Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Length of Your Legacy

Length of Your Legacy

How long will you be remembered?  I remember my Grandfather Guptill, we called him Da.  He passed away when I was 11.  I vaguely remember my mother’s grandfather, he passed away when I was seven, but we had moved overseas when I was five so those were my last recollections of Grampy Peter.  I never met my mother’s father, he was killed in an industrial accident when I was just a month old.

Often we live on in the memory of our children and grandchildren, but for most of us that will be it.  I don’t expect strangers to be talking about Denn Guptill seventy-five years from now, but there is a chance that my grand-daughters will remember me and their children. 

And I’m not sure if that is depressing or not.  It was Benjamin Franklin who said if you wanted to be remembered you would need to “Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”  And while I am published it’s doubtful that the Penn of Denn will ever be remembered as great literature.  Mark Twain defined a classic book as Classic: a book which people praise and don't read.”  So maybe the Penn is a classic.

This is week three of Money Month here at Cornerstone.  If you are new to Cornerstone this month is really for those who call Cornerstone their church home.  We do finances a little different at Cornerstone then most churches do, but it hasn’t always been that way.

For the first seven years of our life we struggled with our finances and really didn’t have a financial plan at Cornerstone.  We did write a budget each year, but it was more of a wish list then an actual budget.  As a leadership team we would sit down at the beginning of the new church year and draft our budget.  These are the things we need to spend money on, and here are the things that we’d like to spend money on.  And we felt that we were being fiscally responsible, but the budgets weren’t really based on solid data.  We didn’t actually know how much money we would receive and estimates were really guesses. 

So we would prepare a budget and present it to our annual meeting and it would be approved because. . .  it was the budget.

And then at some point in the year we would realize that we were under budget, usually on the income side, not the expense side.  So there would be suggestions, perhaps we should put our finances in the bulletin so people could see what was needed. But that usually was just depressing and wasn’t really the message you wanted to send to guests.

Then someone would suggest that maybe letters be sent out to everyone in the church and that Denn should preach on stewardship. And I have copies of those letters and those sermons, and the message always came across as a little desperate because no matter how you worded it the message was the same. . . “We need your money”.  And people just tuned out.  Those who were giving would dig a little deeper because it was a priority for them, and those who weren’t giving, very seldom started.
So in 2002 we made two major changes in how we would present and deal with our finances.  The first is that I would teach on stewardship and the theology of giving in April each year.  It is the end of our church year so it seemed like the best time.  Easter often falls in April so a lot of years that limits us to three Sundays, some years like this year you get four Sundays and when you are really lucky Easter falls in March and there are five Sundays in April.

So I’m not preaching on money because we are desperate or because there is a problem, but because it’s April.  And there are some folks who don’t come in April because they know what I’ll be preaching on, and that is their choice.

The second thing we do is to ask those who make Cornerstone their church home to estimate what they think they can give that year.  The last Sunday of April we hand out estimate of giving cards and ask, not tell, you to fill them out.  It is completely voluntary.  But you get to have a say in the budget, when you are filling out a card, or not filling out a card you are saying “This is the type of church I want Cornerstone to be. 

And we use that figure to determine our budget for the upcoming year.  And we feel that is the responsible way to do it.

This year our theme is “Your Legacy, Your Choice!”  And in week one I spoke about how Everybody leaves a legacy and that we leave a legacy with both our lives and our money.

Last week I spoke about how we have a legacy in the work that we do and what the bible had to say about our work.

This week my focus will be the length of your legacy, because while we understand that we all leave a legacy with our money, not all of those legacies have the same life span.

So let's look at a couple of different stories in the New Testament where giving actually impacted the lives of others.

One of my favourite stories in the gospels happened on the edge of the sea of Galilee.  The story is told in Matthew and Mark’s gospels.  A crowd has gathered to hear Jesus preach and the time has gotten away from them and suddenly the apostles realize that it is getting close to supper time and that people are starting to get hungry.  So they go to Jesus and tell him that it’s probably time to call it a day, that the people are going to have to head home to get something to eat. 

Jesus simply responds by saying “You feed them.”  Seriously?  Feed them what?  We pick up the story in Mark 6:37  But Jesus said, “You feed them.” “With what?” they asked. “We’d have to work for months to earn enough money to buy food for all these people!”  

And so Jesus tells them to go into the crowd and see what they can rustle up for supper.  And they come back with a boy who offers up five rolls and two fish.  The story is one of those one taught to us in Sunday School and VBS, Jesus takes this gift and uses it to feed the thousands of people who have come to hear him teach.

