Good morning, Friends!
It’s Pledge Sunday today, but I’m not going to talk about our pledges. Most people have already handed them in. I want to talk about giving instead.
Christians are generous people. That’s because we know how much God has given us. We are blessed in so many ways. We struggle sometimes, but we have everything we need.
Our Scripture reading today is from the Sermon on the Mount. That’s the time when Jesus went up on a hillside, and people sat down in the field to listen. It was an outdoor church, which can be the best kind.
Jesus talked for hours with them. He talked about how to pray. He talked about being blessed. He said, “You are the light of the world. . .” He said, “Tell the truth. . .” He said, “Go the extra mile. Give the shirt off your back. Love your enemies.”
Over and over again, he said, “Don’t be anxious.” Jesus said that five times. “Don’t be anxious about anything. Ask, and it will be given. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will opened for you.”
Then he said the part we’re going to read today. It’s all part of the Sermon on the Mount, the greatest sermon ever written.
Don’t store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where there aren’t any moths and rats, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.Matthew 6:19-21
Like I said, I’m not going to talk about our pledges. Instead, I’m going to ask, where our hearts are? If I ask that question, that takes it to a whole different level.
If I ask what we care about most, most people are going to say their kids. And that’s a perfect answer, because our children are the most valuable thing we have.
When one of our kids is sick, we drop everything to take care of them. When one of our kids is in trouble, same thing. We’d do anything for our children. Even when they’re grown up, we still care about them. Our kids are the most valuable thing we have!
We care a lot about our homes. We want our homes to be comfortable. We want our homes to be welcoming. We want our homes to be warm, and well-kept, and safe, and attractive. That’s all good.
We spend money on food. That’s OK. Everybody likes to eat and drink. Everybody enjoys a good meal. Nobody likes to go hungry.
All these things are good, and everybody needs them. Our kids, our homes, the food on our table – this is stuff that matters. It’s real.
And Jesus says, “Don’t be anxious. God knows you need these things. God wants you to have your daily bread. God wants you to be blessed, and to give thanks.”
But this business about where our heart is – that’s a deeper question.
I’ve got a relative, my wife’s uncle, who worked in a factory most of his life. He had a home, and a family, and he took care of them pretty well. But every year, he would save up, and he would go out and buy dozens of pairs of blue jeans and sneakers. And he would take them over to the orphanage, and he would give them to all the kids there.
He didn’t have it easy when he was growing up. And he couldn’t stand the thought, of kids who lived nearby, who didn’t have a mom or dad looking after them, not having a new pair of jeans and their own pair of shoes every year.
He didn’t make a fuss about it. It was just one of those things he always did, year after year. He took care of his family, but this extra thing was where his heart was, every year.
Another example. We used to know this wonderful school teacher. Ginny Russo, her name was. Ginny used to teach children with different abilities, back when people called kids like that a lot of mean names.
Ginny was Catholic, and she used to go to Mass, every morning, every day of the week. It meant getting up extra early, because she still had to get to work at the school on time. But she always started her day, with that extra hour of prayer and devotion. Rain or snow – and in Buffalo, that could mean two feet of snow. She always walked. This little short, Italian-American school teacher – she only stood about 4 foot 8.
Ginny would go into school, and she’d tell the kids in her classroom, the kids everybody in the school made fun of, she’d tell them, “Don’t you look nice this morning? Aren’t you wonderful?”
She’d take them down the hall to the rest room, and stand them in front of the mirror, and she’d say, “Look at that face! Isn’t that a beautiful face? Didn’t God make you wonderful?”
After school, some of them had trouble riding the city bus. They wouldn’t know where to get off. So Ginny would ride with them on the bus, on her own time, over and over, so her kids could memorize the right stop and get home all right.
Some of the kids’ parents didn’t really know how to take care of them. This was back when all the kids brought their own lunch from home. Ginny saw that all the lunch some of her kids had was leftover spaghetti, wrapped up in an old newspaper.
So Ginny always brought a basket with her from home, with hard-boiled eggs in it, and cut-up carrots, and other stuff. And she’d teach them, saying “This is good food. It keeps you healthy, and makes you strong!” She did this every day, for many years.
Where was her heart? What did she truly care about?
Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, your heart will be there also. . .”
“Treasure” doesn’t always mean money. It means our time, and our energy, and our thought, and love, and our creative ability. We may not always have very much money. But everybody has these other things.
Most of my working life has been spent working with the local church. It’s been at places just like this. I’ve had opportunities to work with much bigger organizations. I never really wanted any of them.
My treasure is here. You are my treasure! You are the people who matter to me. When I can do something good for people like you, that’s what I want to be doing. As people say, “I’m all in!” Well, I’m all in for the local church. I’m not holding anything back.
In the same way, we all contribute to the church. Some people write bigger checks. Some people can only give a little. Doesn’t matter. Jesus used to say that the person who only put in two cents, if that was all they had to give, was giving more than the person who donated a lot of money, and never missed it.
Frankly, I would rather see more people here, and I’d rather see people here more often, than see more money. I know, I know – we have a budget, and we need more money, but I’d rather see people.
For many years as a pastor, my feeling has always been, that if people show up, if people are involved, if people are active, then money won’t be a problem. Most of the time, we don’t have a money problem. We have a people problem.
Those of us who are here today are invested in Springfield. We care about the local church. That’s why we’re here.
In a way, you don’t need to hear this message, because you’re already here. And in a way, it doesn’t mean anything to ask for money, because what we really need are the people who aren’t here.
Some of them are people who can’t come, because they’re working, or their ability to travel is limited. Others people aren’t here, because we haven’t invited them.
I can’t say, often enough, that 90% of people who come to church, come because somebody they know invited them.
They don’t usually come the first time we ask. The average – the average! – number of invitations it takes for somebody to come is seven times. A few people come immediately, but a lot of people it takes more times. Seven is the average.
And people come, because they see that this is where our treasure is. This is where we put our time, our energy, our love. This is where they’ve heard a good word. They see this is where we’re fed. They see this is where people find friends.
And people don’t just come in through the front door. People come in through the back door, for meals and special events. That’s why we have a back door, so people can come in! That’s why we have big meals – it’s not just for the money we raise, it’s because we want our friends and neighbors to feel something, and want to come back.
If you don’t feel you can ask somebody you know to come to worship, then at least you can invite them to the barbecue. At least you can invite them to the art class. You can ask them to sit next to you at the tea. You can invite them to the youth group. You can invite them to some other small group. We’ve got lots of them!
People want joy. People want hope. People want the presence of God. And if we say, “We’ve got those things, you can share those things, why don’t you come with me?”, they’ll come. It may take a few tries. The average number of tries is seven.
But when people see where our treasure is, our real treasure, they’re going to want to share it.
All over the country, churches are saying they have a financial deficit. That’s a real problem. But in my opinion, what churches really have is an invitational deficit.
As a pastor, I’d rather have someone who can draw four or five inactive members back into the church, and help them feel good, than someone who can put a hundred dollars in the plate every Sunday.
I’d rather have someone who can invite two or three individuals, or two or three new families, and tell them, “Please come and see what makes me love this place! Come sit next to me, and I’ll be your special friend” – I’d rather have someone who can invite two or three people a year like that, than someone who can give a thousand dollars a year.
I’m not kidding about this. The church is actually better off with more people, than with more money. We need the money, but we need people more.
If you want to give effectively, give your friendship. Give your time. Give your listening. Give your hospitality, and your prayers, and your jokes, and all the creative things you can think of.
It’s not really about money. It’s about people. We will grow, not when we have more money in the bank, but when we have more people here to pray.
I believe that, with all my heart. Which is why I’m here. Which is why I’m all in.
I wish and pray for all of us, for everyone here, every blessing we can think of. I wish and pray for happy homes, and health, and strength, and peace. I wish for good jobs, and overflowing lives, for all of us.
But I also pray that we give what we can, from the treasure of our hearts. Because where our treasure is, our hearts will be also.