2 Corinthians 8:7-15; Mark 5:21-43

There was a woman who had nothing. She had spent everything she had in the battle against a chronic illness, and now she was “bled dry” in every way but the one that really mattered. She’d gone down every dead-end street on the way from sickness to health, and finally she reached out to grab one more hope as it walked by. I know this woman. She’s come to my office – many times, in many different forms – seeking one last possible helper.

One thing I love about serving Christ with you here is the chance to give away your money. Now, I wish I didn’t need to do it; I long for the day when there are no more impoverished people who need us to stand in the gap between them and an empty cupboard, an empty gas tank, or a night without shelter. In the meantime, however, I love that you allow me to give people tangible help with your gifts to the Deacons’ emergency fund.

The most incredible piece of this is that I’ve never had to ask whether there’s money there to spend. We’ve never worried about the emergency fund when our perennial budget crunches have come around. I know that part of this is that we deliberately exclude the Deacons fund from our regular cash flow reports, but the fact that we go along with that says something. It’s almost like we think there will be enough for these emergency assistance requests even when there are other unmet needs in the church’s fiscal life. My contention, of course, is that there is in fact enough, but that’s not exactly obvious, is it?

Today’s reading from Mark’s gospel is about exactly that issue, the question of whether there’s enough for everyone. Jesus is on his way to care for the “right” person, a sympathetic preteen girl with a high-status, influential father, when one of the “wrong” people interrupts his errand to steal the poor girl’s healing. Jesus feels the power go out of him, the very same power he was going to use to heal Jairus’ daughter. It looks like the woman steals this little girl’s very life: if Jesus hadn’t stopped to have this conversation, perhaps he would have gotten home with Jairus in time. Instead, he’s interrupted a second time by the report that the girl has died. It’s then that Mark answers the question for good. Jesus walks on, through the mourning and mocking at the little girl’s front door, and invites her to get up again. It turns out that there is enough after all. Jesus has enough for both the poor, broken, unclean woman and the privileged daughter who represents the future of the nation.

The life of Jesus promises us that there really is enough. The Gospel is a story of God coming into this world that we so often define in terms of shortage, lack, and trade-offs, and opening for us a better way. Jesus lived as if there were enough, and he channeled the abundance that was already there. Then he gave his followers the Spirit of communion – that is, sharing – so they could continue to create this abundance.

That’s what Paul calls the Corinthian church to do. He invites them, and us, to try on a way of mutual sharing where human generosity and love transform life from a world of shortage to a world of plenty. And if you missed that point in his letter, he gives us this great scriptural quotation: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.” This may well be my favorite use of Scripture in all of Paul’s letters. He’s comparing a habit of sharing with each other to the manna God gave in the wilderness. That is to say, our sharing with each other – human stuff – is in fact God’s amazing gift to the world.

It’s true. Giving creates real abundance where other people’s needs can be met, and giving also opens our eyes to the abundance that is there. You’ve noticed, perhaps, how giving something away makes you more aware of what you have? Making giving into a habit tends to make us consistently more and more aware of that abundance.

Incidentally, that’s what the practice of tithing -giving 10% of your income to God’s work – is about. It’s not that 10% is a sacred number, some kind of litmus test for real stewardship. I think 10% was named because it’s an amount that’s achievable for most all of us, but it’s also an amount that’s big enough to notice. I think we’re supposed to notice that we’re giving something and then realize how our blessings seem to increase. And that also goes for those of us who, like me, aren’t at 10% yet. Whatever the amount, giving something away routinely is a way to acknowledge that God gives us enough.

It makes me wonder… what if we made it our first priority here to give things away? What if the session sat down every month to look at the financial statement and asked, “How can we get rid of all this money?” before we worried about paying the building upkeep or the pastor’s salary? Do you suppose we’d run out of money for that other stuff?

I don’t think so. Instead, I think it would make us realize just how much we’ve always had to work with. We have this beautiful and uplifting facility that we could make even more welcoming and utilize more aggressively. We have a congregational spirit of welcome and openness, with the capacity to take each other seriously and hold each other meaningfully accountable. We inherit a theological tradition of thoughtful and world-aware reflection that gives us eyes to see God’s people in need wherever and however they might present themselves. Giving ourselves away is a great way to see all these blessings.

Giving ourselves away, with trust in God, always gives us a new sense of how plentiful and constant God’s provision is. So may we have the grace to trust, respond, and see that blessing again.

Amen.

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