And there are all kinds of lessons wrapped up in the story.  The generosity of the little boy, God using this small gift in a miraculous way, the faith of the apostles as they began to pass out the food.  And 2000 years people are still talking about what happened that day. 

But here is the reality, as miraculous as that was the people were hungry again the next day.  So we discover that Some Gifts Last for a Day: 

And that does not negate what happened that day, people were hungry and Jesus met a need. 

But the need that was met was very base and very temporal.  It filled their bellies but that was it.   

We leave this type of legacy all the time, at least I hope we do.   We leave it when we give a homeless person a handout on the street or at a set of lights in the city.  And I know the arguments, that you are simply enabling them, or they will probably use your loonie to buy cigarettes or booze.  Maybe, and if they do that is a choice that they make, but whether I give them sometime or not is a choice I make.

When you bring your cans of chunky soup and evaporated milk on the first Sunday of the month and we donate that to feed Nova Scotia, that is making an impact and leaving a legacy, but only a very temporary one. 

But for the person whose food for that meal is a can of chunky soup that you went out and bought and then remembered to bring in on a Sunday, it is important.  As important as the tuna fish sandwiches were to the folks that Jesus fed.

This type of giving is so important that Jesus used it as an example when he spoke about what the day of judgment would be like. You might recall, or not, that in the last days Jesus says that humanity will be divided into two groups, a group on the right and a group on the left.  And to the group on his right he says Matthew 25:34-36  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.  For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.  I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

And when they asked “When did this happen, when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or naked or sick?”  He replies in Matthew 25:40  And the King will say, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”

If you google Loaves and Fishes before you get an entry about Christ’s miracle, you get hits about food banks with that name.

And it really doesn’t hurt us much to spend 5.00 to help someone, Jack London wrote “A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog.”

Twice a month when we provide the Monday meal at Ronald McDonald House, we are leaving a legacy for a day.  When families return to RMH from the Children’s hospital and there is a hot meal waiting that they didn’t have to cook or buy, that means something.  It may just be filling a temporary need but it is filling a need and making an impact.

I’m sure you are all familiar with the statement Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”,   it’s been attributed to many different people over the years including Maimoides who was a 12th century philosopher, but we really don’t know who actually said it the first time. 

Maimonides wrote about eight degrees in the duty of charity.  And he wrote this “ Lastly, the eighth and the most meritorious of all, is to anticipate charity by preventing poverty.” 
I guess that is like teaching them to fish. 

But some of our giving leaves a legacy that goes beyond a day.  The passage that was read this morning ends with these words, 2 Corinthians 8:14-15  Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this way, things will be equal.  As the Scriptures say, “Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough.”  

And it’s here we discover that Some Gifts Last for a Lifetime:  I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago.  Paul is addressing a serious problem in the early church.  Persecution had become a reality for the believers, especially in Jerusalem where it had been fanned into flames by the same religious leaders who had Christ crucified.  But more than that, the Roman authorities were starting to see Christians as a threat because of the growth of the church and their refusal to swear allegiance to Caesar.

Rome was fairly open to the various religions of the day, it really was live and let live.  But there was one condition that everybody had to live by, once a year they had to swear allegiance to the Emperor with words “Caesar is Lord.”  The only problem Christians refused to say that because to them it was blasphemy because for them only Jesus was Lord.

And believers in Jerusalem, because that was perceived to be the birthplace of the church, were suffering the most.  They were losing their jobs and their property,  sometimes being put in prison, sometimes losing their lives.  For many it wasn’t a matter of being unwilling to work it was being unable to work and the only reason they were able to survive was through the giving of other believers. 

We see that reflected in what we do with our Clean Water Project each Christmas where Cornerstone has provided clean water for over a dozen villages in Sierra Leone and Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In some ways it serves the same purpose as giving food but it goes so much further than that.  I am so passionate about clean water because of my teaching in West Africa and you can’t even comprehend the impact that clean water can make on the lives of people.

 Most people are now familiar with the Canadian charity “Me to We”  or “Free the Children”  when brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger first began their project they were funding education in Africa and they discovered that very few girls came to school.  Not because they weren’t permitted but because they were too busy carrying water.  And so they began providing clean sources of water along with schools and the difference was incredible.

Water provides so many life changing benefits, health, economic and educational.  It has a lifelong legacy.   By the way this is a picture of a well that we helped provided for a 175 bed hospital in Tandala in the DRC, and long after the sign is gone your giving will still be providing a legacy.

The present emphasis on refugee sponsorship in Canada has a similar legacy.  The difference in the lives of the families who come to Canada with the help of community groups like our own Kingswood Refugee Project will last for a lifetime. 

