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II Corinthians 9:6-15
Every night about 9:30 pm, unemployed, homeless and hungry men gather under the elevated train in Queens, NY; where relief comes in the form of Jorge Munoz’s white pickup truck, filled with hot food, coffee, and hot chocolate. The men eagerly accept containers of chicken and rice from Munoz. For many, this is their only hot meal of the day. One of the regulars says, “I thank God for touching that man’s heart.”
Munoz began his meal program, now his nonprofit, in the summer of 2004 when he and his mother began preparing 20 home-cooked meals daily. Numbers gradually increased over the years to 35, 60 and now about 140. Munoz estimates he has served more than 70,000 free meals since 2004. Sustaining this endeavor consumes most of his life. He and his family are funding the operation through their savings and his weekly $700 paycheck.
Asked why he spends so much time to help people he doesn’t know, he answers, “I am grateful for a stable job, my mom, my family, a house; everything I want I have. And these guys don’t, so I just think, ‘OK, I have the food.’ At least for today, they’re going to have a meal to eat.” 1
Jorge Munoz illustrates what Paul is talking about in II Corinthians, where in five verses he uses the words ‘thanks’ and ‘generosity’ three times each. In other words, ‘gratitude’ (thanksgiving) and ‘generosity’ are kissing cousins. It is because Munoz is content and thankful for what he already has that he is able to act out of that gratitude and freely express generosity.
Gratitude; being thankful for the many blessings we have leads to generosity, which then leads to expressing thanksgiving. So really thanksgiving and generosity are more than kissing cousins, they’re cyclical in nature; gratitude leads to generosity which leads to gratitude.
And so I wish to give thanks for the blessings that God has given to us as a church.
For our thankfulness will lead to generosity, which in turn will lead to more thanksgiving for the opportunity to give, which lead to . . . you get the idea.
From time to time our church leaders have put out the challenge to give in various ways to God’s Kingdom through our church. And many of you have responded; thankfully, joyously and sacrificially. And because you have, we collectively have been able to maintain the presence of God in this community.
Seven years ago we were able to purchase this building for $212,000. We put down $50,000 and borrowed $162,000. Through your generosity, we have never missed our monthly payment. In 2013, we gave the opportunity to give above and beyond our regular giving to be applied directly to our mortgage. That effort has resulted in an additional $ 50,438 applied to the principle. When you combine those principle payments with the regular monthly payment our current balance as of October 30 is down to $ 92,390. This is wonderful. And it’s all because of your gratitude which has led to generous giving which leads to more thanksgiving.
Your faithfulness in giving has also enabled us to make improvements here and there to the building and property that has been entrusted us. In the beginning, we added to two new gas furnaces; two new rooms, redesigned the entry, and painted inside. We were able to build a pavilion and a storage shed. We have painted the exterior of the building. And we were able to asphalt the parking lot.
The past few months our Trustees have been gathering information to enable us to be prepared for long-term improvements. The roof has been recently inspected and declared in good shape. We have received an estimate of $20,000 to wrap the entire building in vinyl siding which we will eventually need to do along with new windows. In the near future, we will be replacing this 37-year-old carpeting with new flooring.
As you know maintaining this church building is vitally important as it provides us a place from which to do ministry.
Because of your generosity, we have been able to support a Sunday morning ministry of worship that we sometimes take for granted. As far as I can recollect, the doors have been open every Sunday morning since we moved in 7 years ago this coming Christmas. Those who arrive here first have always been able to flip the light switches and the electricity has always flowed and the lights have come on. When we turn up the thermostats warm air begins to circulate.
Through your generosity, you have enabled Gail and me to offer the gifts we have been given in a full-time capacity. Working together with other gifted servants of Christ we have been able to make Sunday morning the best we can.
Beyond Sunday morning, leaders and servants of all kinds have enabled us to offer various kinds of ministries; some of which bless you, CrossPointe’s faithful and some of which bless those who call Chippewa Lake home and whom we hope and pray will someday call this place home.
I am thrilled to meet on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday nights each week to study the Bible together. Some of those folks already attend this church; some of them do not . . . yet. But I am so thankful to have 33 people faithfully studying the Bible searching for what God wants to say to them and seeing them make decisions of faith that impact their lives for the better. It doesn’t get any better than that for me.
I for one am extremely thankful for all of you who assist the good Lord in making CrossPointe what it is today. In that regard, we have a couple of people who would like to share their gratitude for this church and the ministry we share together: Alan Robbins and Nancy Carr.
But even though we have accomplished much in our short tenure in this community, we still have miles to go before we sleep!
For we worship a God who is always out in front, leading the charge beckoning, cajoling, enticing, and encouraging us to keep on keepin on!
My dream for this congregation continues to enlarge.
A large part of that dream involves continuing to cultivate a reputation in this community as a place where people are discovering faith in Christ where it becomes commonplace to see new people telling the story of how they found faith in Christ and how their lives have been changed for the better, where converts young and old are growing in their faith where people are excited about their faith!
And a large part of that dream involves continuing to cultivate a reputation in this community as a place where we really care about people living in this community who do not now possess a faith-based relationship with Jesus. Toward that end, we are planning on launching the ambitious program called Stephen Ministry which trains folks in the art of providing one on one care for people living in crisis.
And so we give God thanks for the ministry of CrossPointe Community Church, for the way we have been loving and caring for one another and for our mission of “Sharing God’s Grace with Our Community!
A 12-year-old boy lived across the street from a family with 7 children.
One day he was playing with those kids in their front yard, when the mother who had a reputation for being thankful, especially for her children, came out and invited him to stay for dinner. The boy knew that this family wasn’t very well off. He knew that his being there for dinner would entail one more mouth to feed but he accepted the invitation anyway. As he sat down at the table with the rest of the family, he looked out of the corner of his eye at the window ledge just above the sink where sat a beautiful fresh made pie. And he quickly realized that he wasn’t the only one who noticed. He became concerned because he knew his presence meant that the pie would have to be cut into even smaller pieces.
After they finished their potato soup, the table was cleared and paper plates were brought out for dessert. The mother brought the pie to the table, as all the kids oohed and ahhed. She put the knife into it, cut a nice large piece, lifted it out, put it on a plate, and just when the young dinner guest and everyone else thought it was going to be placed before the father of that family, the mother placed it down before him. Then she began to mark out the rest of the pie with the knife, dividing it into 9 equal pieces for the rest of the family members.
The boy in that story never forgot that picture of God’s grace because he knew there was nothing he did to deserve it; it was just given him.
Just like that mother, God didn’t have to, but because He loves us so much God in the person of the one we know as Jesus cut the biggest piece of the pie, put it on a plate, set it right down before our eyes, and invited us to partake.
What more can we say than what Paul wrote at the conclusion of today’s text: “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift” (II Corinthians 9:15).
1 “Bus driver delivers free home-cooked meals” by CNN Staff Writers, on CNN Heroes, CNN News, 3/20/2009 Contributed By: Illustration Exchange | Date Posted: 2012-11-17