We’ve all heard the phrase, and perhaps you even used it and that is: “Put your money where your mouth is.”  According to the Cambridge Idiom Dictionary, this means, “To show by  your actions and not just your words that you support or believe in something.”

Jesus said something similar but radically different in the Gospel of Matthew.  We read Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:21 Wherever your treasure is , there the desires of your heart will also be.

Jesus is telling us that we can’t define our beliefs by where we put our money; rather, our beliefs are already defined by where we’ve put our money. 

For those of you who have become a part of our church family in the past twelve months, here is a bit of an update. Up until 2002, Cornerstone operated like most other churches when it came to our financial planning.

In the Wesleyan Church, our church year goes from May 1 to April 30. There are reasons for that, but they really aren’t relevant to our message.

But for the first seven years of our existence, in late April, we would look at our previous year’s budget and adjust it for the upcoming year.

We might increase it by a few percentage points to show that we had faith, but there was no actual science to the process. We knew what we had to spend on some items and what we’d like to spend on other items, and that was the budget.

At the annual general meeting, the budget would be presented and, in most cases, would be passed. And then the new church year would begin.

Inevitably, at some point through the year, we’d realize that we were behind and we weren’t making the budget. And at that point, it would be determined that the pastor would need to do something.

Maybe the budget and weekly offering needed to be put in the bulletin or put up on PowerPoint so people could see where we were at. And the pastor, that would be me, would preach about giving in an effort to motivate or guilt people into giving.

And people knew, they knew that if Denn was preaching on money, it was a reaction, and you could feel people tense up. They would cross their legs, fold their arms, and try to hold unto their wallets. All at the same time.

In 2002, we knew that things needed to change and our DS at the time, HC Wilson directed me to a resource called Consecration Sunday. And the lessons I learned in that book have shaped how we’ve done finances for the past 22 years.

So, how did it change what we were doing? Well, it’s actually a two-part approach.

I now preach on Stewardship or Giving or Money. However, you want to think about it each March. It is during that time that I teach the theology of stewardship. What we have, and how we use it. And it’s not because we are in a financial jam, or giving is down, or we aren’t meeting our budget. It’s because it’s March.

And it’s not a topic that can be ignored. The Old Testament doesn’t ignore it. The New Testament doesn’t ignore it. Moses spoke about our finances, as did King David, King Solomon, the Apostle Paul as well as Jesus.

The second part of our approach happens on the last Sunday of the series. In this case, that will be on March 24th. At the end of that service, we will distribute a card called “an estimate of giving card,” and it is exactly what it says it is, an estimate of giving card.

And we ask that those who call Cornerstone their church home to prayerfully consider what they will give in the next year. If you are wondering if you are part of our church family, if Cornerstone is the church that you go to when you go to church, you are part of our church family. And if Cornerstone is the church you don’t go to when you don’t go to church, then you are a part of our church family.

It is not a pledge card, and it’s not a commitment card. It is an estimate of giving card. And we end our service that day by having you bring your completed card and laying it on the communion table as your act of sacrifice.

And I think that after twenty-two years we do it well. We don’t put anyone on the spot or embarrass anyone.

If you don’t wish to participate, that’s fine. If you’re worried that people are watching what you do, they probably aren’t, but you are more than welcome to bring your blank card up and lay it on the table.

And it is from what you estimate that you will be able to give in that church year that we develop our church budget.

And when we build our budget, we don’t go over that, and if, through the year, something comes up that isn’t in the budget, it’s a big deal before it’s approved.

Now, I’m sure that there are some out there who are thinking, “Typical Preacher; all he wants is my money.” And there are others who are thinking, “Go get ‘em Denn.” And still others who are thinking, “I’ve never thought about money and the church.”

And if hearing the preacher speak about money makes you a little uncomfortable, then settle in. The good news is that I’m only a 20-minute preacher, so you won’t be uncomfortable for long.

And so, our theme this year for Money Month is “Put your money where your heart is” because Jesus tells us that where our money is is indicative of where our heart already is.

When people talk about their giving, you will often hear them speak about giving to the church or giving to God and sometimes about their gift to Jesus. And those are all valid expressions. I do feel that we give to God through the church and that our giving is an expression of love and obedience to Jesus.

If you read through the gospels, you can find several examples of where people presented various gifts to Jesus. They weren’t nebulous, “I’m giving to the church, so I’m giving these gifts to Jesus.” they were actual gifts given by individuals to Jesus himself. And I think if we take a look at why other people gave to Jesus, we can see the underlying reasons why we should be giving to Christ as well.

So, you see the assumption I’m making, and that is that each of us is already giving. I trust that isn’t a false assumption.

This morning, we are going to look at some of the reasons that make our giving valid.

Our first story begins in a small town outside of Jerusalem. A young woman from Nazareth and her new husband have welcomed into the world her first child, and as the woman rests and recovers from the birth of her son before beginning the long trip home, mysterious visitors appear at the house they are staying at.

It is a familiar story but one that we normally limit to the yuletide season, and here we are, almost to Easter. We all know the story of Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus, but this part of the story actually began before Mary had any idea that she would deliver a child.

