Sharing Our Faith Together

Worship for Sunday 21 November 2021 - Gift Day

by Rev Colin Emerson 21 November 2021

Welcome to our Gift Day service. The service below is a reflection on the worship in buildings today.

Call to Worship
They knelt down, paid him homage and offered him gifts. 
May this time of worship be a gift and a sweet offering to you Almighty God, Father Son and Holy Spirit. Amen

Hymns: Come on and Celebrate and Great is the Lord and most worthy of Praise

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Prayers of Praise and Confession
Recall that God is all love, all compassion and offers eternal mercy. Offer praise for these and other attributes that come into your mind. Declare these truths to God.
In the light of God’s goodness and mercy, reflect on your last week and those times when you know you have fallen short of his standards and those times when you have forgotten his presence. Remember that God is ready to hear us when we repent from wrong ways and that he does forgive those who truly repent.

2 Corinthians 8:1-15

Hymn: Here I am wholly available

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Sermon – Generous Giving
Paul, in our reading this morning, is proud and excited. Not proud at his own achievements but at the way God has moved in the Macedonian church such that they have been sharing their resources with those less fortunate than themselves. He speaks of the Macedonians abundant joy and extreme poverty [overflowing] in a wealth of generosity; of how they begged earnestly for the privilege of sharing in the mission of the saints; of how they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means. He writes all this to the Church in Corinth that they may take this example and adopt it into their life as part of their spiritual discipline. Through the ages he is using the same account to encourage us into similar action.
If we are not careful, we miss an important statement that Paul writes at the beginning of this account. He does not see this generous work as a movement of the men and women of the church, but as the ‘grace of God’. We want you to know about the grace of God that has been granted to the church of Macedonia, he writes. The ability to be generous is a gift of God. The ability to be able to see the suffering of others and to respond even beyond one’s means is a grace, a gift, that is bestowed upon us by God.
But this gift is more than simply recognising a need and responding to it. This gift enables the recipient not just to recognise and respond but to do so with abundant joy, despite their own extreme poverty. It provokes a wealth of generosity even to the point of sacrifice. It provokes a yearning, a need, to do something so that the Macedonians begged earnestly for the privilege of being involved.
I am reminded of the occasion that Jesus sat in the temple and looking up, saw the widow place her two small coins in the treasury plate and on seeing this he honoured her, telling his disciples that she had given more than all the rich who had given a little of their wealth where she in her poverty had given all she had to live on. 
Paul sees this gift of grace as being in direct relationship with the love that one has for God, for he writes I am testing then genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. It seems to me that he is asking the question of the church in Corinth, ‘is your love for God and your neighbour as great as that shown by the Macedonians?’ Do they love God so much that he can move them to acts of generosity beyond the norms of society?
Today, is your gift day and as you arrived this morning you were invited to put your gifts on the tray at the door. A gift is a present that shows love and care to another. It is not a thing expected, nor is it a thing that it is given out of duty or expectation. It is a mark of the love of the giver for the recipient. It says to the receiver, ‘I love you!’ or in less romantic terms ‘You are valuable to me; what you have done matters to me; who you are is important to me.’ A gift shows the depth of relationship and the worth of the person I the givers eyes. The ability to recognise this worth and to give accordingly is a gift in itself; the gift of generosity that Paul recognised in the Macedonians as coming from God.
Like Paul, I have no desire to command you to give, or berate you for what you may or may not have given. My aim is to encourage you, as I aim to encourage myself, to think about the way we give. Are we filled with joy and extravagant or are we thinking I could have used that for a good night out or on a new pair of shoes? Are we generous or selfish in our giving? Do we put God and the needs of his people first or do we relegate them to second after our own needs? The Macedonians gave even beyond their means.
Today is our gift day, when we give back to God what he has given to us, and this should include not just material things but our time and very selves as well. And this should not be just a one-off event but a daily occurrence as we seek in love and through his grace to give the whole of ourselves and our life to his service in abundant joy.
Giving of gifts is not a one-sided exercise. As Paul reminds us God has given to us generously through our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for our sakes became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. In Jesus’ death and resurrection, we see the outpouring of God’s love, beyond what could ever have been expected. It is in God’s generous nature to give all that he has and to give sacrificially for the sake of those he created and love. It is because of God’s abundant giving that we are here today. It is because of God’s abundant love that we can know ourselves to be his children. It is because of his abundant love that we can know ourselves freed from the tyranny of sin and forever with him. In love he eagerly and earnestly desires to give us all his good gifts, withholding nothing and poring them out with abundant joy.
How can we respond to this love? Perhaps the answer lies in one of our great hymns when Isaac Watts writes:
Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life my all.

Prayer of Dedication
Heavenly Father, 
I give you thanks for the wonderous gifts that you have offered me. 
I thank you for the abundant  gift of salvation and the eternal gift of life
won for me through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
I offer to you all that I have and all that I am. 
May I become poor that your people would know richness may I be genuine in my love of you and others.
May I always be eager and cheerful in all that you call me to do
I ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, and in the power of the Holy Spirit

Hymn: Take my life and let it be

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Prayers of Intercession
Take time to think and pray about:
The Church
For abundant living in the life of all Christians
For extravagant giving to the least, the last and the lost
For Newmount Methodist Church to be a reflection of the Kingdom of God

The World 
those whose lives are impoverished through the greed of others
those who are feeling the effects of climate change
those who seek a better future in distant lands
Remember aid agencies and peacekeepers.

Political Leaders
 That world leaders might be given wisdom
 That they would work in unity for peace and righteousness
For our own politicians nationally and locally that they would work for the good of those they serve and not for themselves.

The ill and anxious
 Those you know
 Those facing terminal illness
 Those effected by Covid-19
 The bereaved
 Those who are suffering mental health issues
Merciful God,
You have prepared for those who love you
such good things as pass our understanding;
pour into our hearts such love towards you
that we, loving you above all things,
may obtain your promises,
which exceed all that we can desire;
through Jesus Christ our lord. Amen.

Lord’s Prayer

Hymn: To God be the Glory

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May the blessing of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
be upon me, upon those I love
and upon the whole of my local community
now and always