Text: Deuteronomy 15:7-11; 2 Corinthians 8:1-9, 13-15; Mark 5:22-24,35b-43

Theme: Receiving God’s grace and sharing it

Subject: generosity with our faith

Title: A debt we cannot repay

I’m always amazed by the familiarity of scripture… the way people are portrayed and behave. If anything argues for the fact that scripture is relevant for us today, it’s that we still act in the same way. We may have our own little quirks, but for the most part people are people whether they lived 1 or 3 or 5 thousand years ago.

Just think about our readings today and what they deal with.

In the Old Testament Moses is laying down loan regulations and in the New Testament Paul… a preacher… is trying to take up a collection.

And people say scripture’s no longer relevant?

And our Gospel reading … who here today wouldn’t do whatever it might take to get help for their sick child?

When you get right down to it, not much has changed in the last 2000 years.

In our New Testament reading, Paul is trying to explain God’s fairness to the Corinthians, to help them understand how to rely on God, and through that reliance, find a way to be generous. He wants them to know that with God, “the one who [has] much [will] not have too much, and the one who [has] little [will] not have too little.”

He wants to assure the Corinthians, who come from a wealthy area, that if they are generous now, they can expect because of God’s fairness, to receive help when they need it…

Pauls’ not above a little goading either, as he makes sure the Corinthians know just how generous the Macedonians have been. Now, to the Corinthians, cosmopolitan people that they were, being outshone by the Macedonians, a bunch of hill-billies, would have been unthinkable, and the possibility was probably very motivating. I’m sure Paul knew about their prejudices when he told the Corinthians about what the Macedonians had done, but I also believe that he knew it would also inspire them in their faith.

“We want you to know, Brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Macedonia.”

“We want you to know about the grace of God…”

What is it that Paul is talking about?

What is the grace of God?

We get an inkling of it in the Old Testament, with Moses’ admonition not to refuse aid to a neighbor based upon their ability to repay, and in the reference to “the 7th year” the year of remission, a time set aside in ancient Israel in which all debts would be set aside and lands would return to the families they originally belonged to. This was a foreshadowing, a foretaste of what was to come with Jesus Christ.

If there’s one thing the Apostle Paul who calls himself chief among sinners, understood it’s the grace of God revealed in Jesus Christ.

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Paul is writing after the events that take place in our Gospel lesson, after the healing of Jairus’ daughter, after the ascension of Jesus Christ and all the other events in the Gospels and in Acts, most importantly for Paul’s life, after our Lord appeared to him on the Damascus Road.

What he wants his friends in the Church at Corinth to understand, what he believes the Macedonians have accepted, is the impact of Jesus Christ on their lives. Paul knows the Jesus who cares so deeply that he not only provides the big things—the exorcisms, the healings, bringing people back from the dead—but who also provides for the most intimate needs of his followers, the God who after bringing a child back to life, doesn’t stop with the grand gesture but tells the people to give the little girl something to eat.

Paul wants his listeners in the Corinthian Church not just to understand that the Macedonians had been incredibly generous…He wants them to understand something much more important…

Paul wants them to understand why they have been so generous…

Where did their generosity come from? Paul tells us it overflowed from their “abundant joy and extreme poverty…”

What kind of joy when mixed with extreme poverty can lead to such an effort on the part of the Macedonians?

Paul tells us that the Macedonians “gave themselves first to the Lord…” The Lord Jesus who, he explains, in a generous act “though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.”

What does this mean? What does it mean to say that Jesus became poor so that we might become rich?

It is one of Paul’s summaries of the entire Gospel message—that God became one of us in Jesus Christ… that God allowed himself to take on the form of a boy child in a manger, in the straw, in the dirt and that when he grew up he didn’t keep himself separated from everyone. Instead he went out, and taught, healed people, fed people, and held nothing back, finally going to a cross for the sins of the whole world, for you and for me.

If we want to come to the foot of the cross and receive the grace Jesus offers us there, then we need to be like Jairus, who came to Jesus and forgot his pride as a leader of the synagogue when confronted with something he couldn’t deal with on his own, when there was a circumstance he couldn’t fix, when he wasn’t in control, and he couldn’t fool himself or pretend any longer.

His daughter was dying…I think we can understand his desperation.. his baby, 12 years old, was dying. I’d say a lot fewer of us would be willing to give up on our pride for ourselves, and our own life. We want to be in control, and as much as we may wish we could control others we learn quickly in life that we really can’t. But the illusion of control over our own lives is much more deeply rooted, and it takes a lot more to over come it.

In dealing with our pride, our desire to control our own lives, the first step is in recognizing how little we can control… how many things in this world are beyond us. And then, like the faithful before us, we need to accept our dependence upon God, learning that he cares for every one of us… that he loves us so intimately that he gave himself up and died for us, and now lives ready to heal and restore us.

Just as, in his grace, Jesus thought of feeding the little girl, so he feeds us, in this bread and wine that we are about to receive—in fact, in all the food that we receive, in the air that we breathe and the water that we drink. This is the reality we try to express during the offertory (at the 8 o’clock) when we say “All things come from thee O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee.” There’s nothing that we can give God that he does not already own or deserve.

It’s good for us that God forgives debts…because how do you pay God back for what he has done, for giving us a world and when we fell away from him for giving us a chance to come back—a clean slate, bought at the price of his own blood. How do you pay Jesus back for the cross?

You don’t… only come, receive this sacrament, receive and recommit yourself to Jesus Christ and be transformed by his love and grace. Let Christ touch you… if you have felt him moving in your life… leave here today and tell someone about him, about how much you owe to the man called Jesus… to God who became one of us and paid a price we can never repay.

So be generous with your time… be generous with your talents, be generous with your money…. But most of all be generous with your testimony, with your witness to what Christ has done and is doing in your life. Without that testimony, without that knowledge of him, there’s no way we’ll be able to keep it up—but with it… with it, we can put even the Macedonians to shame.

“We want you to know, brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to the churches of Winchester…”

“We want you to know brothers and sisters, about the grace of God that has been granted to…. Trinity, to ______”

If we want people to know about the Grace of God at work here at Trinity or in our own hearts and lives, then we need to tell them…

“We want you to know about the grace of God…” Amen.