Consecrate: Set Aside for God
By The Rev. Daniel Mangler
A certain church received their offering after the sermon, and had a pastor who preached long sermons. On one particular Sunday the pastor waxed extra long and eloquent. Finally a young boy got restless and turned to his father and whispered, "Daddy, if we give him the money now, will he let us go?
He was not too well educated and his manner was somewhat crude and rough, but he became a Christian and was on fire for the Lord. He constantly pestered his pastor to help him be of some genuine service to his church. In desperation, the pastor gave him a list of ten people, saying, "These are members who seldom attend services: some are prominent men of the city. Contact them any way you can and try to get them to be more faithful. Use the church stationery to write letters if you want, but get them back in church." He accepted the challenge with enthusiasm. About three weeks later, a letter arrived at the church from a prominent physician, whose name was on the list. In the envelope was a one thousand dollar check and a note: "Dear Pastor: Enclosed is my check to make up for missed offerings. I'm sorry for missing worship so much, but be assured I am going to be present every Sunday from now on and will not by choice miss service again. Sincerely, M. B. Jones, M.D. P.S. Would you kindly tell your secretary that there is only one t in dirty and no c in skunk."
Ah, yes, today we talk about money as we anticipate October 21 when you will be asked for your stewardship commitments. I know this looks like the classic bait and switch, schedule blessing of the animals then hit you with a money sermon. I promise you that is not the case.
Contrary to popular opinion pastors donít enjoy preaching about money. They would rather preach about Godís love and grace and the spiritual resources that come from God that help us live from day to day. That is why I appreciate the approach of the Consecration Sunday program in which we are involved. No nasty letters asking for money. The focus is not on dollars, although dollars are a part of it. The focus is on the giver and his/her need to give, and on Christ who is the one who is the recipient of those gifts. Truth be told, even if we were so well financially endowed as to have all of our wants satisfied there would still be a need for Consecration Sunday.
To consecrate means to set something aside for Godís purposes. What I ask you to prayerfully consider over the next two weeks is what kind of time and financial resources are you going to consecrate for Godís purposes? Please note that I said ďWhat kind?Ē not ďHow much?Ē My prayer is that what you consecrate to God, what time and financial resources you commit to his purposes, will be an expression of your love for God, will reflect a trust in God who supplies all your needs, and that what you consecrate for Godís purposes will truly represent you.
First, I pray that your commitments will be an expression of your love for God. These are to be love offerings. Someone once said that while you can give without loving, you cannot love without giving. Because, even if the one loved has no need of anything, there is still the need of the one who loves to express that love in giving.
The late Henri Nouwen, Roman Catholic, former teacher at Notre Dame University and Yale Divinity School, best known for his writings on inner spirituality, wrote, "The unfathomable mystery of God is that God is a Lover who wants to be loved. The one who created us is waiting for our response to the love that gave us our being. God not only says, 'You are my beloved.' God also asks, 'Do you love me?' and then offers us countless chances to say 'Yes.' "
A church in downtown Houston, Texas was having a special contribution for a missions program. People were coming to the front of the auditorium to bring cash, checks, jewels, gifts, etc.
One of the ushers caught a heart-warming sight, a little girl hugging her doll good-bye and putting it into one of the collection boxes. The usher came over, retrieved the doll, and walked toward the girl as she sat down next to her parents. The usher offered back the doll, saying that the church had collected more than enough. The little girl wrinkled her nose and with a matter-of-fact look said, "I didn't give my dolly to you or the church. I gave her to God." There is a gift of love.
I pray that your consecration of time and financial resources will reflect your trust in God that he is the one who supplies all our needs, believing the words of St. Paul who wrote, "God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work."
The tithe, dedicating 10% of one's resources to God, has always been a biblical benchmark for Christians, guiding them in how much to give. That tithe has to be given first or it will never be there to give. Called "first fruits" giving, it is an experiment in faith.
There was a knock on the door of the hut occupied by a missionary in Africa. Answering, the missionary found one of the native boys holding a large fish in his hands. The boy said, "Reverend, you taught us what tithing is, so here -- I've brought you my tithe." As the missionary gratefully took the fish, he questioned the young boy. "If this is your tithe, where are the other nine fish?" At this, the boy beamed and said, "Oh, they're still back in the river. I'm going back to catch them now.
That, indeed, is an example of faith that gives first to God, and trusts God to provide the rest.
Let your commitment be an expression of your love for God. Let your commitment be an act of trust in God. And let your commitment to God represent you.
A newspaper reported on the doings at the Butterball Turkey Talk Line. One adviser there says her favorite calls are those from people who leave their turkey out on the kitchen counter all night after the feast and want to know if it's safe to eat the next day. When told it's risky, they often respond, "If we do eat it, how sick will we get?"
But that is nothing compared to the caller who had a turkey that had been in her freezer for twenty-three years, and she wanted to know if it was still safe. The folks at Butterball advised her that if the freezer had been kept at zero degrees and never defrosted, the turkey was safe, but its quality would not be good. "That's what we thought", said the lady caller, "We'll give it to the church."
What will the quality of your commitment be? What are you setting aside for sacred service? The leftovers of your time and financial resources, a 23 year-old-turkey, or the first and the best that you have?
I've heard it said that there are three kinds of givers--the flint, the sponge, and the honeycomb. To get anything out of a flint you must hammer it. And then you get only chips and sparks. To get water out of a sponge you must squeeze it, and the more you use pressure, the more you will get. But the honeycomb just overflows with its own sweetness. The honeycomb is most like the giving of a leader in Christ's church.
Your giving of time and financial resources are as much an act of worship as are prayer, praise, and thanksgiving, for they, too, are based on and are expressions of your love for God. May God guide you on these next two weeks as you prayerfully consider what in your life you want to consecrate for Godís purposes. Amen.
May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.