It is, of course, the story of the Magi, or Wise Men, who came to visit the Christ child in the town of Bethlehem. While Matthew only tells us that they came from the East, scholars tell us that the Magi had probably begun their journey in what was then known as Persia and is now known as Iran.

If we pull up our trusty map, we see here is Israel, and over here at the very edge of the map is where their journey would have originated from, meaning their journey would have encompassed over a thousand miles. If they were to arrive in Bethlehem in the narrow window of opportunity that would have presented itself while Mary and Joseph and the Christ child were actually there, we are told they would have to have left their home months in advance. But understand, scholars figure that the journey would have taken months, not years.

Remember, they were travelling through hostile terrain, possibly on Camels; that’s how they are always pictured, but they may very well have made the journey on foot.

Let’s pick up the story as the Magi arrive in Bethlehem, Matthew 2:10–11 When they saw the star, they were filled with joy! They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

We start with A Gift of Adoration

From all that we learn, the Magi arrived, presented their gifts as an act of worship, warned the family of the danger posed by Herod and then disappeared into the mystery that shrouded their entire journey. So, what was up with that? It seems like a long trip just to spend a day.

Well, they came for one purpose, and that was to worship and worship always requires a sacrifice of some kind. Did you catch that? Worship always requires a sacrifice of some kind.

And sometimes I hear people say, “Well, I give of my time.”

The wise men could have made that claim. They gave up a significant part of their lives to make the trip to worship Christ and then to travel home again. But they also brought gifts with them.

I love the fact that each one of the gifts was significant to who Jesus was and who he would become. Gold was traditionally the gift for a King. We are told that in Persia, it was customary that no one could approach the King without first presenting him with a gift of Gold. Must have been great to be King. And so we need to remember that the child in the cradle was also the King of Kings.

The second gift was frankincense, which was a type of incense that was used in temple worship. As a matter of fact, it’s mentioned in the book of Leviticus in the Old Testament as a type of sacrifice. And so, this was a gift for a priest, one who would open the way to God for the people.

The third gift was Myrrh, and it was mixed with aloes by the Jews to embalm their dead. So, this was a gift for the one who would die for us.

And those gifts were presented to Jesus as an act of worship because that’s what Worship is.
Collins English Dictionary defines worship this way wor·ship (wûrshp) n.

1. Reverence or devotion to a deity 2. Intense love or admiration

Did you catch the words Reverence, devotion, and intense love? They aren’t half-hearted words or mediocre words. These are “travel for months across the desert” words. These are “bring your very best gifts to God” words.

In the first act of worship, we see in the Bible, Cain and his brother Abel present gifts to God in Genesis chapter 4.

Let’s pick the story up in Genesis 4:3–5 When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift.

Why was one gift acceptable and one wasn’t? Two words: Cain brought some Abel brought the best. When we worship God with our gifts, do we give him “some” or do we give him “the best”? Just asking.

I have discovered this; you can tell what a person worships by what they are willing to make sacrifices for.

When you come to worship at Cornerstone, what do you bring? Do you bring some of what you have, or do you bring the best.

Another story, this one happens at the other end of Jesus’ life, less than a week before he was to be crucified, Jesus is entertained by his friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus.

Lazarus is sitting with the guys, Martha is doing the Martha thing, hustling and bustling about the kitchen making sure that everything is just right, and Mary is sitting at Jesus’ feet taking in all that he says, and suddenly she gets up, let’s pick up the story there: John 12:2–3 A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honour. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him. Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance.

It’s here that we see A Gift of Gratitude. You might remember the last time that Jesus visited this home was when Lazarus got sick and died, and Jesus raised him from the dead. But it appears that these were more than casual acquaintances. These were friends, and Jesus ate with them on different occasions.

Jesus had made a difference in their lives. He made a physical difference when he gave life back to Lazarus, but more importantly, he made a spiritual and eternal difference in their lives by teaching them about the Kingdom of God. He offered them more than life; he offered them eternal life.

It’s interesting the details the gospels give in stories like this one. John doesn’t just say that it was perfume. We are told that it was from the essence of “Nard,” and that was a substance that came from a flower called a spikenard, which was harvested in the foothills of the Himalayas in India.

This was a very expensive perfume imported from a distant country. And then later in the story, we are told that the perfume could have been sold for 300 denarii. 300 denarii!

Do you remember the story about Jesus feeding the 5000? When he asked Philip where they could get bread, Philip said it would cost 200 denarri to feed that many people.

A denarius was a day’s wage, and this perfume cost 300 of them. That’s quite a gift, the equivalent of a year’s earnings.

Some scholars think that Mary may have been collecting and saving this perfume for her body to be anointed with when she died.

And so, she took what she had saved for her funeral expenses to give to Jesus, and don’t even get me started on the obscene amounts of money we spend to bury dead people.

And so, Mary gave to Jesus because she was grateful for all that he had done for her and for her family. And it wasn’t a tip or a pittance. It was a gift of significance because, in her mind and her heart, the gift that Christ had given her was a gift of significance. And her gift didn’t just make an impact on Jesus because we are told that the house was filled with the fragrance.

