10/28/2018 - Much More than Enough - Exodus 35:4-5, 20-24, and 36:1-7

Much More than Enough

Exodus 35:4-5, 20-24, and 36:1-7

October 28, 2018

Emmanuel Baptist Church, Rev. Kathy Donley


Every once in a while,  I make it my business to correct a stranger who is wrong on the internet. Last week, I got into a fairly civil conversation with a woman named Nancy.  By the end of it, she said to me, “Read the Holy Bible.  I am disturbed by your train of thought and pray one day that you find God.”  So I responded by thanking her for her prayers and saying that as a Baptist pastor, I can use all the prayers I can get.  I also told her that I had, in fact, read a lot of the Bible.

There are times when I think I must have read it all by now, but a few months ago, I came across this story in Exodus[1] and I don’t remember ever knowing it before.  Maybe the last time I read it was before I was a pastor preaching stewardship sermons.   This Exodus text appears to be the first known religious capital campaign.  And they left it out of the lectionary – what were they thinking?

Remember with me what has come before this time.  We could start with the ancient Hebrews who left Israel during a famine and went to Egypt.  One of them, Joseph, was an advisor to the Pharaoh and things went well for them because of him.  But then a new Pharaoh came to power who did not know Joseph or his descendants.  Under his leadership, the Egyptians both feared and oppressed the Hebrew people, enslaving them, forcing them into heavy labor. The people cried out to God who heard their suffering. 

With fear and some courage, the people fled with Moses, across the sea with their oppressors hard on their heels, into the wilderness, where they complained that they didn’t have the vegetables they had enjoyed back in Egypt, where they grumbled that the water was not as plentiful or as fresh as what they used to get from the Nile and where they murmured because they were afraid.  They were living in Scare City, weren’t they? 

But God kept inviting them to move into abundance. When they were afraid of getting lost, God provided a pillar of cloud by day and a fire by night to guide them.  When they were hungry, God sent manna and quail.  When they were thirsty, God told Moses where to find water in the rock. 

Maybe God thought they were ready to leave Scare City behind for good. God summoned Moses up Mt. Sinai to make a covenant, which we know as the 10 Commandments.  And we remember that while Moses was away, the people again gave in to their fears and made their own god to worship, in the form of a golden calf.   

What happened in chapter 34, just before our reading, is that God forgives them.  God gives them another chance and sends Moses back down the mountain with another set of tablets.  What we read happens just after that.  Moses tells the people that what is needed is a suitable home for God’s glory.  Moses’s request is very simple.  “Let whoever is of a generous heart bring the Lord’s offering”  or “Everyone who is willing is to bring to the Lord an offering . . .” are two translations of Exodus 35:5.    No guilt trip, no teaching on tithing, no slick stewardship campaign.  Just a simple appeal to those who wanted to respond.

And respond they did.  Everyone whose heart was stirred, everyone whose spirit was willing.  They brought gold and silver and bronze and yarns of blue and purple and crimson and fine linen, and precious stones and fragrant spices and oil for the light—which is another way of saying that they paid the electric bill. 

Do you understand? They move out of Scare City into Abundance and in that movement, they participate in an extraordinary outpouring of generosity. Walter Brueggemann suggests that this is a moment of new beginning for Israel, as new and fresh as new creation.  Brueggemann says, “in that moment, nothing impedes generosity, nothing qualifies extravagance. The only compelling motivation for generous stewardship is an . . . awareness that life is pure gift and that gratitude is the only fitting posture for life.” [2]

In gratitude, they stepped out of their fear of the unknown. They left behind their worry about not enough. They remembered God’s goodness over the long haul, and they brought their offerings, gifts of their precious and beautiful things to Moses. 

And they kept bringing them.  Did you hear the last part of the story?  They kept bringing freewill offerings  until someone, I think it was the trustees, told Moses they had to stop.  They said, “The people are bringing much more than enough.”    So the people were kept from bringing more, for what they had already brought was much more than enough to do all the work.” 

Can you imagine?  What if, this afternoon, after today’s offering is counted,  we were to hear from our financial people?  What if they said “We don’t need any more money for the rest of the year. We have enough to pay all our bills and make up the deficit and pay for the new furnaces.  What if they said, “You’ve got to stop giving like this, Emmanuel, because what you’ve given is more than enough!”

