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Sharing in Abundance

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 (New Revised Standard Version)

"The point is this: the one who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and the one who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work."

Several members of the congregation from both the 8 am and 10 am services have contributed their reflections on the above passage from 2 Corinthians as they consider their commitments to St. John's of their time, talent and treasure for the coming year.  We hope their words add to your own prayerful decisions, now and in the future.

 

From Kevin Jones

When attempting to wrap my head around what it means to act out of abundance and not scarcity, I use "love" as my model.  

I have faith that God's love for me is unconditional and never-ending.  It is the cornerstone of my belief.  I consider love as the greatest of God's gifts.  I believe that God's love for me is limitless; it does not get used up.  And somewhere within myself I believe that I carry an abundance of love. Loving more will never exhaust my capacity to love.  In fact, I believe that the love that I put out into the universe will come back to me multiplied.  And yet, I often catch myself behaving as if my love is some type of scarce resource.  

How even more difficult it is to challenge myself to have faith that all of God's gifts to me will be enough.  It is more difficult for me to consider those things that I can readily measure — my time, my money — not only as blessings that come from God's love for me, but like God's love for me, will always be in abundance when I employ those gifts in God's service.  It is a struggle for me to let go of the fear that I will not have enough.

I do not believe that stewardship is supposed to be easy. We are asked to "give as (we) have made up (our) mind".  That suggests to me a process of prayer and thoughtful intention.  Of struggle. Of challenging myself to give as if I were not afraid.  Of committing to an intentional and sacrificial use of God's gifts to me.  I pray that my stewardship decision is one that allows for cheerful generosity in knowing that I have given from a place of faith and abundance, and that what I contribute to St. John's in time, talent and treasure is a reflection of my love for the work that we do in God's service.

 

From Connie Prim

When I came to the realization that God provides blessings in abundance, providing all that I need, I found myself feeling freer to give.   Coming to the acceptance that I have enough seemed to turn my thinking around. It is always amazing to witness someone whom I might have thought had nothing; turn to someone and offer help physically, emotionally or monetarily.  It is just as heartwarming to see those who have an overabundance share the gifts they have been given; instead of holding on to what they have.

About 40 years ago I was fortunate enough to attend a Cursillo.  It is a three-day course in Christianity.  Through that three-day experience, being away from “the world”, one of the things I learned was the true beauty and joy of giving without expecting anything in return.  By doing something for someone or giving to someone purely because of God’s love is healing.  Not looking for recognition, but just giving with love is wonderful.   Being behind the scenes, doing a favor, or giving a gift without being found out can truly lift your spirit.   I found by serving, supporting, or working on a project with someone opened up my whole world. 

Being a part of St John’s growth has been wonderful to experience.  A Christian community at work – each individual sharing their different gifts has made us strong and successful.  Here all parts are working for a common good.  What a privilege to be involved and reap in the joy that abounds.  We are becoming a beacon of Christ’s light to those around us.  Like the Phoenix who rises from the ashes; so have we. Being grateful for what we have and sharing our time, talent and treasure keeps our community strong.

Since coming to this community I have had times I could not give monetarily. One Stewardship season we were having a hard time financially, as my husband was on disability.  So I checked the “time” box that year.  I joined the bread making team and the Vestry.  And as I gave my time it turned out my life was enriched.  Now as my life has more abundance I am grateful to be able to also give some of my treasure to help as St. John’s continues to grow.

 

From Suzanne Gray

“God loves a cheerful giver.”  Love and discernment came to mind when this phrase called to me in this reading.   How often have I given out of a sense of what I thought was expected of me and by a sense of obligation when asked?   What I have come to experience in my three and a half years at St. John’s is the beauty of giving thoughtfully and freely, without a need of return.  In doing that, it creates a venue by which God can speak through us by giving the receiver a sense of God’s abundance.  God’s love made visible.

At St. John’s, I don’t know exactly what’s being given and what’s being got, because it feels like there is synchronicity in sharing the spirit in every shape and form here.   When I come to rehearse each week to prepare for the 8 a.m. service, I sometimes come tired, but that time sharing sacred music always lifts me in inexplicable ways.   The same is true as cantor at Taize.

