30

June 2024

Jun

In Need and in Abundance

Open Your Heart

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B

If last week was about the call to open our hearts, this week is about putting your money where your mouth is. Or more accurately, where your heart is.

Wait. Shouldn’t this be saved for a stewardship sermon? Isn’t that usually when we read this text? And surely, we don’t want to talk about giving here in June, do we? Well, Paul does. And come to think of it, so does Jesus. He talked about money all the time. So, a summer stewardship sermon would not be a bad thing. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. What is Paul’s text here in the second letter to the Corinthians really all about?

Well, it is really about taking up a collection. That is undeniable. He is raising money to be sent back to Jerusalem to support the Mother Church, to care for the poor in the capital city. But for Paul, and Jesus, it was never simply about the money. Instead, how followers of Jesus lived out their generosity was a reflection of their faith. This is how Carla Works, New Testament Professor at Wesley Theological Seminary, puts it:

How believers use their resources — time, money, talents, and attention — is a reflection of what they believe about God and God’s actions in the world. Furthermore, how those resources are used preaches a message to others. Paul wants the Corinthians’ actions to be a reflection of the gospel in which they believe.

Carla Works, “Commentary on 2 Corinthians 8:7-5,” Working Preacher, https://www.workingpreacher.org/commentaries/revised-common-lectionary/ordinary-13-2/commentary-on-2-corinthians-87-15.

So, last week’s text was an invitation to not receive the grace of God in vain. This week, Paul provides a way to let that grace be seen in their lives and announced to the church as a whole. Besides, this is something they are already doing. In verses 10 and 11 of our text today, Paul points out that they are already doing this, already taking up this collection, so why not complete it? Why not see it through?

You can’t help but notice something that seems odd or maybe backward. Paul says to the Corinthian church that they “began … not only to do something but even to desire to do something” (2 Corinthians 8:10). Don’t we usually want to do something before we do something? Isn’t our doing a result of our wanting to do something? OK, maybe Paul isn’t talking about cause and effect, but about how grace works—or should work—or can work. We’re back to that open-heart thing. Paul wants us to give, but he wants our hearts in it too, not that the value of our giving is measured by the depth of our desire to give, but that grace is at work in us, evidently at work in us, when our desires match our actions. Paul commended them for their giving, but also for their wanting to give. And he is encouraging them to keep both of them going to the utmost.

Yes, he does recognize the limitations of resources. That’s what verse 13 is acknowledging. He is not asking them to bankrupt themselves, but to give what they can, a gift “according to what one has” (v.12). Then there is a hint that too much is too much. Your need in abundance is met by their need in lack. And maybe when the wheel turns and you are lacking, then their abundance will meet your need. Paul is asking for a relationship. We are one in the body of Christ. We share as one in the body of Christ. It's an ideal, we must admit. Yet we strive for it anytime we open our hearts. And whether we have more than enough or whether we are lacking, we find help and hope in the body, hope in the relationship within the community of faith to whom we have opened our hearts.


Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.

In This Series...


Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes

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In This Series...


Fifth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year B - Lectionary Planning Notes