Mary’s gift made an impact not only on Christ but also on everyone present.

The question that you each need to ask is, what has Christ given you? What has Cornerstone given you? And are you grateful for the difference that’s been made in your life?

Another story from the Gospels, this one more toward the middle. Often, when we picture Christ and his disciples, we see them making their way from town to town, teaching and healing those they came in contact with. Some kind of carefree existence somewhere between Peter Pan and the Lost Boys and Robin Hood and his Merry Men. You almost expect them to break into song as they make their way through the countryside.

But from a practical standpoint, we have to ask, how did they survive? Think about it: thirteen guys walking everywhere they went. They had to be hungry at the end of the day. But we don’t see them working part-time or sitting on the corner with a sign.

Oh, I know every once in a while, you see them fishing or picking some grain as they walked along the road, and that was fine when they were around Capernaum where Peter and Andrews’s fishing boat was, and the picking grain that was a snack, not a meal.

But in order for Jesus and his happy little band of followers to have ministered for three years around Israel, someone had to be footing the bill, and there’s just one little mention in the bible to give us a clue as to what was happening.

Luke 8:1–3 Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples.

This was A Gift for Ministry

Plain and simple, if these folks hadn’t been kicking in, then Jesus and the 12 would not have been able to do what they did.

Some things stay the same, and one of those things is that ministry costs money.

Sometimes, we romanticize the church in the same way as we do the ministry of Christ and the 12. You know, it just happens.

We come to church on Sunday morning, and when we get there, everything is there and in place.

But we never stop to think about salaries and curriculum and supplies for children’s ministry and the like.  To be truthful, I never gave it a second thought when I first became a Christian.  Church was just there for me.

I would love to be able to work for the church for nothing, but it costs me the same to live in Bedford as it costs you, and I get gouged for gas the same as they do, and Superstore and Sobeys don’t hand out free pastor food.

And so, if you are availing yourself of the ministry of Cornerstone, then understand that it needs to be supported, and just because you only come once in a while doesn’t mean that it only needs to be supported when you are here.

Because, in order for it to be able to happen when you need it to happen, then it needs to be supported all the time.

Apparently, there was a group of individuals who took it upon themselves to support the ministry of Christ. And things haven’t changed much today.

If you want Cornerstone in your life. If you look forward to the Sunday Worship and the teaching. If you want to be able to call upon the church to marry you and dedicate your children and call on you in the hospital and be there to pray for you and meet your needs and eventually say a few nice words at your funeral, then there is a cost that has to be paid.

Now, let us go to the end of the story, past the Last Supper and beyond the crucifixion to the morning of the resurrection. And if we peer through the morning mist, we see three women making their way toward the city of the dead, carrying spices to anoint the body of their Lord and friend. It’s interesting to note that these women were mentioned as being the last at the cross, and now we see them again as the first at the tomb.

Now you know as well as I do that it was a wasted trip, that when they got there, the tomb was empty, and there was no need for their spices, but that isn’t the point.

The point is that they were bringing the last gift they intended to give to Jesus. Let’s pick up the story the night before in the gospel of Mark 16:1 Saturday evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out and purchased burial spices so they could anoint Jesus’ body.

This was A Gift of Necessity. It wasn’t pretty. It’s not a Christmas card with the Wise Men gathering around a manger in the stable. It’s not providing for Jesus so he could teach and heal the multitudes. It’s not even Mary anointing Jesus’ feet with perfume and then wiping them dry with her hair in an act of incredible love and gratitude.

Instead, it is the reality of anointing a dead body with perfume to help keep putrefaction at bay. And maybe you are thinking what a strange thing to do and what a waste of perfectly good spices, using them on someone who was dead.

I warned you, don’t get me started on the subject of funerals and how much money people spend there; you don’t want to go down that road.

I wonder if when they were getting the spices together to embalm Jesus, if his mother remembered the gifts that were given to Christ at his birth.

I wonder if she still had the myrrh. I wonder if it was part of the spices the women took to the tomb that morning? It must have been one of the very first prepaid funerals.

You know it’s kind of cool and noble to give to ministry. To know that your gift is changing lives and making an impact on the eternal. But understand that there are just plain necessary gifts at Cornerstone as well.

The building will be twenty years old next year and there are things that need to be done for repairs and just to pretty things up again. And your giving will make that a reality.

Then there are Gifts that will pay for the power bill. And gifts that will pay for snowplowing and lawn mowing, cleaning supplies and paper towels and let’s not forget the toilet paper.

Those things are just as vital to touching this community as the salaries we pay our staff and the curriculum that’s used in children’s church.

Each one of you will have a different reason for what and why you give to Cornerstone in order for our church to do God’s work in our community.

For some, you will give out of adoration. Others will give out of gratitude for what God has done for them. Some will give because they see and appreciate the ministry that happens through His church, and some will give because they are practical, and they know that the bills need to be paid.

There are many different reasons to give, but I would say this morning, without apology, if you love Jesus and love Cornerstone, there is no reason not to give.

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