor's Note:  A bench was dedicated on this Sunday to Mildred Webb, our master gardener -- pictures below]

 


Home | About Our Church | Services | Mission | Education | Youth Fellowship
Music Programs | Join a Group | Interfaith Ministry | Sermons | Pastor's Page
Questions or comments about this web site?  Contact the WebMasters