One of the great things about posting these months later is that I get to go back and read what I wrote and gahhhhh – I needed to read this today. I think I understand my own words now more than I did back in July. <3
Rehoboth Congregational Church
July 1, 2018
2 Corinthians 8:7-15
Finding Balance In The Seasons
One of the things that was really hard for me when Harrison was born, particularly after I went back to work, was adjusting to this new normal when it came to everyday life. Bruce and I had been married for eight years; I had been in ministry for six years. We had our routines when it came to how we organized our schedules and approached our jobs and spent our money and visited with our family and friends. When Harrison was born, we entered a new season of life, one where we had to coordinate our schedules a little bit better, monitor our money more closely and give up some of the extracurricular activities that we were used to doing.
And that was hard, not because I/we did not want to do it, but because it was hard to actually do it. Change is hard; finding a new balance is hard; figuring out where you and your ability to give of yourself fits into your current season of life is not always easy.
While this was not really what Paul was talking about in this morning’s scripture reading (I am pretty sure Paul was not concerned about childcare, although he could have just left that part out), I did feel an odd kinship when Paul wrote in verse 13, “I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need.” Because isn’t that is what life is all about? Finding a balance between our abundances and our needs and then balancing those abundances and needs with the abundances and the needs of others as we all journey through the different seasons of life?
Our scripture reading for this morning comes from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. You may remember from last week that I said one of the theories as to why Paul wrote this letter was an attempt to raise money in Corinth. The passage we just heard lends credence to that theory. Paul wrote, “Now as you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you – so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.”
In other words: Corinth, church, you are really good at a lot of things. But I also want you to be really good at giving us money.
(Which, by the way, is a pretty genius stewardship technique, so I would caution you all come November if I start a sermon by listing off all of your accomplishments.)
For Paul, this was not just about raising money specifically for the church in Corinth. He was trying to raise money for the “mother church” in Jerusalem, which did not have a lot of money. The Corinthian community was quite a bit wealthier and had the potential to sustain, not only their church, but also other churches Paul had relationships with. Paul was soliciting the Corinthians to give money to both their church and also other churches, as well.
The question, of course, was, were they willing to do that?
Here’s the thing: I think more than just saying that because the Corinthians had more money, they should give more money, Paul was also simply saying that the Corinthians were in a different season in the life of their community and therefore had they had the ability to give in a way that, perhaps, the other churches could not. The Corinthians had an abundance; and so because they had an abundance and others had a need, they should give of some of that abundance.
The Corinthians were in a season of life where they were able to give more.
And so that was what Paul called them to do.
“I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need.” Was Paul talking about money? Yes. But let’s think about it even more broadly than that.
I used to have an abundance of time and energy (and flexibility in those things). I prided myself on being able to work around other peoples’ schedules and still get done what I needed to get done. But when Harrison was born, some of that abundance went away and suddenly I had a real need for time and energy (and patience and money and knowledge and, more often than not, a shower). I even preached a sermon about this new need in August – my second sermon back from maternity leave – where I talked about how we need to lean on God as we travel unfamiliar paths.
And what I have found over the past year is that sometimes leaning on God means leaning on the Body of Christ. Sometimes leaning of God looks an awful lot like leaning on the people around you who are in a season of life where they have an abundance and can give of that abundance in the spirit of God’s love. Over the past year, Bruce and I have been blessed by people who have shown up to babysit, feed us and help us around the house(s). We have been humbled by everyone’s flexibility and their grace when we are overwhelmed and fall short. We are so grateful for the generosity of others who have given of their abundance to us in our season of need.
Because that is what it is – a season.
I have thought a lot lately about how I can somehow pay people back for all they have given to me in this season of life and the conclusion that I have come to – partially as a result of reading this scripture – is that that the reason the Body of Christ works is because we are all notin the same season of life at the same time. The reason the Body of Christ is so beautifully and gracefully effective is because, at different times, we are able to play different roles for another, to be there for one another, to give of our abundance to others in their times of need.
This is why the church functions. Because at different points throughout all of our journeys, we all play different roles. There are moments in our lives when we have extra time to give to the church. There are moments in our lives when we have extra money to give to the church. There are moments in our lives when we have extra wisdom or services to give to the church.
And there are moments in our lives when we need the church to meet us in our time of need.
Ministry is not about doing all the things all the time, it is about finding balance in these difference seasons and listening to what God is calling us to do as we journey through them.
And the really cool part about the way God works is that, no matter what season of life we are in, we will always be able to both give and receive. Because here’s the thing – what I have also learned over the past year is that, while I do not have the same abundances that I used to have, I have new abundances in this season of life and I am able to meet different needs that people have. As we journey through life, our seasons may change. But our God – our God that calls us to love and serve one another using the gifts that God has given to us, our God that created us to take care of another – never changes. God is steadfast. I have been blessed to uncover new abundances in this season of life that I am in – ways to give back that I never knew I could before.
So this morning I want you to do me a favor. Think about where your abundances lie. You might not have a lot of them and you might not have them where you want to have them or are used to have. Or you might unexpectedly have a lot of them. But wherever those abundance lie – give of them.
And then think about where your needs lie. You might have many or you might have few. But let others help you in your time of need. Let yourself be served by the Body of Christ; by the individuals God has called to be the hands, feet, face and voice of Christ to those in need.
So, let us, like Paul wrote, find a fair balance between our abundances and our needs. Let us use the gifts we have in this particular season in life to meet the needs of others and let us allow others to serve us in our time of need. Let us head the call of the Gospel and continue to foster nurturing and growth within our church family, creating community in God’s love and then taking care of that community. Let us receive help from others when we need it. And let us marvel at the way the Body of Christ works so that all of God’s children are met in their times of need; so that we know that we are created, redeemed and sustained in God’s image and cared for along the journey.
Thanks be to God!