On Sunday, September 29, 2013, I was privileged to have been asked to speak at Raleigh Moravian Church. The text of that talk follows:
Good morning and thank you for inviting me back to your delightful church.
On behalf of the Trustees – including your own Keith Kapp who serves on the Moravian Ministries Foundation Board – and along with the staff of the Foundation – I bring you warm greetings.
Today, I want to briefly talk about two words we at the Foundation have spent considerable time discussing – Gratitude and Generosity.
If I had a magic wand, I would use it to rid the word “Stewardship” from the church dictionary as it relates to encouraging your support for the ministries of the Church. It is, quite frankly, the wrong word in my judgment.
Why are Gratitude and Generosity better than stewardship? It all begins with the origins of our faith as Christians.
The good Lord gave us Jesus. But not only did he give us his Son – his Son gave us a new way of thinking and believing. When Christ told his followers “Love one another as God loves you”, what I believe he was saying is – Humbly, but with conviction, share the blessing of my generous love with each other and with the world we live.
But God not only gave us Jesus and a new commandment to love one another, he sacrificed his son on the cross – for us.
These weren’t symbols of stewardship – they were and remain THE premier acts of generosity. God didn’t have to do any of this – He simply did it because it was right and good, and because he loves us.
So the question before us is profound and distinguishes Christians from others. It goes:
How will we – each one of us, and this faith community - respond to God’s perpetual, everlasting and always loving generosity?
Please keep in mind and despite what many tv evangelists say, God didn’t do all these things because he expected, wanted, or needed a quid pro quo. He gave us these gifts because he loves us! It is unconditional!
We are also under NO OBLIGATION to respond. Why? Because God also gave us another gift - free will. The right to choose good or bad and doing good or doing evil.
Most people I know who are followers of Christ wrestle with discerning our response to these incredible acts of God’s generosity. Some of us do mission work in our communities or on the international stage…some of us volunteer at church…some of us struggle to make a joyful noise…and others simply pray.
God did not give us a 5-step plan for gratitude and generosity, which if done properly, will open the gates of Heaven when we die.
But in the letters of James we are told “faith without good work is death.” Or, as I prefer to say – the word Faith is a verb. It is a call to action and responsibility.
So what is our response? I really can’t say what the prescription is; however, the two pillars in our response must involve Gratitude and Generosity.
From our little corner of the church world, there is one thing every single person and member of this congregation can do: Remember RMC in your estate plan and support the ministries this faith community celebrates. In other words, leave something behind that will help others carry out the work of this wonderful faith community in perpetuity.
You and I – every one of us, regardless of our lot in life - have an estate – it is all the “stuff” we own – from our grandmother’s favorite china, to our furnishings, our home, our car, our savings and our investments – it is EVERYTHING we own! While my stuff might not be worth as much as your stuff and your stuff might not be worth as much as that of the person sitting next to you – we all have an estate and we have to do something with it when we die.
Raleigh MC is not asking you to give everything you have to the Church, although some may do so. RMC is only asking you to leave what you feel you can to the ministries of the Church that touch your heart - in your estate plan.
In the RMC GiftLegacy brochure you received in the mail, some of these needs are described. Think about which of these ministries speak to you and consider a bequest.
Remember, when you make a gift to RMC it will help the Church for generations. It will be wisely invested and cared for. The Church will and must follow your wishes – because it is just and right to do so. And while you may not want recognition, consider that in 50, 100, and 200 years from now, you will continue to help the Church that means so much to you, in so many ways – What a wonderful act of generosity and gratitude!
The Foundation can and is prepared to help you. Our services are free and confidential. We are not selling you anything. Our job is to simply help you accomplish your charitable goals: nothing more, nothing less. And we have tools available that can help you and your family in other ways as well.
In closing, as I said earlier we are trying to refrain from using the word stewardship in our work. What we hope is that you will express your gratitude and generosity by INVESTING WHERE YOU BELIEVE – Raleigh Moravian Church.
And after living a life of gratitude, a final act should involve what you generously leave behind to others. No one leaves this life with any of our possessions or wealth.
Thank you for your time this morning. I will be around after Church if you have any questions. I am also delighted to visit with you privately.
And God bless you all.