The Length of Your Legacy

April 17, 2016

Length of Your Legacy
How long will you be remembered?  I remember my Grandfather Guptill, we called
him Da.  He passed away when I was
11.  I vaguely remember my mother’s
grandfather, he passed away when I was seven, but we had moved overseas when I
was five so those were my last recollections of Grampy Peter.  I never met my mother’s father, he was killed
in an industrial accident when I was just a month old.
Often we live on in the memory of our
children and grandchildren, but for most of us that will be it.  I don’t expect strangers to be talking about
Denn Guptill seventy-five years from now, but there is a chance that my
grand-daughters will remember me and their children. 
And I’m not sure if that is depressing or
not.  It was Benjamin
Franklin who said if you wanted to be remembered you would need to “Either
write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”  And while I am
published it’s doubtful that the Penn of Denn will ever be remembered as great
literature.  Mark
Twain defined a classic book as “Classic:
a book which people praise and don’t read.” 
So maybe the Penn is a classic.
This is week three of Money Month here at
Cornerstone.  If you are new to
Cornerstone this month is really for those who call Cornerstone their church home.  We do finances a little different at
Cornerstone then most churches do, but it hasn’t always been that way.
For the first seven years of our life we
struggled with our finances and really didn’t have a financial plan at
Cornerstone.  We did write a budget each
year, but it was more of a wish list then an actual budget.  As a leadership team we would sit down at the
beginning of the new church year and draft our budget.  These are the things we need to spend money
on, and here are the things that we’d like to spend money on.  And we felt that we were being fiscally
responsible, but the budgets weren’t really based on solid data.  We didn’t actually know how much money we
would receive and estimates were really guesses. 
So we would prepare a budget and present it
to our annual meeting and it would be approved because. . .  it was the budget.
And then at some point in the year we would
realize that we were under budget, usually on the income side, not the expense
side.  So there would be suggestions,
perhaps we should put our finances in the bulletin so people could see what was
needed. But that usually was just depressing and wasn’t really the message you
wanted to send to guests.
Then someone would suggest that maybe
letters be sent out to everyone in the church and that Denn should preach on
stewardship. And I have copies of those letters and those sermons, and the
message always came across as a little desperate because no matter how you
worded it the message was the same. . . “We need your money”.  And people just tuned out.  Those who were giving would dig a little
deeper because it was a priority for them, and those who weren’t giving, very
seldom started.
So in 2002 we made two major changes in how
we would present and deal with our finances. 
The first is that I would teach on stewardship and the theology of
giving in April each year.  It is the end
of our church year so it seemed like the best time.  Easter often falls in April so a lot of years
that limits us to three Sundays, some years like this year you get four Sundays
and when you are really lucky Easter falls in March and there are five Sundays
in April.
So I’m not preaching on money because we
are desperate or because there is a problem, but because it’s April.  And there are some folks who don’t come in
April because they know what I’ll be preaching on, and that is their choice.
The second thing we do is to ask those who
make Cornerstone their church home to estimate what they think they can give
that year.  The last Sunday of April we
hand out estimate of giving cards and ask, not tell, you to fill them out.  It is completely voluntary.  But you get to have a say in the budget, when
you are filling out a card, or not filling out a card you are saying “This is
the type of church I want Cornerstone to be. 
And we use that figure to determine our
budget for the upcoming year.  And we
feel that is the responsible way to do it.
This year our theme is “Your Legacy, Your
Choice!”  And in week one I spoke about
how Everybody leaves a legacy and that we leave a legacy with both our lives
and our money.
Last week I spoke about how we have a
legacy in the work that we do and what the bible had to say about our work.
This week my focus will be the length of
your legacy, because while we understand that we all leave a legacy with our
money, not all of those legacies have the same life span.
So let’s look at a couple of different
stories in the New Testament where giving actually impacted the lives of
others.
One of my favourite stories in the gospels
happened on the edge of the sea of Galilee. 
