Hearts of Thanks

            On thank offering Sunday, I’d like to ask you to think about a question.  In all of your life, filled with relationships and experiences, what is the one thing that you are most thankful for? Be honest and real. (Wait for responses.)

            I am thankful to be standing here today as the speaker for this service, as the pastor of this faith community, as a member of the Luckey community, and as a child of God.  Without a very real experience of God’s grace 7 years ago, I may still be living each day behind a mask, pretending to be someone I’m not and denying the person I was.  And so my thanks goes even deeper; it goes to Jesus Christ for freeing me from my guilt and shame, allowing me to trust that I am loved and forgiven in spite of who I am.

            We heard a familiar text today…the Widow’s Mite.  Imagine yourself in this story.  Walking into the temple, surrounded by all of the Chief Priests and hierarchy of the church, and dropping your offerings into a box in front of them.  Not only can they see you but they can also hear the coins dropping.  It was hard to hide one’s financial contributions.  Ah yes, the judgment dripped from their lips.

            And that is the point of the story.  Everyone was concerned about what was going into the offering box.  Some people dropped in large amounts of valuable coins.  The widow…a penny’s worth.  But Jesus taught his disciples that the financial amount wasn’t an accurate measurement of the offering.

            Jesus wasn’t concerned about the balance sheet.  He cared about the heart!A heart that is truly generous and thankful gives for the sake of giving.  A joyful heart gives because it feels good to give!  If we ask how much we HAVE to give, then we might as well not give anything at all because our hearts are not thankful.  It is a difference between seeing our possessions as something earned that others do not deserve vs. seeing our possessions as gifts and blessings from God to be thankful for and shared for his glory.

The question Jesus wants to hear is “How much CAN I give, Lord?”  God knows our hearts.  And while some people may have fooled the Priests with the amounts of their donations, the widow’s generosity was actually a larger percentage of giving.  She gave all she had financially to the ministry of the church.  God has promised to bless generous and thankful spirits.

            Jesus walked the talk that he preached.  He had few earthly possessions and gave everything he had, including his life, out of love for us.  And he told his disciples that they would be mistreated like him, yet they persevered through persecutions with hearts of thankfulness and conviction.

            In Proverbs 30:7-9 we read, “Two things I ask of you; do not deny them to me before I die; remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that I need, or I shall be full, and deny you, and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ (or in modern terms, who needs God? I did this on my own) or shall I be poor, and steal, and profane the name of my God.”

            Today, Thank Offering Sunday, we give special thanks for the women involved in Zion’s ministries. Thank you to the Women of the Church for everything you do that deflects credit from yourselves and rightly directs it toChrist.  Your love for others, selfless generosity, and faithful hearts are known by God.  Thank you for participating in WELCA, living out your calling as a small part of the larger Body of Christ.

Thank you for selfless acts of kindness when volunteering to help with funeral lunches, caring more about those grieving personal loss than yourselves.  God has promised to bless true generosity.  Thank you to those involved in the quilting and prayer shawl ministries.  Your gifts and talents are wrapping individuals with love and compassion when they seek warmth and comfort.

And thank you to everyone, women and men, who give of your time and resources for the kingdom of God, both inside and outside of this place.  Faithful, thankful, and generous hearts are the foundation of a Christ-centered community.  Let us always remember that the purpose of the Church is not about us, but about building relationships with others and sharing the Gospel good news with thankful hearts.  Amen.