Scripture II Corinthians 9:8-12 [NRSV] “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. As it is written, “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.”
Message ”Multiply the Fruits of Righteousness” Rev. Renfrew
On Wednesday Connie was telling me that she’s been having trouble finding enough jars in her house. We have two from each of you today, four next week, and eight on October 31st. But so many things come in paper or plastic containers these days. If you have a similar problem finding jars, don’t worry you can get them back, but it might help if you put a sticker on the bottom of the jar with your name. And remember, the woman Elisha was helping ran from door to door in her villages looking for anything that would work, so this morning we have mason jars, jelly jars, ketchup bottles, cookie jars, pill bottles whatever works to receive from the abundance of God in a time of need. Maybe you need to ask some other people for jars, too?
Think of the poor woman going door to door looking for jars from her neighbors. It wasn’t a project, it wasn’t a program, it was all about her need. And she asked, begged, pleaded for help, because the life of her family was on the line. No jars and she is lost. Jars, lots of jars, and her family will live and thrive. “Um, you wouldn’t have any spare jars lying around, would you?” vs. “I need every jar I can find right now! God is about to do something, big or small, it doesn’t matter!”
I participated in a Zoom conversation about evangelism this past week, and the emphasis was on everyone having their own story to tell. Someone suggested, maybe it was me, that we need to train skills for evangelism, but the main speakers were insistent, “there’s no training for evangelism, just encourage people to tell their stories!” Amen to that. And how blessed we were to hear Kirby’s story.
In the language of today’s reading from II Corinthians, these stories become the harvest of righteousness in which the blessings of our lives are multiplied. And those two should be preaching this morning instead of me: “With each blessing comes responsibility, and with multiple blessings comes exponential responsibility.” You have to love testimony that somehow includes the word “exponential”.
What makes a church healthy and vital is that we have lots of stories to tell, about jars, oil, and everything else in our lives in which God’s multiplication is at work. We can practice our stories with each other every Sunday and all of the days in-between. Evangelism begins with simple phrases like, “What’s your story?” or “Here’s my story”. Some stories are incredible, like Moses saying, “let me tell you about the time when God parted the waters of the sea so we could escape a life of slavery by waling safely on dry ground to the other side”.
Or Andrew the disciple describing the day that 5000 people were fed, “Jesus took the bread and the fish and people started passing it along, and everyone was fed!”. Wow, that’s a story! But most stories about abundance, harvest and multiplication are smaller in scale. Everyone saw the waters of the sea parted, everyone saw the crowd being fed, but most of our stories are known only to ourselves. But they are just as important. Why? Because they happened to you. You’re the best eyewitness. You’re the best evangelist.
One way to fill these jars to overflowing is with your own stories about what God has been doing in your life. So many stories that they overflow over the brim and spill into the lives of many others. Kirby even makes the point that the blessings don’t just happen to spill over the brim into the lives of others, that it is our responsibility, multiple blessings mean multiple sharings.
This is the harvest of righteousness, that Paul refers to in his letter to the Corinthians. This is the life of a vital congregation, your story about Jesus and what he multiplied for you. Was it food, children and grandchildren? Was it love, was it healing, was it hope, was it peace?
We watch a PBS program “Knowing Your Roots”, that helps people explore their ancestry, sometimes going back hundreds of years. Invariably, when the people receiving the report about the amazing adventures and challenges faced by their grandparents are asked if they had ever known these stories the response is, “Nope we never heard anything about this”. So I’m beginning to think that while telling our stories is vital in the life of a church it may be even more vital in the life of your family. Have you talked about the story of your faith in Christ with your children or grandchildren? How will they really know who you are and what God means to you? My challenge to all of us, is keep telling your children and grandchildren the amazing stories of your faith journeys. The harvest of righteousness, tell a story, listen to a story, it’s that simple.