July 30, 2023
• Rev. Eric Burton-Krieger
Parched Week 5: Give What You’ve Got
2 Corinthians 9:6-9
It is the final week of our Parched series. And over the last month, we’ve been exploring how to use different Practices to fill our Spiritual Cups. We’ve looked at how we pay attention, what it means to rest, the gift of exploring and trying new things, and how to have a rhythm of prayer.
And all of those practices have been pretty internal. They’ve focused on what’s going on inside of us. But today, we’re shifting our focus a little bit. Today, we’re looking at a spiritual practice that takes us beyond what’s happening in here...and looks at how we impact what’s going on out here.
The thing is, if we’re truly going to fill our cups, if we’re really going to have souls that move beyond being parched to being healthy and connected with God, we have to tend to both things. What’s going on inside of us and what’s happening outside of us, both things matter.
So with that in mind, today’s spiritual practice that we’re exploring is (SLIDE) GIVE.
And I want to invite you to use your sermon notes to write down this question: (SLIDE)
How do you respond when someone gives you a gift?
Now, that might not initially seem like the most spiritual question to reflect on. BUT- how we answer this question can tell us a lot about where we are in life. How we respond to a
gift is often less about the gift itself, but about what's going on
inside of us when we RECEIVE the gift.
And I have personal experience to back this statement up. Now
what I’m about to tell you- what I’m about to CONFESS to youmight
be the cringiest thing I have ever shared in a sermon.
Some of you won’t be able to look me in the eye after I say this,
and it’s ok. I always say church is a judgement free zone, but
some judgement is about to happen. It’s ok, I’ve made peace
with it, it was 13 years ago, people change.
Here’s the confession:
Zack and I did not send thank you notes for our wedding gifts.
I’m sure that like 3 generations of my family are shaking their
heads at me because I just admitted that, but it’s true! We
didn’t send them.
Now, it wasn’t because we weren’t grateful! We were. But
there was some stuff going on. Where we were in our lives was
pretty chaotic. We were 22 and 23 years old, we moved across
the country, I started seminary immediately after we moved,
and life was really unstable. And so it was one of those things
we kept saying we “should do”...but we never got around to it.
My nana asked me about it exactly once, and when it became
clear we were not going to follow through, just gave up.
And I’m not mad at my 23 year old self for it, there’s no shame
here, but what I WISH I could go back in time and tell her is that
while receiving those gifts was great, we missed something by
not sending those notes. We missed a chance to tell the people
who loved us that we loved them too. We missed the chance to
respond to the things we had been given.
Truthfully, sometimes we miss those chances in our spiritual life
too. We miss the fact that we have received so much from God
and we miss OUR chance to respond to what we’ve been given.
And that’s why we’re talking about giving today. To be clearthis
is NOT to make you feel like you aren’t doing enough, and
not to even give you ONE perfect way to do this practice, but
we’re talking about this because we want to be people who
take the opportunities in front of us to respond to all the things
that God is doing in our lives. We can and should be focused on
taking care of our inner spiritual selves and fill our cups, but we
miss something if we don’t let these things pour out of us and
make an impact on the people and places around us. Each and
every one of us- whether we always know it or not- has
received an amazing amount of God’s grace...and each and
every one of us are all called to give as a response to the grace
That’s the core of what Paul is trying to get at in the part of his
letter to the Corinthians that we read together today. Because
for Paul, it is so important that people understand that giving is
essential to their spiritual health. Now, Paul would say that
HOW we do it is up to us, he’s not going to tell anyone exactly
how this has to look, but THAT we do it...that’s a non4
negotiable. This is a spiritual practice that is absolutely critical
to keeping our cups full.
And Paul wants this community to understand that as he asks
them to give, he’s asking them to do it because he can see just
how much grace they have received. When Paul looks at this
community in Corinth, instead of focusing on what they lack or
what they might need more of, he says- “church- look at this!
God’s been working in and around you, God has been giving
you every single thing that you need, God has been abundantly
showering you with grace and love. You’ve got a lot to be
thankful for here, and your thankfulness, your gratitude, all of
that should be showing up in the way you live your lives.”
And I think Paul would say that the grace we receive should be
grace that we give. Because this was true for the church at
Corinth and it’s true for us- (SLIDE) we can be more than grace
collectors- we can be grace distributors.
This is where I sometimes see our spiritual practices fall flat.
Because sometimes we get in this place where we ARE being
really intentional about all the things we talked about in this
series so far- we're paying attention, we’re resting, we’re trying
new things, we’re praying...and it’s great! But if we’re not
careful, it can be really tempting to make our faith all about us.
And we can make our faith this super internally focused, private
thing. And if we ONLY tend to the inner parts of our faith and
we never let those things drive us to do something beyond
ourselves, we miss a major thing that God wants for us. We
miss the chance to take that grace and love that we’ve
experienced and pass it on. We miss the chance to give.
And the truth is, (SLIDE) We ALL have something to give. Now,
I KNOW the first thing that some of you are going to say is “ok,
but not me.” And you already know what I’m going to say back
to that- But yes you! Absolutely, every single person who is
hearing these words right now- YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO
GIVE. Full stop.
This is a really tricky one in our world right now, even in the
Church. Because we live in a world that is hyper focused on
competition, where we put more value on some gifts over
others, and sometimes it can be easy to believe that what we
bring to the table isn’t really enough. We think if we could just
do THAT, or if we just had MORE, or if we just were DIFFERENT,
then we would have something that’s worth giving. And
sometimes, in our worst moments, we get caught up in
comparing ourselves to others and we not only think we don’t
have enough, but we think what we actually do have isn’t
something that anyone would want to receive.
