In the 8th chapter of II Corinthians Paul tells the story of a “generous undertaking.” In order to build the bonds of compassion and fellowship between followers of Christ, both Gentile and Jew, Paul has started a collection of money to support the church in Jerusalem as they face persecution and famine. While spreading the good news in Macedonia – a region that is just as impoverished as the folks in Jerusalem – Paul has been overwhelmed by the grace of these poor Macedonians, “for in a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme generosity have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part… they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means.” (v. 2) Paul had not asked for them to give – they begged for the “honor.”
Why would poor people give to help other poverty-stricken people they never met? Paul explains: “they gave themselves first to the Lord and , by the will of God, to us.” (v.5) Now, the Corinthians it seems had long ago told Paul they were all in for helping out. Paul has learned, however, that they have never gotten around to giving. The Corinthians are the opposite of poor. They are wealthy and blessed. Paul urges them to get on board and to “complete this generous undertaking among you.” (v. 6)
The “generous undertaking,” as it is manifest here at Holy Trinity, is summed up in our mission statement: Share God’s Love. That’s what Paul was trying to get Macedonian and Corinthian alike to do – share God’s love. That’s what our offering does today.
In the coming year, we have financial challenges that are part of our “generous undertaking.” Over the last few years our offering to the general fund of the congregation has been flat to slightly declining: $1,073K, to $1,021K, to $1,017K and last year to $976K. This not due to a precipitous drop in active membership. The economy has been booming. We have done more to share God’s love, but have had to do so every year with less financial support.
In 2019-20, we already know that we will need to invest more in just staying the same:
- To continue the Internship program, expenses for that ministry will rise by about 30% as we anticipate welcoming an intern that is not already restricted to living in Central Iowa and so, we must provide housing.
- Every year since I have been with you, we have balanced the budget and controlled shortfalls somewhat by deferring maintenance of the building. We can’t do that any longer.
- We are telling employees that we can’t afford raises, and that they need to stop working on necessary projects, because we can’t pay them for the hours they work.
- The staff has absorbed meal preparation and other duties and simply needs help.
- Our assistance fund – where we share God’s love by lending a helping hand – is underfunded by 50%.
There are other examples, but I’ll stop there. Here’s the thing. If each family in this congregation gave 10% (a tithe) we would receive almost $6 million each year. With just half that amount, we would gather $3 million to do the work we are called to do. Even at 2.5% average, we would increase our giving by $500,000.
God has given us much; blessed us with abundance. God has also called us to do much with what we have received. Let’s join together for this generous undertaking that will fill our city with grace, mercy, love and hope.
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