“Never measure your generosity by what you give, but rather by what you have left.”
~Bishop Fulton J. Sheen (1895-1979), Roman Catholic bishop
It’s offering time. Each family of the church has been asked to raise $1000 toward the general conference apportionment.
The representative from each family lines up in the center isle, the recording steward pulls her list out of her folder, sits down in a chair next to the offering table and begins to call off the list of families.
The Grimes family. The representative struts down the isle wearing her expensive, yet beautiful attire and declares, The Grimes Family gives $1500; the church erupts in praise, handclapping and joy.
The Hampton family. The Hamptons bring $1350; again the church erupts in shouts of praise. Go head now the people exclaim. This continues and each family reaches its goal.
Then it is The Jones’ family turn. The Jones family gives $5. A Holy Hush fills the room as everyone turns and looks to see who said that.
She comes ever so slowly down the isle, supported by her staff. Her back is humped over, her body frail and battle weary. She is about 95 years of age; she has outlived her husband and her children. She has been through so much. There she is Sister Jones bowed but not broken, tried and tested, triumphantly she comes.
This service had been planned at the beginning of the conference year and now after 10 months the day has arrived and she makes her report with joy. Can you see her?
She is a 5th generation CME born and bred tried and true. Her family had been among the 1st to join that small CME Church in Choudrant, Louisiana.
Strong was her faith even from a child. Her daddy used to carry her to Sunday School in his horse drawn carriage every Sunday morning, telling her the tales of how his daddy and his daddy before him used to work the fields until late in the evening, then come home and get ready for prayer meeting and mid-week service. Her daddy told her, “Lisa, God owns everything and if you tithe and bring him your best, God will bless you.”
Her family had been known to sell the prized cow at the county fair and bring the money back to their church for Homecoming Service so their church could continue to survive. Theirs was a proud family, CMEs, dedicated to ensuring they did their part.
But now, she comes, leaning on her staff making her way slowly up the isle to once again represent her family at the meeting. $5 among so many larger more profound sounding gifts. $5 representing a year’s efforts of setting aside something for the homecoming meeting. $5 from a widow who had no social security coming in from her husband’s work and only a small check of her own. A widow who subsidized her meager income by selling eggs in the community.
Yet strong was her faith for down through the years she had learned to lean and depend on God. Was her offering significant? Was her offering just as grand as those who came before her? I tell you yes, and so was her example of stewardship.
You ought to give her a hand church! Oh you can do better than that, let’s give Sister Jones another hand! Hallelujah!
How did Sister Jones become such a good steward? Let me tell you. First, her family modeled good stewardship in her presence.
Second, her family invested in her discipleship ensuring she went to all the CME training for young people and young adults throughout her lifetime. She could tell you stories about the annual conferences, bishops meetings where she got to hang out with all her friends. She could tell you about the leadership schools she attended and out of which she had met James and married. She could joke about the old ladies who used to give her the eye whenever she got a little unruly in church. And the food, oh the food that used to be sprawled on picnic tables behind the church under that old oak tree over by where the new church parking lot sits today.
Third, she had fallen in love with the God of her fathers. She still remembers her baptism and confirmation services, she had cried and wept as she realized the gravity of what she had done. She was overwhelmed as she contemplated the great sacrifice her Heavenly Father had made on her behalf.
Her favorite scripture then and now, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believed in him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)
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