Methodist Vows: Gifts

Methodist Vows: “Gifts”
A Message on Romans 12:3-8

For Jacksonville First United Methodist Church

January 20, 2019

By Doug Wintermute


Romans 12:3-8 (NRSV)


For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6 We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7 ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8 the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.


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Gifts are a curious thing, aren’t they?


There’s the story of a woman who told here husband one morning, “Honey, I had the strangest dream last night. I dreamed you gave me a long, beautiful pearl necklace. What do you think that means?”


“I don’t know,” he replied. “But you might find out tonight.”


That evening the husband comes home and hands is wife a package that is neatly gift-wrapped. “Is this what I think it is?” the wife asks as she unwraps the package. After getting the package open she saw that her hands held a book titled, “The Meaning of Dreams.”


Today we’re continuing our sermon series on the vows we make when we join the United Methodist Church. We have already explored “prayers” and “presence,” so today we are going to explore “gifts.”


What does it mean to support the United Methodist Church with our gifts?


One of the things that comes to mind is money. We are called to support the church with our tithes and offerings.


Now I’m not going to be like the preachers of the “Prosperity Gospel” that have turned God into some sort of investment machine. I don’t believe the scriptures tell us that. I do believe that financial giving to the church will result in blessings, but I also will tell you that blessings come in many different forms.


So why do we pledge to support the church with our funds? Well, it’s very Biblical. In the Old Testament the scriptures tell the people of Israel to bring their first-born animals, the first fruits of their crops, to the tabernacle or temple as a sacrifice to God.


To me one of the most beautiful stories of the importance of sacrifice happens in 2 Samuel 24. There we find God telling David to go to the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite and to build an altar. David goes and talks with Araunah and when Araunah finds out that King David wants it, he offers to give it to the king for free, along with oxen for a sacrifice. But David declines, saying, “No, but I will buy them from you for a price; I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.”


Our gift of tithes and offerings should cost us something. They should remind us of what’s really important in this life and to stay focused on the things that are above, not the things of this earth.


Our funds are not the only kind of gift we pledge to give the church, though. We are to give of the gifts of our talents and skills as well.


In the scripture we read today from Paul’s letter to the Romans he points out that God has created us with different gifts. “We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.” (Romans 12:6-8)


We don’t all have the same gifts. Paul uses the body as a metaphor to describe how we each have different gifts, and yet those different parts, the different gifts, come together for the greater good. In terms of supporting the church with our gifts, that greater good is the Kingdom of God.


Now Paul listed some of those gifts: prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhorting, generosity, leadership, and compassion. But that is not an all encompassing list. Those are examples–and great examples, no doubt–of gifts, but it is not meant to be an exhaustive list.


Let me tell you about a gift I have witnessed one of our members give every Wednesday afternoon. George Griffin, at 91 years old, walks around Waller Hall during Mini Methodists carrying two pitchers, one in each hand. In one is pink lemonade, in the other is ice water. George goes from table to table filling the drinks of the almost 100 or so kids. They even have a system worked out: if a child needs a drink to be filled or refilled, he or she raises a hand and George shows up to pour them their beverage of choice. George, and other volunteers, do this every week.


Well this past week George was under the weather and couldn’t make it to Mini Methodists. I volunteered to “fill in” for him (get it, “filling” cups? Oh, nevermind…) and pour drinks.


Now it wasn’t told to me, but one of the other volunteers had a young boy come up to them at Mini Methodists and ask, “Where’s that guy?”


“What guy?” the volunteer asked.


“You know, that guy. That guy that is always here.”


“Oh, you mean Mr. George? The man that pours drinks?”


The little boy got excited. “Yeah! That’s him. Mr. George. Where is he today?”


The volunteer explained that George was sick and wasn’t able to make it. The little boy got a disappointed look on his face and said something like “Oh. I hope he gets better soon,” and then ran away to play.


Now I tell this because I find great beauty in what happened. What George does on Wednesdays is not very glamorous. It’s not very peaceful. The kids are talking and laughing like kids do and it’s loud. And they are moving back and forth between the window where the food is served and the tables. It is semi-organized chaos.


And yet George offers his simple gift, pouring drinks for children, and offers it for God’s kingdom every Wednesday. You wouldn’t even think the kids would even notice him.


But they do. At least one young boy does. George’s simple gift planted seeds of grace in that young boy, even though there is an 80-plus year age difference. And it made a difference in that boy’s life, enough so that he noticed on the one day that George wasn’t able to be there.


That’s just one small example.


Here’s another.


Every Sunday after Praise and Prayer, young Tilden McKnight comes up to the front and helps the Out of the Boat members put up sound equipment to get the sanctuary ready for the 10:30 service. Tilden has a gift for winding up cords and putting away microphones. And he does it every Sunday.


There are so many others I could tell you about.


I could tell you about Ben Hamilton who uses his gifts of understanding electronic things to bring out the lift and change the light bulbs in this sanctuary (and folks, that’s a long way up there), or to run our video board every Sunday so that those at home and at nursing homes can view our worship services.


I could tell you about Godbey Acker and Todd Travis, who give their gifts of understanding computers and software to create and display the visuals on our screens.


The list could go on and on.


We pledge, we make a covenant, to support the church with our gifts when we become members. So, how are you supporting the church with your gifts? How are you using the gifts God gave you? Are you fulfilling the vow you made when you joined the church to support it with your gifts?


The best reason to support the church with our gifts is because we are the recipients of the greatest gift ever given: Jesus Christ. God sent his son into our world to do what we cannot do for ourselves. We don’t earn it. We can’t buy it. We don’t even deserve it. And yet this gift, this gift of grace, is extended to us by God himself because he loves us. Love is the reason.


I subscribe to a weekly posting of quotes from the late Christian singer and songwriter Rich Mullins. I received this one yesterday that talks about gifts.


“You know, sometimes we think that everything is changing, but I’ll [tell] you what – the same moon is up there tonight, the same stars that Abraham saw. They’re all up there. And the same God that put them there and made them shine, He’s still there too. And I don’t know what life has for you. I don’t know what life has for me, but I know this. I know that God is good. And I know that God does not lie. And I know that God has given us the gift of our lives. Sometimes we wish He would have given us someone else’s life, but He chose to give you your life. Don’t despair of it.” — R. Mullins [LeSEA Seminar Feb 11/12, 1994]


So my challenge to you this week is to support the church with your gifts. Prayerfully reflect on how you can use the gifts God gave you to further his kingdom here on earth. Use your gifts to be the Body of Christ. How can you make a difference that can have eternal consequences? It doesn’t have to be much. It can be pouring drinks like George Griffin. But use those gifts.


That’s a lot better gift than a book titled, The Meaning of Dreams.


In the name of the Father, of the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.


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