Written by Courtney McHill, United Methodist Pastor
During the month of November before Advent, we are looking at ways we can live into giving and receiving. This might mean living into generosity, giving to God, receiving the abundance from God or a plethora of other ways to be in community.
If one thing is perfectly clear from our scriptures this week, it is that we are called to serve one another by giving. This could be in the form of a collective song as in Romans or perhaps just a cool cup of water as in Matthew.
Why do we do this? The message is clear that as long as we welcome one another, we are welcoming Jesus. As long as we are giving some attention to one another, we are giving our time and ourselves to Jesus. But how do we do this?
Romans was written in a time when churches were just beginning to start up. Paul writes to these churches continuously cheering them on. The start up is small but the connection is valuable. Jesus throughout the gospels collects a small group of disciples that will carry on his message. Jesus doesn’t need a large group of people but he does need a small group of committed people. Paul picks this up and builds his congregations.
Both readings highlight what small groups can do for our faith and our relationships. Wesley picked this up with his notions of what it meant to be in a covenant group. Wesley put together small groups to keep accountability, to share bread and wine with one another, to give ourselves to one another and to check in with how it was with our souls. They were to give as much as receive and look over one another in love. They basically followed the call to welcome, to sing, and to give. This was how the movement continued with intimacy and could grow to what it is today. People were invited into the covenant groups as part of the journey.
At the CoOp we have a response to all of this and that is to form small groups to continue our discipleship, give one another accountability, fun, cool water (or lots o good food and a good time), deepen our knowledge or just be with one another. The goal is to get to know each other in a safe environment so that we might connect at deeper levels from there. We welcome newcomers and ignite passions.
This week we acknowledge the role of the small group in celebration of 100 small groups to date as McMinnville Cooperative Ministries. Through this ministry we can continue ancient traditions of meeting and finding out how it is with our soul. The outcome, according to our writer Paul, is exuberance of hope and according to Jesus, a step in the right direction of faith.
Quotes for the Week
“I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.” –Maya Angelou
“Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go.” –Mother Teresa
“I work very hard, but when God opens that door for you – when life opens that door for you, I should say – I think it’s important to be giving, to return the love back.” –Lady Gaga
“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.” –Henri Nouwen
Romans 15:7-13 (The Message)
So reach out and welcome one another to God’s glory. Jesus did it; now you do it! Jesus, staying true to God’s purposes, reached out in a special way to the Jewish insiders so that the old ancestral promises would come true for them. As a result, the non-Jewish outsiders have been able to experience mercy and to show appreciation to God. Just think of all the Scriptures that will come true in what we do! For instance:
Then I’ll join outsiders in a hymn-sing;
I’ll sing to your name!
And this one:
Outsiders and insiders, rejoice together!
People of all nations, celebrate God!
All colors and races, give hearty praise!
And Isaiah’s word:
There’s the root of our ancestor Jesse,
breaking through the earth and growing tree tall,
Tall enough for everyone everywhere to see and take hope!
Oh! May the God of green hope fill you up with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your believing lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope!
Matthew 10:38-42 (The Message)
(Jesus said,) “If you don’t go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don’t deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you’ll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you’ll find both yourself and me.
We are intimately linked in this harvest work. Anyone who accepts what you do, accepts me, the One who sent you. Anyone who accepts what I do accepts my Father, who sent me. Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God’s messenger. Accepting someone’s help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I’ve called you into, but don’t be overwhelmed by it. It’s best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won’t lose out on a thing.”
Questions for the Week
Where do you think we benefit from having small groups?
How do you connect with others in our world?
How do we give and receive God’s grace?