• Steven Marsh

Giving With Gratitude Because of The Unconditional Love of The Triune God–Love Always Welcomes

Hudson Taylor, the pioneering missionary to China remarks, “When I travel to the interior of China, the Christian communities all claim they’ve seen and experienced miracles.”[1] Can we say that as a congregation? Giving the tithe of your cognitive, affective, physical, spiritual and financial resources is how we participate in God’s miracles of redemption and salvation.

As in the day of Habakkuk the people of God are losing their way. As in the day of Habakkuk, we need to tap into God’s vision of redemption and salvation. That vision is to hear love’s welcoming call, even when anxiety and fear seem to have their way. And as we walk in that vision, we and others will be transformed. The texts in 2 Thessalonians 1:1-4, 11-12, Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4 and Luke 19:1-10 ask us to wait on and listen to God in order to fully experience God’s welcoming love in our giving.

2 Thessalonians 1:1-4; 2:1-4 beckons us not to justify the church’s anemic condition because of persecution, but to seek encouragement to stay engaged in the suffering. The power base has been inverted so that the vulnerable and politically weak are lifted up and the institutions of empire and oppression are made low. God aims to purify his people and that is done as we reclaim unpopular positions and display the gospel in our words and deeds. 2 Thessalonians 1:4 reads, “…we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your steadfastness and faith during all your persecutions and afflictions that you are enduring….” Steadfastness and endurance are possible as we rest in God’s welcoming love all the while giving from our life wallet.

Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4 pleads with us not to justify the church’s loss of community, but to reclaim its vision of being united with God and one another. Humans are made in the image of God. As Christians we believe that truth is transformative of all aspects of our lives. In Habakkuk’s day, God’s covenant people had lost sight of being community. Sin had eroded their sense of relatedness and purpose. Habakkuk was guided by that dominant vision of “being community.” We are in community with God and others when we rest in God’s welcoming love all the while giving from our life wallet.

Luke 19:1-10 reminds us not to justify complaining, but to work for a solution. We seek God’s guidance and strength to make a difference. Zacchaeus was rejected, even though he had considerable wealth and status, because of his greed as a tax collector. Although he was an outcast of whom the people complained, he ran and climbed a tree in order to get a glimpse of Jesus. Zacchaeus knew that he would be welcomed in Jesus’ love. Jesus told Zacchaeus that he must stay at his house. The “must” is a divine imperative. It must be done because it is nothing less than God’s will. Luke 19:9-10 states, “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.’” Zacchaeus gave half of his possessions to the poor and paid back four times as much to those whom he defrauded. And we can do the same when we rest in God’s welcoming love all the while giving from our life wallet.[2]

The good news of God, as we know it in and through Jesus Christ, is that we can love others as God loves us. Thom Rainer asks this question, “Why would a church’s failure to engage in meaningful prayer lead to its demise?”[3] Answer, “No prayer. No hope.”[4] And the church begins its death march in that it stops listening for God’s welcoming love calling for the congregation members to engage life, in its highs and lows, in giving of the tithe from their life wallet. Take note of the following when it comes to God’s love welcoming our giving:

12 Ways To Keep Geneva Alive

  1. admit and confess the need for a change of mind and heart about the purpose of being a Christian and a participant in the church;

  2. recognize the slow erosion in your experience of Christian community;

  3. let go of the past as hero;

  4. build Geneva Presbyterian Church into a community of faith that looks like the community;

  5. focus the church’s generosity outwardly for the sake of others;

  6. make specific plans to minister and to evangelize our community (ies);

  7. practice the Great Commission;

  8. be motivated and guided by God’s ways and will not by preferences;

  9. value a long tenure for your pastor; and

  10. make prayer a priority, both personally and corporately.

I pray that each one of us… admit and confess the need for a change of mind and heart about the purpose of being a Christian and a participant in the church; recognize the slow erosion in your experience of Christian community; let go of the past as hero; build Geneva Presbyterian Church into a community of faith that looks like the community; focus the church’s generosity outwardly for the sake of others; make specific plans to minister and to evangelize our community (ies); practice the Great Commission; be motivated and guided by God’s ways and will not by preferences; value a long tenure for your pastor; and make prayer a priority, both personally and corporately.

God’s welcoming love invites you to give. Go for it. How? Participate by giving the tithe of your cognitive, affective, physical, spiritual and financial resources from your life wallet. As in the day of Hudson Taylor let’s claim the miracles of God that come about through God’s welcoming love as we give of ourselves for the sake of others. Let’s see and experience miracles. Living into legacy, the legacy of being known as a Jesus follower, is a life worth living.

[1]Attributed to Hudson Taylor in Christian History, no. 52.

[2]In all three sections of textual analysis, I have benefited from the thinking of Matt Gaventa, Edith M. Humphrey, Lydia Hernandez-Marcial, Lauren F. Winner, Patrick J. Willson and Kenyatta R. Gilbert in Joel B. Green, Thomas G. Long, Luke A. Powery and Cynthia L. Rigby, editors, Connections, Year C, Volume 3 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2019), 452-454, 454-455, 442-445, 445-447, 456-458 and 458-459.

[3]Thom S. Rainer, Autopsy of a Deceased Church (Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Publishing Group, 2014), 69.

[4]Ibid., 68.

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