Once upon a time, not so very long ago, there was a friendly congregation perched on a hill. The congregation was small, but mighty. The congregation worshipped faithfully with singing, music, celebration, and sometimes, thankfully not often… even dance. The congregation was kind. It tried hard to live as God wanted it to—helping the poor and hungry, visiting shut-ins, caring for the earth, and sharing the word. God blessed the congregation! He heard their prayers. His Hand was at work on the hill, and He was always present. God loved the plucky, little congregation on the hill. He cared for them, and watched over them (even when they didn’t notice).
Though the congregation was blessed, and God was with them, some in the congregation were afraid. They were afraid that there was not enough money. They were scared they could not pay the bills. They were scared that the church could be lost. They were afraid. They were human. They decided to share their fears with the other members of the congregation. The solution seemed simple. If everyone gave more, then the bills would be paid and the church would be saved. Everyone was asked to think about what they were giving, and to consider giving more. If more was given the congregation could be “self-reliant,” and meet its financial obligations. Some in the congregation became afraid too. Some increased their giving. Some were upset because they felt that they were giving enough, and didn’t know if they could give more. Some had heard this kind of news before and decided to do nothing, and then the problem would go away.
God spoke to the congregation. He spoke often to the congregation, though sometimes when they were scared, or busy doing human things, they weren’t able to listen. It just so happened that God spoke to the congregation on the day that the financial worries were shared with the congregation (July 29). He spoke in the readings that were part of worship that day. First in 2 Kings 4:42-44 ,in which a man brought food as part of the first fruits to the man of God, but then was afraid that there would not be enough for everyone, but there was enough for all-- with more left over. In Paul’s prayer to the Ephesians (Ephesians 3: 14-21), Paul prayed that they would “come to know the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge” and through the power of God’s love, at work within them realize that they are able to “abundantly accomplish far more than (they could) … ask or imagine.” Paul prayed for the Ephesians (and us) to be strengthened with the power of the Holy Spirit, and prays that Christ would dwell in our hearts through faith. The gospel again talked about God ensuring that there is enough for all in the story of the feeding of the 5,000 with loaves and fishes. With faith there was enough for all as Christ fed and cared for the multitude. God does amazing things with, through, and for us! God will provide!
It is difficult for us to discern the will of God, and to listen to what he is saying to us. It is difficult to be humble. It is difficult to feel dependent. It is human to try to take care of things, to be independent, and to try to be in control. The message contained in the readings was that God loves us. Our offerings to God given with love are enough, and that we are called to give our first fruits in proportion to what we receive to God. God will provide what we need. We can accomplish great things when we work with God…when we surrender ourselves to His will, and when we are faithful. We need not be afraid. We are human with human failings. We do become afraid. We think we are in charge. We try to control what is not in our control. We need to remember to “give it to God.” God will take care of us.
The little congregation on the hill continued to grow in its faith. It put aside its fears. The people prayed. They studied the Word. They counted their blessings, and came to realize that everything that they had had come from God. They gave joyfully and generously with happy hearts, and did not worry if it was enough. They did not worry if there was enough because they knew that God would provide more than what was needed. The little congregation shared their bounty with the people in the surrounding community, and the world. They did God’s work with their hands. They grew in faith. The plucky little congregation knew that God loved them. When they became afraid (which humans do on occasion) they turned to God. They prayed, celebrated, laughed, sang, danced, and put their trust in God. Together with God, the friendly congregation accomplished things that had been previously unimaginable.