But when we give as a response to God’s grace, when we give
from a place of gratitude, it can’t be about that. Paul even says
God has the power to provide you with more than enough
of every kind of grace. That way, you will have everything
you need always and in everything to provide more than
enough for every kind of good work.
We’ve got everything we need to be able to give something in
return. Grace and love don't have to compete with anyone,
they don’t have to be self-conscious, because these things
don’t run out. So no matter what we might hear from the world
around us or even that critic that lives in our head- you and I
are not living in a place of scarcity. There is plenty to go around
and God is going to give us every single thing we need to take
our gifts out into the world and use them like only we can.
It makes me think of when my kids were in preschool and up
until about first grade. They would have “jobs” in their
classrooms. All these tiny kids, doing what they were SURE
were incredibly important tasks that only they could do. And
these were jobs like line leader, librarian, and my VERY favorite
was the electrician... because that sounded like the MOST
exciting and high-risk thing that a small child could do...but it
turns out it was really just being the kid that turned the lights
off and on, which was kind of a let down.
And the kids would rotate through these jobs every few weeks,
and the thing that was awesome about it is that they would get
super pumped for EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. They’d come
home and be like, “I got a new job!!” and then tell us all about
wiping down desks or returning library books. They thought
every single task they got to do was the best, most important
And they thought that because of what their teachers told
them. Their teachers created this environment in their classes
where they honestly believed that every single job was
important. Every single person was essential. I mean, the
consequences were huge for a 5 year old! The electrician
doesn’t show up? Who will turn on the lights?! The line leader
is gone? How would we make it to the art room? All of these
things are different, but without them, this first grade
classroom is in danger of falling apart.
And look, this is true for first graders, but it’s true for us too.
Every single gift that we have to bring- we need it all. Without
those things, without YOU and what you have to bring to the
table- this thing called Church is going to fall apart! Without
YOU giving from your particular place of gifting, without YOU
believing that God has given you every single thing you need in
order to be generous and give...our community can’t be the
best version of itself without you.
You know, I think sometimes it can be hard to see the bigger
impact of what we have to give. It's hard to understand if what
we do is actually going to change anything or make a real
difference. And that’s one of the things, that at least for me,
can really hold me back from giving and using my gifts. Because
you just don’t always know.
Well, recently, I heard a story that reminded me of why
showing up and giving whatever we have DOES matter. A few
weeks ago, some of our St. Luke’s High School students went on
a mission trip to Belize, and you can imagine that they brought
back a lot of stories from that trip. And one story really stood
out to me. In fact, Travis Bannon, our Interim Director of
Student Ministries, told this story in the Revelations email last
week, but I wanted to share it with in today, in case you missed
it and because I think it really shows us how this idea of giving
doesn’t have to been over the top or complicated- we just have
to show up. (SHOW PICTURE SLIDES DURING THIS SECTION)
So one of the projects that this group did was helping repair the
home of a woman named Ms. Phyllis, who was probably in her
60s or 70s. A small group of the team went there to repair her
roof that was destroyed by a hurricane and stop it leaking. The
team had some downtime during the project, and wanted to
help her a little bit more- so they helped clean her house, do
dishes, and do chores she hasn't been able to complete due to
While that was going on, a student named Allie sat and talked
with Phyllis for hours. Phyllis told her that she had had a lot of
big challenges in her life- she had lost a son, she had suffered a
stroke and lost almost all mobility and eye-sight. She even lost a
family member during Covid. There was a lot of grief and pain
in Phyllis’ story, but she felt so seen, loved, and blessed by
conversation with Allie. In fact, she so appreciated that Allie
gave her time, that she gave something to Allie- she gave her a
handmade bowl in the shape of a heart that her grandson had
carved using wood from the national tree. She said Allie had
warmed her heart and so she wanted to give her the heart
Later in the week there was a closing service at the community
church, where members of the community came to worship
with the students from St. Luke’s. During this service, Allie
shared about how much her conversation with Ms. Phyllis had
impacted her. After Allie shared, Phyllis stood up and shared
how it had impacted HER. It just took two people giving what
they had- Allie had time, and Phyllis had her story the heart
shaped bowl. If I had to guess, I’d say that neither of them
would have said these were especially significant things. But
because they offered them to each other, because they took
the time to give, it made an impact. Both of those people left
that trip with something that they hadn’t had before, all
because they said yes to showing up and giving from a place of
Paul says that God will give us everything we need. And maybe
you need to hear that today. Maybe you need to believe that
whatever it is, whether it’s:
Maybe you need to believe that you have enough of that thing
in order to give something of yourself to this world. Maybe you
need to let yourself stop being afraid that if you give it away,
you won’t get it back. Maybe you’re being nudged to fill your
cup by giving your gifts without fear or holding back.
Because when I read these words in 2 Corinthians, when I hear
stories like Allie and Ms. Phyllis, even when I think about the
kids and their classroom jobs- all of those things, all of those
examples of people (SLIDE) giving- it all leads to more. At the
end of the day, Giving multiplies the grace we experience. And
our world and our faith communities miss out if we don’t give,
but you know what? So do we. We miss the chance to be
changed, to get to be part of someone else’s story, to be more
like Jesus. We miss the chance to fill our cups and move beyond
being spiritually parched to being alive and healthy.
So, like Paul, I’m not going to be super prescriptive on HOW you
should live this one out. We have a card you can fill out today
with some really concrete ways you could serve in Kids,
Hospitality, or Care. On the back of your sermon notes, you’ll
find some more easy action steps to discovering your gifts and
putting them into action. You might even be aware of a need in
your community outside of this place- your school, your
neighborhood, your workplace. It’s going to look different for
each and every one of us, but the question that we ALL get to
answer is: (SLIDE)
What is the thing that you have to give?
YOU have something to give. And WHEN you give it, God will do
more than we can even imagine. Let’s pray as we go into