Wow!  Wouldn’t that be amazing?  I hope I’m here the day that happens. 

It took 40 years of wilderness wandering at least, for the people of Israel to move from a mindset of scarcity to one of generosity.  It will take most of us a long time too and we may need to move between scarcity and abundance a few times before we can leave scarcity behind for good.  What we need is the courage to move out from behind our fear.  Sometimes the reward for courage is joy, and isn’t that where we really want to be?

This film clip is a demonstration of that.  What is happening here is that some singers and actors are trying to get financial backing for a film, so it’s a workshop for potential producers.  What is also happening is that Keala Settle has been grudgingly persuaded to sing a just-written song.  She had never intended to be in the movie and what we see is her courage in stepping into the role.  Watch and listen for the abundance:


The first time I heard this song was at the Wild Goose Festival[3] this summer.  It was the opening session on the main stage.  Some group I did not know had just been introduced and they suggested that the song they were about to sing might be a kind of theme song for  the Wild Goose Festival.  And the next thing I knew, hundreds of people were on their feet belting it out.

Listen to the lyrics:

I am not a stranger to the dark
Hide away, they say
'Cause we don't want your broken parts
I've learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one'll love you as you are

But I won't let them break me down to dust
I know that there's a place for us
For we are glorious

When the sharpest words wanna cut me down
I'm gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I'm meant to be, this is me
Look out 'cause here I come
And I'm marching on to the beat I drum
I'm not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me

I won't let them break me down to dust
I know that there's a place for us
For we are glorious

Do you hear the mindset of scarcity, the fear of rejection, the brokenness and inadequacy?  And then the counter-assertion that “I am brave, I am bruised, I am who I’m meant to be.”  

Many of us at Wild Goose have learned in our families and schools and, unfortunately,  also in our churches that we are too broken, that we should hide away, that there is not enough love, not enough grace, not enough of what we need,  to go around.  But many people have also discovered a theology and a community of faith that says “We are made in God’s image and we are glorious.”  It is the good news of God’s love in Jesus which coaxes and supports and encourages them, and us, to move out of fear into love.

Someone recently said this about the Wild Goose community, “I want a community where we can sit on a couch together and swear about how badly we want to be loved by a god we’re not even sure we believe in anymore.”[5]

This sums up the longing for a faith that is authentic, that is found in community, that lends us courage when we are afraid and helps us to believe when we doubt.  It is a yearning that so many people are feeling.  What they want, what we want, is the gospel’s alternative to the culture of enmity and fear at work in the world.  It is what can happen when we determine to be faithful and courageous and loving and to accept God’s love ourselves and let it flow through us to those who are desperate for it.

If someone would describe Emmanuel this way “a community where we can sit on a couch together and swear about how badly we want to be loved by a god we’re not even sure we believe in any more” – I would take that as the highest affirmation of our ministry. 

So friends, unlike Moses, I am preaching a stewardship sermon.  I am going to remind us that hosting the holy requires a concrete strategy.  Creating and sustaining an authentic faith community costs money. 

This week, you will receive a letter and a commitment card inviting you to prayerfully consider what you will give to God through this church in the next year. As you make that decision, let me invite you to remember two things.  First remember what Moses said.  It was something like “Whoever is willing, whoever has a generous heart, whoever wants to move out of Scare City, should bring an offering to the Lord.”  And then, also please remember that there’s a place for us, for we are made in God’s image and we are glorious. 

And who knows?  Maybe at lunch next Sunday, we will have to be restrained.  Maybe the financial people will say, “You are giving much more than enough.  Your generosity is overwhelming the church.”  Wouldn’t that be something?

[1] I discovered this text through the Rev. Shannon J. Kershner’s  sermon “Too Much Giving” which provided the inspiration and much of the foundation for this sermon.   http://www.fourthchurch.org/sermons/2014/101914.html

[2] Walter Brueggemann, New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 1, (Nashville:  Abingdon Press, 1994), pp. 962-63.

[3] http://wildgoosefestival.org/

[4] https://genius.com/Keala-settle-this-is-me-lyrics

[5] https://www.facebook.com/micahjmurray/photos/a.10150997569992820/10153648604412820/?type=3&theater