31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
October 20, 2019
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
“The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself.”
The words I read this morning from the book of Ruth are often read at weddings because they speak to the devotion and commitment we hope a couple will have for each other their whole lives long.
Devotion is not reserved for romantic relationships though. We feel great devotion for our children the moment they come into our lives. Right then and there, we commit to them – to keeping them safe, to nurturing them, to loving them unconditionally. Where they go, we will go. (I tell my seven year old I am even going to college with him. Right now, he thinks it’s a great idea.)
We are devoted to our families, to our friends, and as people of faith, we are also devoted to God. We love God with our whole selves: with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our might, and we are devoted to the way of Jesus Christ: a way of peace, kindness, justice and extravagant, unconditional love.
The thing about love and devotion, though, is that you cannot do it without giving. Love and devotion always mean giving of our selves – our time, our effort, our ability, our money.
Ruth gave up her people, her home, her gods, the ways she had always known. Parents of young children, you give up sleep and time for yourselves.
Parents of older children, the time you might have gained back for sleep, you are likely spending in the car driving your children to activities.
Caregivers, you spend countless hours at doctor’s appointments or in care facilities.
And as Christians who take seriously our call to love God and love our neighbor, we give of our time, energy, and money to share the good news of Christ’s love with children, youth, and adults within and beyond this community.
Love and devotion always mean giving of our selves, and giving requires faith.
Ruth’s journey into an unknown country and an unknown future was filled with risk. Ruth risked her very survival. Naomi was an older woman who had no hope of marrying again, which would provide her shelter, food, and security. Ruth would be a foreigner amongst Naomi’s people with no male relatives to secure her a new marriage. Neither woman had a son who would one day be able to provide for them.
Ruth made this journey out of love and devotion; Ruth made this journey in faith.
The gifts of our love and devotion also require us to have faith. We give with the faith that God will provide for us even when we give a portion of our resources away.
We give in the faith that our gifts will be well used, that our sacrifices of time, sleep, energy, emotion, and money will make a difference in our world – in the life of our children, in the life of all children, in the life of our loved ones and the world.
We give in faith.
And sometimes, we are blessed to know first hand that the one who waters is watered themself.
Ruth promised to go with Naomi for no other reason than love and devotion. She did not know, she could not know that her devotion and generosity would lead to a extraordinary blessing for herself – a husband and child of her own and descendents that would include King David and Jesus the Christ.
When we give fully of ourselves, when we give generously of what we have – out of love and devotion, we are made rich. We are watered, nourished, blessed.
Today, the community of the First Congregational Church begins our Season of Generosity- a time we intentionally set apart as a people of faith to talk about our commitment and devotion to God and the way of Jesus Christ. A time we set apart to share about the deep faith, the trust in God, that inspires us to give of our money, our time, our energy, and talents to make our shared ministry in this community and world possible.
We give of our money to support this building that welcomes all for worship and community.
We give of our energy to provide meals for the hungry through Meals for our Neighbors, the St. Vincent DePaul homeless shelter, and Salvation Army’s soup kitchen.
We give of our time through Family Promise, allowing homeless families to stay together in a safe, warm place, until they can find long-term housing again.
We give of our love when we lead Children’s Ministry and Confirmation – role modeling love of God and love of neighbor for our children and youth.
Love of God, Trust in God, Faith – inspires us to give; and giving inspires our faith.
If you are a regularly attending member of this community of faith, I invite you over the course of the next four weeks to consider how your faith is calling you to give and how giving might grow your faith, your love, your devotion and trust in God.
Make a financial pledge to our shared ministry; Increase your financial pledge for 2020. Say yes to leadership on a committee or outreach ministry, facilitating world-transforming ministry. Share your gifts as a volunteer with Family Promise during our host week in December or volunteer to cook with Meals for our Neighbors.
Consider how your faith is calling you to give and how giving might grow your faith, your commitment and trust in God.
If you are not a regularly attending member of this community of faith, I remind you that you also have gifts to share that make our world a better place. Consider stepping out in faith and volunteering with that organization that has been on your heart – or the one that keeps asking you over and over again. Give a donation – give a generous donation to a group that is changing lives for the better like a local PTA, the Prudence Crandall Center for survivors of domestic violence, the Women and Girls’ Fund, or Men and Boys’ Fund.
Each act of giving is an act of faith so I invite you to step out in faith. Who knows what blessings await you?