The story is told in Matthew and Mark’s gospels.  A crowd has gathered to hear Jesus preach and
the time has gotten away from them and suddenly the apostles realize that it is
getting close to supper time and that people are starting to get hungry.  So they go to Jesus and tell him that it’s
probably time to call it a day, that the people are going to have to head home
to get something to eat. 
Jesus simply responds by saying “You feed
them.”  Seriously?  Feed them what?  We pick up the story in Mark
6:37
 But Jesus said, “You feed them.” “With what?” they asked. “We’d
have to work for months to earn enough money to buy food for all these
people!”  
And so Jesus tells them to go into the
crowd and see what they can rustle up for supper.  And they come back with a boy who offers up
five rolls and two fish.  The story is
one of those one taught to us in Sunday School and VBS, Jesus takes this gift
and uses it to feed the thousands of people who have come to hear him teach.
And there are all kinds of lessons wrapped
up in the story.  The generosity of the
little boy, God using this small gift in a miraculous way, the faith of the
apostles as they began to pass out the food. 
And 2000 years people are still talking about what happened that
day. 
But here is the reality, as miraculous as
that was the people were hungry again the next day.  So we discover that Some Gifts Last for a Day
And that does not negate what happened that
day, people were hungry and Jesus met a need. 
But the need that was met was very base and
very temporal.  It filled their bellies
but that was it.   
We leave this type of legacy all the time,
at least I hope we do.   We leave it when
we give a homeless person a handout on the street or at a set of lights in the
city.  And I know the arguments, that you
are simply enabling them, or they will probably use your loonie to buy
cigarettes or booze.  Maybe, and if they
do that is a choice that they make, but whether I give them sometime or not is
a choice I make.
When you bring your cans of chunky soup and
evaporated milk on the first Sunday of the month and we donate that to feed
Nova Scotia, that is making an impact and leaving a legacy, but only a very
temporary one. 
But for the person whose food for that meal
is a can of chunky soup that you went out and bought and then remembered to bring
in on a Sunday, it is important.  As
important as the tuna fish sandwiches were to the folks that Jesus fed.
This type of giving is so important that
Jesus used it as an example when he spoke about what the day of judgment would
be like. You might recall, or not, that in the last days Jesus says that
humanity will be divided into two groups, a group on the right and a group on the
left.  And to the group on his right he
says Matthew 25:34-36  “Then the King will
say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the
Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.  For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave
me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home.  I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you
cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’
And when they asked “When did this happen,
when did we see you hungry, or thirsty, or naked or sick?”  He replies in Matthew 25:40  And
the King will say, “I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least
of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!”
If you google Loaves and Fishes before you
get an entry about Christ’s miracle, you get hits about food banks with that
name.
And it really doesn’t hurt us much to spend
5.00 to help someone, Jack London wrote “A bone to the
dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog, when you are just
as hungry as the dog.”
Twice a month when we provide the Monday
meal at Ronald McDonald House, we are leaving a legacy for a day.  When families return to RMH from the
Children’s hospital and there is a hot meal waiting that they didn’t have to
cook or buy, that means something.  It
may just be filling a temporary need but it is filling a need and making an
impact.
I’m sure you are all familiar with the
statement “Give a man a
fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a
lifetime.”,   it’s been attributed to many different
people over the years including Maimoides who was a 12th century philosopher,
but we really don’t know who actually said it the first time. 

Maimonides wrote about eight degrees in the duty of charity.  And he wrote this “ Lastly, the eighth and
the most meritorious of all, is to anticipate charity by preventing poverty.” 
I guess that is
like teaching them to fish. 
But some of our giving leaves a legacy that
goes beyond a day.  The passage that was
read this morning ends with these words, 2 Corinthians
8:14-15
 Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need.
Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this
way, things will be equal.  As the Scriptures say, “Those
who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those
who gathered only a little had enough.”  