When I was asked to lead at Julian’s Way, I felt unqualified, and yet when I realized who would be a receiver of my giving and how I could stretch myself, it never ceased to amaze me how deeply we continue to find deep spirit as a gathering there.   And the services, every way in which I bring myself and allow myself to be part of it from beginning to end, with generosity, whether I’m singing, praying, listening, tithing, kneeling, greeting, and reading; my cheerful, giving spirit is answered a thousand fold. 

 

From Nancy Bosch

What stood out in our reading is "God loves a Cheerful Giver." I feel better when I give. I feel blessed and grateful to be able to be in a position to give. It makes me happy. It is a form of happiness that involves feeling satisfied and complete from putting my energy into our beloved St. John's which for me is the just the right place.

St. John's is a sacred space to me where I love to give my time and energy and leave my troubles behind. St. John's is where I know I belong and will be worshipping for the rest of my life. Therefore I want to give of my time, energy and resources to make this beautiful worship experience possible for myself, and my family, but for many people to come. 

Giving of my time involves my surrendering my ingrained limiting beliefs about what I am capable of and it also involves trusting that God will provide me with the energy and resources needed for whatever task is at hand. It has been my experience that when I've fully committed in service at St. John's, God gives me energy, insights and resources that I could not explain where they have come from, except to say it feels like being blessed beyond belief...day after day after day.

When we were regaining the church and getting reestablished, I gave countless hours of time along with many committed others for several years. During that time I ignored my business and put St. John's first. Despite this, my business  has grown beyond what I am now able to handle by myself. I have taken on an associate appraiser for jewelry and I have had to hire people to assist me in several aspects of my work. So while I was ignoring my business, God was building it up. During what for many has been a huge economic downturn, I have experienced the exact opposite. There is no logical explanation for this. To my mind this is the exact opposite of how you are supposed to build a business. I feel I have received "Blessings in Abundance" for which there is no explanation but to have been deeply blessed by God.

 

From Tom Rotella

Dear Lord, 

You have so blessed my life with love, abundance and grace.   My heart spills over with gratitude.   You have walked with me from the beginning.   You prop me up when I fall; you comfort me when life presents its most difficult challenges.    You are steadfast in your love for me.   As I walk my personal road to Emmaus , you reveal yourself to me as my companion just as you revealed yourself to your apostles so very long ago. 

You, Lord, knew that I needed a spiritual home and so you brought me to the Episcopal Church.    In each location I have lived for the past 25 years, you saw to it that I had a loving, welcoming church in which to worship.  This is no less true in Petaluma.   St. John’s  is that outstretched hand  I was looking for.   The people of St. John’s have welcomed me so graciously.   It is essential  that I try, in my own way, to insure that the mission of this church is fulfilled.    I gladly make my pledge of resources and talent to St. John’s  so the clergy and congregation can continue to be your body  in this world.   If there was no St. John’s, how diminished our lives would be.  Thank you, Lord, for bringing me to this special place at this time in my life.

 

From Kathryn Hardt

In December 2011 I attended the St. John’s Christmas Eve service.  I had lost all my belongings due to domestic violence. I felt that I had very little to give to St. John’s and God. I barely had enough money to feed myself and pay my rent.

I prayed about it and I felt a very strong compassion for my new found friends and St. John’s. I promised God and myself that no matter what I would give X amount of dollars each week.

I had a few precious seeds to sew. I would trust in God. The first was a dollar amount in the plate each week. The second was my calling that I fulfilled to become a Eucharistic Minister for St. John’s. I was serving the lord and the congregation, but what I received was a beautiful, unspoken bond from each parishioner who came to the altar to receive the cup, the blood of Christ. God was doing all this for me. The third seed was to plant my faith and love of Christ in committing to serve as a vestry member. I wanted to share my belief and devotion to God through serving the church. The final seed I held was one of commitment. I wanted it to grow the light and life that I see every day in the faces and actions of St. John’s parishioners, especially Fr. Daniel. This seed was planted to create more awareness of St. John’s joy, love and energy that all of you can share and project to the community.  As just one example of Outreach we are developing a partnership with COTS.

By deciding how and what to give from my heart, God has abundantly blessed me. When I moved here I was alone and isolated, now I have a wonderful extended family.  God has given me small miracles that I never would have expected.  I gave from faith and belief, what I sewed I have received back 10 fold, in the form of abundant blessings. 

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