Harvest Festival - 2 Corinthians 9:6-15
Now today we are celebrating Harvest Sunday, a day when we remember that it is God who gives us everything we need to live and enjoy his world. And I want to begin by asking you to find the link between all these different packages. So Ill need some help to unwrap them: Banana, cheque book, Bible, carton of orange juice. Can anyone tell me what the link between all these items are? The answer is that they are all gifts given by God, four different things that are given to us from God. Now at this stage it may be that you cannot see how a cheque book or a Bible can be a gift from God but this morning were going to spend a few minutes thinking about Gods gifts to us. And to help us were going to look again at that passage that Jim read to us earlier from a letter of Paul. He was writing to some friends in Greece and reminding them about Gods wonderful gifts to them and how they should respond to these gifts. And well discover three things about Gods gifts to us.
1) Gods Gifts: For Feeding Us
2) Gods Gift: For Rescuing Us
3) Gods Gifts: For Giving Away
1) Gods Gifts: For Feeding Us
So the first thing we discover is that Gods gifts are for feeding us (Acetate 1- 1st heading). Listen to what Paul says to his friends in Greece. In verse 10, Paul says that "God supplies seed to the sower and bread for food." Now if I were to ask you where the following items come from, where would you say? (Acetate 2- food) Show items: banana, juice. You see what we often think is that all these things come from Tescos which they do. But how do they grow? For instance bananas grow on trees in hot countries and then they are picked and sent to England and eventually we find them in our shops. But who is it that makes the bananas grow? Well Paul tells us in this passage that it is God who gives seeds and gives us food to eat. Only God can make things grow. He is the one who makes the sun shine or the rain fall and he is the one who made banana trees in the first place. So food is one of Gods great gifts.
Now in order for us to see that it is God alone who gives us food to eat I thought it might be fun to try and make some bread here in church. Now can anyone tell me what we need to make bread. Well need some corn, well need some water, well need a little a bit of salt and well need some yeast. (Produce items). But where do all these things come from? Well did you know that a long time before your bread comes to the shelf at Tescos, the most important ingredient, grain, starts life as this- an ear of corn. And in order to begin the process this wheat needs to be harvested which is what farmers do about this time. Now many years ago, my grandfather told me how to find out if the wheat was ready to be harvested. And I need one volunteer to help. (Rub wheat and chaff). Now once we have done that, we grind lots of these little grains, mix it all together, put it in the oven and out would come a nice new loaf. (Bread) And that is what we buy at the shops. But it all starts life as a tiny little grain in the field which needs to grow and become lots of grains. And (Acetate 3- 1st text) Paul says that "it is God who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food." You see its very easy for us to forget that isnt it? We simply go to Tescos and buy the bread. But Paul reminds who it is God that gives us the seeds and the bread in the first place. It is God who gives us what we need to live. And even today in the 21st century, it is vital that we remember that it is God who provides everything we need and we should be very grateful for all his gifts to us. So thats the first thing we learn. Gods gifts are for feeding us.
2) Gods Gift: For Rescuing Us
But from our passage we also learn that there is another type of gift which God gives us. And this gift is for rescuing us (Acetate 1 again- 2nd heading). Listen to what Paul says in verse 15: "Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift." Now what could Paul be referring to? A gift so amazing that you can hardly describe it? Well there is only one gift of God that fits the bill, and that is his own Son Jesus. Now why would God send Jesus as a gift to us? Well the Bible tells that we have done something so bad to God that our friendship with him has been ruined. What we have done is failed to follow his ways and failed to love him as a loving creator and king. You see we have already seen that one of Gods great gifts is to give us everything we need for life and health. And yet we have ignored him and not gone his way, and we dont even bother to thank him for giving us so many wonderful things in this world. There is if you like a terrible gap between us and there is nothing we can to repair the damage. And perhaps worst of all is that we deserve to pay the price for ignoring his ways.
Just imagine for a moment that I deliberately drove down a One Way street in the city centre (Acetate 4- car) and knocked all the bins out the way and scared people half to death. A terrible thing to do. I have deliberately gone against the law. And the only fair thing to do would be to punish me and let me pay for the crime. I would have to stand before the judge and hed say: "Mr Buttery- I find you guilty on the charge of driving down a One Way street the wrong way with the deliberate intention to harm people. You must pay a fine of £3000 and never drive again." I would deserve that punishment. And the Bible makes it clear that we deserve Gods punishment for ignoring him as the King of the world, much worse than a driving offence the one who has given us so much. And the punishment is to be separated from him and all that is good.
