Passage: 2 Corinthians 9:6-15
At Pender UMC Traditional Worship on Sunday, November 12, 2023 at 9:00 am, Pastor Bruce Johnson preached on “The Stewardship of Gifts” (2 Corinthians 9:6-15) . The Gospel Lesson was Matthew 25:14-30.
Heidi Jacobson, Pender’s pianist, opened the Traditional service with “Eternal_Father,_Strong_to_Save” as her prelude.
During the Traditional Worship service, Worship Leader Andy Kaye brought a solemn and respectful tone to the commemoration of Veterans Day weekend. He said, "Ladies and gentlemen, as we gather here on this sacred day, let us pause to remember that this weekend marks Veterans Day. It is a time for us to express our deepest gratitude to those who have recognized their lives as a divine gift, dedicated to a purpose far greater than themselves. These brave individuals have served for the betterment of our fellow citizens, our beloved country, and sometimes, they have courageously stood in defense of the defenseless. In this spirit of reverence and appreciation, I invite all veterans present to please stand. Let us take a moment to honor your valiant service and unwavering commitment to our nation and its values.
The congregation and choir, under the skilled direction of Patrick King and with the musical accompaniment of Heidi Jacobs, beautifully rendered a selection of hymns. These included "What Gift Can We Bring," a hymn expressing the offering of gratitude and love to God, "More Precious Than Silver," which celebrates the unsurpassable value of God's love, "Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated," a hymn of dedication to God's service, and "God Will Take Care of You," a reassuring hymn affirming God's constant care and protection.
Operation Christmas Child is a ministry led by Samaritan's Purse, known for distributing shoebox gifts to children globally as a symbol of God's love. Cherie Kronimus highlighted this initiative during a Moment for Ministry, where she recognized Pender's decade-long partnership with the program. These shoeboxes are more than just gifts; they serve as a medium to share the Gospel message with children, often leading to discipleship programs and the acceptance of Jesus Christ by many children and their families. Since 1993, over 209 million shoeboxes have been distributed worldwide.
Pender's involvement extends beyond mere participation; their partnership includes packing shoeboxes, financial contributions for shipping, praying for the children recipients, and collecting shoeboxes from the community. Recently, the New Horizons school, supported by Pender, also received these shoeboxes, merging different aspects of Pender's ministry.
As part of the ongoing effort, Pender members are encouraged to pack shoeboxes, donate for shipping costs, and pray for the spiritual journey of the children receiving these gifts. Supplies for packing are available, and the congregation is expected to return the packed boxes by the following Sunday. In recognition of their commitment and service, Pender received a plaque celebrating their 10-year partnership with Operation Christmas Child.
In the "Time with Children" segment of a service, Worship Leader Andy Kaye engaged with the children by discussing the Parable of the Talents. He explained this Biblical story and emphasized its application in everyday life, encouraging the children to help out at home and show kindness to others. This part of the service aimed to teach the children valuable lessons about responsibility and compassion, inspired by the Biblical parable.
Pastor Bruce Johnson's sermon, rooted in traditional Methodist beliefs, emphasized the transformational power of faith in God's provision and the call to generous stewardship. Drawing from 2 Corinthians 9, he illustrated how trusting in God changes our perspective on wealth and possessions, leading to joyful generosity. He shared a personal story of a friend's transformation from self-interest to selfless giving as a testament to God's work in our lives. Pastor Bruce highlighted the historical context of Paul's appeal to the Corinthians, urging them to assist the impoverished Christians in Jerusalem. This narrative served as an example of how our generosity reflects our faith and trust in God's abundance.
He delved into the concept of stewardship, not just in terms of monetary giving, but as a holistic approach to managing all of God's gifts, including time, talent, and treasure. Johnson recalled John Wesley's guidance to "Make all you can, save all you can, and give all you can," emphasizing the importance of balance in financial stewardship. The sermon concluded with a call to reflect on our relationship with money and to live as faithful stewards, trusting in God's generosity and grace.
During the Offertory Anthem, directed by Patrick King and accompanied on piano by Heidi Jacobs, the hymn "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus" was performed. During this anthem, Patrick King shared a personal testimony, reflecting on the profound impact of God in his life. He related his experience to the theme of the hymn, discussing the process of self-denial and commitment to God's path as emphasized in Luke 9 from the Bible. He drew a parallel with a character in the film "Wanted," who had to relinquish his self-identity to be accepted into a secret society, likening it to the Christian journey of forsaking one's old self to follow Jesus.
Patrick highlighted the transformative power of God in his own life, noting significant changes in his habits, preferences, and overall lifestyle since his early 20s. He stressed that following Jesus meant more than a verbal declaration; it required a complete lifestyle change and a full commitment to Christ. This involved not only giving up certain things but also a willingness to embrace all aspects of Christian living. Patrick's message was a call to consider the depth and sincerity of one's commitment to following Jesus.
Sunday marked the Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost.