Pastor Bill Kirkemo
Give Thanks: Living Love Out Loud
Don’t you just love this great Fall weather we are having?
Don’t you just love how well the Chiefs are doing this season?
Don’t you just love chocolate?
Don’t you just love fish tacos?
Now, believe it or not, some spouses would take issue with you telling them you feel the same way about them as you feel about fish tacos. For my wife, there is not much of a better compliment she can get than this - for she knows how much I love fish tacos. However, I’ve never had the nerve on a Valentine’s Day dinner, or on an Anniversary Card, or after the birth of one of our children to say to her, “you know, you are right up there with fish tacos in my mind.”
So, here is this problem we have with this word “love:” it can mean so many different things to so many different people. The very fact we use the same word for how we feel about our spouse as we do our favorite foods is troubling. The fact we can use the same word for our feelings for our children as we do our sports team is confusing.
And so, when we come to this phrase in the verse above, “his love,” what do we mean by that? Is God’s love just as temperamental as our love for our sports teams? Is God’s love as quickly changing as our love for fashion? Is God’s love as easily broken as our love for others is easily broken? Is God’s love as selfish as our love is often so selfish?
The Hebrew word used in Psalm 118:1, translated as “love,” is hesed. It is used 245 times in the Old Testament, and is a favorite word of the writers of the Psalms because of those 245 times, half of them appear in the Psalms. It is translated many different ways throughout the Old Testament, sometimes as mercy, lovingkindness, loyalty. It has been argued that this word hesed is the primary characteristic of God to describe his dealings with humanity. And therefore, as God’s People, ought to be the primary characteristic by which we deal with both God and others.
In the Bible, the foundational concept behind this term hesed is the covenant God made with humanity. This covenant is, “I will be your God and you will be my people.” Therefore, because God is in covenant with his people, he rescued them from slavery in Egypt, he provided food for them when they were hungry, he protected them from their enemies, and he never abandoned them. Even when they rebelled against God, he did not abandon them. Even when they turned their back upon God and ran after other gods, he did not abandon his covenant with them. Even when they were completely faithless to all the promises they made to God, God was not faithless to the promises he made to them.
So what does it mean for us to love others? It means many, many things. However, in this season of Thanksgiving, I want to just focus on the opportunity we have to love others by being financially generous to others.
Love is a verb, it is not proven by how we feel, but by how we act. And while there are many ways in which we can demonstrate love, financial generosity is one of the most powerful. We as Nazarenes have, from the very beginning of our denomination, decided to be a generous people. A people who look beyond themselves and love others in tangible ways.
What does this look like? Well, financially it means that over 13% of all money donated to this local church leaves this local church to help others. This 13% goes to many different places, to support missionaries around the world, to support church plants in our own district, to support our local Nazarene university - MidAmerica Nazarene University, to support retired ministers.
We are not all called to be missionaries, but as Christians, we believe that God’s love acting through us means we can all support missionaries. We are not all called to church planting or starting food pantries or running rescue missions, but because of God’s love demonstrated to us, we believe we can all give of our resources to support those God has called.
And so, because we as Nazarenes believe it is part of our Christian responsibility to make sure our love is more than just a feeling, but is an action, we as a Church give generously to the work of the Kingdom of God on this earth, and we call each of you to give generously to the work of the Kingdom of God on this earth. If this is your church home, if this is where you feel God has led you to learn, and worship, and fellowship, then we also believe this is where he has called to you practice generosity.
If this is your home church, and you have not yet partnered with us in financially supporting the Kingdom of God here and around the world, I invite you to join us. Invest yourself in bringing hope to this world. Invest your treasure in changing people’s lives.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
his love endures forever.