Sermon by Pastor Ben Cieslik

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, grace and peace to you from Jesus Christ our crucified and risen Savior. Amen.

There’s a potent force that is loose in the world. Left unchecked, it has the power to bring the world to it’s knees. Thankfully those who wield this awesome weapon generally do so quite sparingly. I am of course talking about Grandmother Guilt.

Nobody and I mean nobody knows how to induce that gut wrenching feeling of guilt quite like a grandma. Grandmas I’m sorry, but it’s true. I’ve known and loved far too many of you to be convinced otherwise. When you want to, you can turn it on like no one else. Mom’s are pretty good at it, but they can’t hold a candle to Grandma’s in the guilt game. Believe me, my Grandma was a master.

Joycie was subtle in her usage. It would kind of sneak up on you. Like when I’d be packing up the car to head home after a weekend visit in Appleton. I’d come in after taking a load out to the car, and she’d say, “Oh, you’re not leaving already are you? Oh, I thought I was going to get a couple more hours with you before you had to go home. Couldn’t you just stay for lunch? But I suppose you’re probably busy and have things at home to care of. I’ll just have to wait until next time you come, when will that be again?”

See what I mean a master. Of course I stayed for lunch.

Growing up my church used to have a 3 hour Good Friday Worship Service. It was from 12-3, and of course my Grandma was always there. And being the faithful woman that she was she thought her family should be there with her as well.

As a young boy of 9 or 10 I could think of better things I’d like to do with my time then spent 3 hours on a Friday afternoon at church. When I said something to this affect to my Grandma, she said, “Well Jesus did spend those three hours on the cross for you, but if you have something else you’d rather do, that’s fine.”

I went to church.

Guilt can be a powerful motivator. Guilt, quite frankly, is something that many people, whether the come to church or not, associate with church. It’s why some people to church to hear the promise of forgiveness, to hear that they are set free from those things that make them feel guilty.

That declaration of forgiveness is a beautiful thing. But the church has also done it’s fair share of imposing guilt upon people. Whether it’s about lifestyle, morality, political or social issues, many people in the church have been quick to say that’s bad and you should feel badly about your choices. And while I’m not against accountability by any stretch of the imagination, it seems to me most people experience enough shame and guilt on their own that they don’t need others to help conjure up more.

But, in the long term, I wonder if guilt really helps people change their behavior. It might convince you to stick around for a few extra hours at Grandma’s but in terms of life change, probably not so much. You can only be made to feel guilty for so long, before it’s effects start to wear thin.

So I find it interesting that one of the most commonly employed tactics to encourage people to give, whether it’s of their time or the money, is guilt. I mean think about it. Whether it’s on TV, or in print, or in the pews, you are encouraged to give your money because someone needs it more than you do. Whether it’s because someone is hungry or disaster has struck, or there’s a budget shortfall, the message whether implicit or explicit is you’ve got resources and if you would only share some of it, things could be better. You should really be more generous.

Think of the amazing things you and your money could do, if only you were more generous.

Give because it’s what God wants you to do.

Today we are in week five of a sermon series where we are exploring what it means to live on this side of the Easter promise that life not death wins. And it would be easy to say that people who are Easter people, are generous people. So if you want to be faithful, you should give.

Today’s reading from Romans can be read in such a way that seems to reinforce the God’s generous so you should be too mantra.

We might not often notice it because we don’t typically associate this passage with conversations about generosity, but listen again to verse 32 again.

He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else?

 If our God has been that generous with us, that gracious, how can we not reciprocate? If Jesus could spend three hours on the cross for us, the least we can do is…

Guilt.

Or is it.

What if instead of hearing Paul’s words as encouragement to do what God has done, urging to us to be more like God, Paul is declaring to you and to me that we are like God. What if because of what God has done in Jesus Christ our lives have become so intertwined with God’s, so mixed up that we can’t help but be like God. We can’t not be generous, it’s part of who you are because you belong to God.

As Paul states there’s nothing that can separate from God’s love in Jesus. Everything that is God’s is ours, even God’s own loving and generous Spirit. Brothers and sisters because the tomb is empty you are generous.

You have the capacity to give yourself completely, fully and totally to this world that God so deeply loves. You are a vessel through which God pours out his love into this world. The Life giving – world altering generosity of God is made available to those who need it most through you.

You don’t need to become more generous. No, instead we need to awaken to the reality that already dwells deep within us.

Through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ you and I have been remade in the image of God, we bear on our brows the imprint of the one who day after day gives himself freely to this world so that all might live the life that God intends for each one of us both now and forever. We are generous, we are faithful givers, because God has already faithfully given us everything.

So how do we discover that? How do we awaken to this seemingly dormant reality in many of our lives?

Training. Practice.

You thought I was going to offer some sort of magic solution didn’t you. No unfortunately we need to recondition our minds and our bodies to be more in-tune with the deepest longings of our hearts. So we practice. This week I want to invite you into a little exercise, that I’m calling Give More Today. Each day this week I want you to join me in giving more than you did yesterday.

No I’m note asking you to come back tomorrow at put more money in the offering plate than you did today, though the giving kiosk in the gallery is fully functional each day of the week. Just saying.

No. In the course of our day we all have micro opportunities to be more authentically ourselves, our self-giving selves. So today I want you to think and be intentional about how you can be more by being generous today. It can be an extra couple dollars of a tip to the waitstaff at brunch.

It can be an extra half hour with your kids of play time, maybe we just put our phones down for a little bit. Or to my teenage friends you can give your parents a window into what’s going on in your life, start by telling them one thing you did this weekend that you loved.

Then tomorrow give a bit more. Maybe it’s making a special gift to an organization that you love, even just $10. Maybe it’s a phone call to a friend you haven’t heard from in a while, or writing a letter to someone you know who’s going through a tough time. Maybe it’s meeting with a financial planner to see if your plans for you money match your values.

The on Tuesday give a little more. Maybe you give me a call or shoot me an email to see how you might be able to help make this thing we are doing in Minnetonka grow. Maybe your family writes a letter to your legislators urging them to allocate resources for those who need special attention. Then Wednesday give a little more. Pay attention to what’s happening to you. Pay attention to how you feel. Write it down, tell someone else about what you’re discovering.

Then give thanks to God, because this gift of generosity that you have comes from God. And there is nothing that can separate you from that love, this day or forever. Amen.