And I have mentioned before, that because people through the years have sacrificially given so that Cornerstone can exist we have had a life changing impact on individuals and families in our community.  Stories that you will never know about marriages that have been saved and children and teens who have been nudged away from bad decisions, addictions that have been overcome.  Those legacies go well beyond today, they last for a lifetime.

In the Gospels we often read accounts of Jesus healing people, and the ministry of healing continues into the book of Acts and beyond.  And I believe that even today that God heals people, but for all those who say that God always heals and all you need is enough faith let me share this with you: You are wrong!  And death proves that.

But for the person who has experienced a physical healing their life and their quality of life has been changed and they would often say it was a change for the best.  

But here is the reality of this point, people’s lives can be changed for the better.  They can be educated and healthy but still be far from God.  And while I truly believe that Jesus came so we could have better lives, abundant lives.  That’s not the main reason he came.  Because there are all kinds of organizations that help people have better lives but don’t prepare them for eternity.

Schools and service organizations help Feed Nova Scotia, other community groups assist with meals at Ronald McDonald House.  There are any number of well intentioned organizations who help provide clean water in the developing world and sponsor refugees.

But if we truly believe the word of Jesus than there is a legacy that lasts beyond our lifetime.  John 14:6  Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.    You understand what Jesus is saying there right, he’s not saying he is “a” way to God, he is saying he is “The” way to God.

And John 11:25-26  Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.  Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”

Another story from the Gospels, this one more toward the middle.  Often when we picture Christ and his disciples we see them making their way from town to town, teaching and healing those they came in contact with.  Some kind of care free existence somewhere between Peter Pan and the Lost Boys and Robin Hood and his Merry Men.    You almost expect them to break into song as they make their way through the country side. 

But from a practical stand point, how did they survive?  Think about it, thirteen guys walk everywhere they went they had to be hungry at the end of the day.  But we don’t see them working part time, or sitting on the corner with a sign, or doing the squeegee kid thing with Chariots stopping at the lights.  Oh I know every once in a while you see them fishing, or picking some grain as they walked along the road and that was fine when they were around Capernaum where Peter and Andrews fishing boat was, and the picking grain that was a snack not a meal. 

But in order for Jesus and his happy little band of followers to have ministered for three years around Israel someone had to be footing the bill, and there’s just one little mention in the bible to give us a clue as to what was happening.   Luke 8:1-3 Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.

Some Gifts Last for an Eternity: 

Plain and simple if these folks hadn’t been kicking in then Jesus and the 12 would not have been able to do what they did.  They were not only feeding 13 men their gifts were establishing a movement and leaving a legacy.

The gifts that were given by those folks 2000 years ago are directly responsible for your salvation.  Their legacy is you.

22 years ago this summer we moved back from Australia with the vision of a new church that we would be starting in Bedford.  We were partially funded by the district and denomination, but a significant portion of our funding came from individuals.  And that happened as I travelled across the district speaking wherever I could wangle an invitation.

And when I cast the vision for this church 22 years ago at Beulah Camp and around the churches on our district it wasn’t a vision to have another Wesleyan Church it was a vision to establish a church to help depopulate Hell.  And when people gave to that vision they weren’t giving so we could have another Wesleyan Church on the district, they were giving to a church that they’d probably never visit because they believed the vision, they gave so that people would meet Jesus.

And over the past 22 years marriages have been saved, and wells have been drilled and cans of soup have been collected, and that is fine and good.  But there will be people who will be in heaven and not in hell because this church was started.  And that is an eternal legacy.

And when we cast the vision for this building 12 years ago it wasn’t a vision to have a comfortable place to worship, it was a vision to help depopulate hell.  And because people sacrificially gave we have this building.

And there are people who started attending who would never have attended at the LeBrun centre who have stepped over the line of faith and there will be people who will be in heaven and not in hell because this church was built.

Three weeks ago a grade six student accepted Christ as their saviour and because of the teaching that happens in Jr. Church and Children’s church children embrace the reality of Christ and his grace and that is because folks at Cornerstone give so that we can have a pastors who focus on children and youth. And that is an eternal legacy.

We don’t give at Cornerstone simply to keep the lights on and the doors open we give to to help depopulate hell.  And that is an eternal legacy.

Next week at the end of the service we will distribute estimate of giving cards, they look like this.  And we will ask that each family who makes Cornerstone their church home prayerfully consider what they will be able to give in the upcoming year.  And you will have the opportunity to say, “This is the kind of church we’d like Cornerstone to be.”  And each of you will have a hand in shaping our legacy.

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