Thursday of Pentecost 6 – II Corinthians 8:1-9, 13-15

1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.

I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness 14 your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. 15 As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.”

When a church has been in a community for a while, you will often find her there. At my former parish she was a dear woman who had been through a lot. Abandoned by her husband, on a very fixed income, she drove a very modest car, lived in a little home, and prayed very hard that a major appliance did not break. She was also very silly and was good enough to laugh at this pastor’s puns and the jokes his children find worthy of eyerolls. She came to everything at church. Every Sunday she sat in the front row and carefully put in her offering. I knew how much it was. It was a five-dollar bill. I also knew how much that cost her. There were days when she did not have enough.

I wanted sometimes to tell her to use that bit of cash to buy a loaf of bread, some fruit, a can or two of soup. But I did not dare. It was her offering, humble and small, and Jesus loved it. He would see to her needs, and he did. What he was receiving in that gift was her heart.

Paul urged the Corinthians long ago and us today to generosity. He was collecting funds for famine relief in Jerusalem. We still feed hungry people around the world. But Paul also says that this is an act of grace, a God thing. I roll my eyes when I hear people say that miracles have ended. Have you ever tried to get people to open their wallets and give? It is not an easy thing until you see that grace get hold of someone. Then everything is different, you can hardly stop them from giving. You don’t want to stop them.

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