Norm Kettner belonged to God’s family at Mount Tabor and passed away years ago. He said when he was a young man, his life was touched by a generous old soul. This was back in the days when furnaces were heated with coal, and you had to go down to the basement and shovel coal from the bin to the furnace every morning.
Norm asked him once how he became so generous. And the fellow smiled and said, “Well Norm, it’s like this. The faster I shovel it out, the faster God keeps shovelling it in… And God’s got a bigger shovel!”
Norm said that’s the way he felt too. The more he practiced generosity in the world, the more gratitude he had for the generosity God was practicing in his life:
A wonderful kind of Mobius Strip of infinite, recirculating love that flows on the path of generosity.
I always think of a congregation’s budget as a mission statement. It’s a statement of how we are pledging to live God’s love in the world as a congregation of the ELCA in this place, trusting that the generosity of everyone here will reflect the generosity of God’s own blessings in our daily lives.
It’s about trust: faith in God’s providence and trust in each other. Which makes sense, since we’re a faith community!
We trust that the Spirit who called this community into being continues to inspire the gathered community here to a life of loving fellowship and service to others.
And what we give, pales in comparison to what God gives us here!
As Lutherans in America, we believe that financial giving is a spiritual exercise. We don’t charge admission, or pay money, in order to worship at the round table of God’s grace.
We believe that this sacred place is created by God, and that we are met by God’s love here in bread and wine, water and song. God gives that freely to us, and so we don’t charge for it.
We believe that none of us, no matter how much we have or don’t have in our wallets or bank accounts, none of us has enough to reimburse or bribe God for what God chooses to freely give us in this place: the very presence of God’s saving and life-sustaining love, given flesh and bone in the people who come here to worship, and in the meal we share at God’s table.
How can we possibly put a price on that experience?
In just about every other area of life, we have to pay for what we get. (And sometimes we don’t even get what we pay for!)
But if we truly believe and experience God’s generosity that somehow has guided and provided for us in this long strange trip of life so far, what can we do spiritually in return except show the same generosity in our financial lives?
We are a community that has been created by the living story of God’s love for the world, a story more precious than all the gold in Fort Knox, that holds us in a hope that will not disappoint.
We are the stewards of God’s unconditional love story for the world. We have been washed in it. We have been and continue to be fed by it. And we are continually called to invest our lives more fully into it, until our neighbors know only Christ in and through us.
It’s the story of the God who shows us what love looks like when Jesus kneels to wash his disciples’ feet.
It’s the love that brings us together, invites us to eat and drink as one body at His table, and grow in gratitude for all God’s gifts.
And as gratitude grows, so does generosity.
Because generosity is the fruit of gratitude. That’s the spiritual exercise.
With thanksgiving for all of you,