But God doesnt want to leave us in that position. He wants us back. And yet the only way he can have us back to be friends with him is if the punishment is paid. And thats exactly what Jesus, Gods only Son, did for us. He died on a cross (Acetate 5- cross) to take the punishment we deserve. And thats why Paul calls Jesus an indescribable gift. It is an amazing thing, that God should love us so much that he would allow his own Son Jesus to die for us so we could be friends with him again. But then that is the kind of God he is. Not only he is a God who gives us what we need to live in this world, giving us food and everything else, he is a also a God who rescues us. And thats the second thing we learn about Gods gift- it is a gift to rescue us. And its a gift we dont deserve but that God in his love provides for us.
Let me tell you us little story to illustrate this amazing gift. Once upon a time there was a little boy, who for the sake of argument well call Nathan. And one day Nathan and his family were celebrating Nathans Mums birthday. (Acetate 6- party) And it was a very happy occasion. But there was one little boy who was not happy- (Acetate 7- boy). Nathan was very grumpy because he didnt like any of the food at the party. And Nathan was becoming more and more irritating until eventually he was sent to his room because hed been so naughty and grumpy, and almost ruined the party. Well all Nathan could do was sit upstairs and be sad. And by now he was very hungry. But then after what seemed like hours, his Mum opened the door and came and said down beside him. She gave him a big hug and told him she loved him and then to Nathans great delight produced his favourite food from behind her back- hamburgers! (Acetate 8- boy eating hamburger). And Nathan was a happy little boy again.
Now that little story, which is slightly autobiographical, is a small illustration of Gods amazing love for us. You see Nathan had been very naughty in almost ruining his Mums party by being grumpy and not eating the food. He deserved to be sent to his room and he deserved no tea. But his Mum had been kind to him and given him food he liked. And God has been very kind to us. He has given us the opportunity of not receiving what we deserve. He has sent Jesus to take the punishment we deserve. And that is great news. Its great news for all of us. And everyone in this building today needs to think whether we have accepted this gift from God, for it Jesus is his best gift. No wonder Paul can say: "Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!" (Acetate 9- 2nd verse). So thats the second thing we learn about Gods gifts today. Gods gift to rescue us, and the gift is Jesus.
3) Gods Gifts: For Giving Away
But then lastly and very briefly, the third thing we learn about Gods gifts is that they are for giving away. (Acetate 1 again- 3rd title). Now that may seem a very strange thing to say. Surely that last thing you do when you receive a gift from someone is to give it away. Surely it would show that you did not value the gift. Well with Gods gifts it does not work like that. You see what God longs for people who love him to do is to share what he has given them with other who are in need. And thats what Paul tells his friends in Greece to do. Verse 7: "Each man [or person] should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly not under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver." (Acetate 10- 3rd verse). You see Paul makes it very clear in this passage that if we value what God has given us and if we love him and follow him, then that love will be shown in the way we give to others who are in need. We need to think about it carefully and then joyfully give to others. And our money is part of what God has given to us to help us live our lives in this world.
And not only is it our money that we are to give away, but also the other gift that God gives us which is Jesus. He is the sort of gift we should be sharing with others and telling others about because he is the best gift of all. And thats exactly what were hoping to do today as we think carefully about how we can give our money to help our mission partners as they tell others about Jesus. There can be no better use of our money than to help people around the world come to hear about Gods greatest gift to us, Jesus Christ. So Gods gifts, the things he gives us, are not to be kept by us, but are for giving away.
So this morning we have thought about Gods gifts in three ways. First we have seen Gods gifts for feeding us. He has provided all we need. We have also seen his greatest gift to rescue us. Jesus his only Son who died on the cross. And weve seen also that Gods gifts are not to be kept by us, but to be shared with others, so that others may be given what they need, and may hear about the greatest gift, Jesus Christ. So on this Harvest Sunday lets thank God for all his amazing gifts that he so generously gives to us.
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