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Mark 4:26-32, from the Common English Bible
1 Timothy 6:17-19, from The Message
2 Corinthians 9:6-11, from The Message

        Most of us here this morning woke up in a bed, feeling warm and cozy despite the mid-November frost outside. For almost all of us, that bed was in our own home—rented or owned or borrowed—a place to call our own. Most of us had something to eat, and maybe something warm to drink, before heading out. When we did, we had a coat to put on, and gloves too.

        And when we felt the morning light on our face and the bracing cold in our bones, we knew without a doubt that we were alive, that we had been given the gift of another day in this sweet and beautiful corner of the world. And if we didn’t have a beloved partner or child, a special friend or a cherished pet with whom to share the moment, we knew that here, in this gathered community, we would find kindred spirits and a warm welcome.

        And here we are—blessed, beloved, belonging—no matter who we are, no matter how much we have or don’t have, no matter what we believe or don’t. Here we are, living and loving, striving and thriving, in a a world made of gifts. Which is to say, things we did not earn, things we could not pay for if we had all the money in the world: gifts from God, gifts of the natural world, gifts of country and family, community and kinship.

        No matter what we think about how we came to have whatever we have—whether by grace or grit, hard work or dumb luck, inheritance or privilege or hard-won rights—the truth is that we live in a world made of gifts, a world made by the grace God and the generosityof others. We also live in a world dependent on our willingness to do our part: to continue the cycle of reciprocity, to give back something of what we have received, to sow so that others might reap, to give so that others might receive.

        This is the way of the natural world, the way of the Holy, the way of Love.

        This church is, among other things, an agent of God’s love and gracious generosity. This church is God’s partner in extravagant giving, co-creator of abundance, co-deliverer from captivity, co-whisperer of hope, co-maker of a way out of no way, co-transformer from death to new life, co-midwife to the birth of a new world, the realm of God.

        And this church is itself a world made of gifts: gifts that provide sanctuary from a man our government would have deported to Guatemala, gifts that provide space and resources for the food-challenged of our community, gifts that help any number of people stay clean and sober one day at a time, gifts that offer community and affirmation, music and praise, modeling and learning for our children, justice and peace for the oppressed, love and belonging and meaning for us all. Gifts that give and share life.

        This church—280 years old as of this past Thursday—is a world made by the grace of God and the generosity of its members. Somehow, the humble gifts of our hearts and hands, combined with the joyful gifts of our time and talent and treasure and the power of Spirit, create a community and a world that is beyond anything we could have imagined. And the ongoing vitality, relevance, and impact of this church-world will be determined, in part, by our generosity.

        When we give our whole hearts and minds and lives to God, when we bring our offerings to the church, we are doing far more than charity. We are financing the infrastructure needed to do justice and achieve transformation. When we cheerfully give our talents and treasure to the church, we are planting seeds of love and life, and we are sure to reap much more than we sow.

        Many indigenous peoples give thanks for and celebrate their world of gifts with a giveaway ceremony. It is a ritual of great joy, a way of building community, strengthening relationships, and paving the way for the future by extravagant giving.

        This morning we invite you to our church’s giveaway ceremony—to pledge some of what you’ve been given to the ministries of this church, to the life and light of this community, to the sharing of God’s love.

Consecration of Tithes and Offerings

        Creator God, source of all Life, giver of all that is good, Great Mystery who imagined us into being,

       Receive now these love offerings from our lives, expressions of thanksgiving for the wealth of blessings we have received from you. See in these offerings the longings of our lives and the hopes of our hearts. Hear in them our dreams not only for this church but for this world you so love, this beautiful and broken world made of your gifts. Honor our imaginations and visions as those of your own Spirit.

        Bless now these gifts, that through the power of your love they might accomplish even more than we can imagine. And to you be the glory, forever and ever.  Amen.