And it’s here we discover that Some Gifts Last for a Lifetime:  I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago.  Paul is addressing a serious problem in the
early church.  Persecution had become a
reality for the believers, especially in Jerusalem where it had been fanned
into flames by the same religious leaders who had Christ crucified.  But more than that, the Roman authorities were
starting to see Christians as a threat because of the growth of the church and
their refusal to swear allegiance to Caesar.
Rome was fairly open to the various
religions of the day, it really was live and let live.  But there was one condition that everybody
had to live by, once a year they had to swear allegiance to the Emperor with
words “Caesar is Lord.”  The only problem
Christians refused to say that because to them it was blasphemy because for
them only Jesus was Lord.
And believers in Jerusalem, because that
was perceived to be the birthplace of the church, were suffering the most.  They were losing their jobs and their property,  sometimes being put in prison, sometimes
losing their lives.  For many it wasn’t a
matter of being unwilling to work it was being unable to work and the only
reason they were able to survive was through the giving of other
believers. 
We see that reflected in what we do with
our Clean Water Project each Christmas where Cornerstone has provided clean
water for over a dozen villages in Sierra Leone and Democratic Republic of the
Congo.
In some ways it serves the same purpose as
giving food but it goes so much further than that.  I am so passionate about clean water because
of my teaching in West Africa and you can’t even comprehend the impact that clean
water can make on the lives of people.
 Most
people are now familiar with the Canadian charity “Me to We”  or “Free the Children”  when brothers Craig and Marc Kielburger first
began their project they were funding education in Africa and they discovered
that very few girls came to school.  Not
because they weren’t permitted but because they were too busy carrying
water.  And so they began providing clean
sources of water along with schools and the difference was incredible.
Water provides so many life changing
benefits, health, economic and educational. 
It has a lifelong legacy.   By the
way this is a picture of a well that we helped provided for a 175 bed hospital
in Tandala in the DRC, and long after the sign is gone your giving will still
be providing a legacy.
The present emphasis on refugee sponsorship
in Canada has a similar legacy.  The
difference in the lives of the families who come to Canada with the help of
community groups like our own Kingswood Refugee Project will last for a
lifetime. 
And I have mentioned before, that because
people through the years have sacrificially given so that Cornerstone can exist
we have had a life changing impact on individuals and families in our
community.  Stories that you will never
know about marriages that have been saved and children and teens who have been
nudged away from bad decisions, addictions that have been overcome.  Those legacies go well beyond today, they
last for a lifetime.
In the Gospels we often read accounts of
Jesus healing people, and the ministry of healing continues into the book of
Acts and beyond.  And I believe that even
today that God heals people, but for all those who say that God always heals
and all you need is enough faith let me share this with you: You are
wrong!  And death proves that.
But for the person who has experienced a
physical healing their life and their quality of life has been changed and they
would often say it was a change for the best.  
But here is the reality of this point,
people’s lives can be changed for the better. 
They can be educated and healthy but still be far from God.  And while I truly believe that Jesus came so
we could have better lives, abundant lives. 
That’s not the main reason he came. 
Because there are all kinds of organizations that help people have
better lives but don’t prepare them for eternity.
Schools and service organizations help Feed
Nova Scotia, other community groups assist with meals at Ronald McDonald
House.  There are any number of well
intentioned organizations who help provide clean water in the developing world
and sponsor refugees.
But if we truly believe the word of Jesus
than there is a legacy that lasts beyond our lifetime.  John 14:6  Jesus told
him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can
come to the Father except through me.    You understand
what Jesus is saying there right, he’s not saying he is “a” way to God, he is
saying he is “The” way to God.
And John 11:25-26  Jesus
told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone
who believes in me will live, even after dying.  Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever
die. Do you believe this, Martha?”
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 care free 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 country side. 
But from a practical stand point, how did
they survive?  Think about it, thirteen
guys walk 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, or doing the squeegee kid thing
with Chariots stopping at the lights.  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 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 their own
resources to support Jesus and his disciples.
Some
Gifts Last for an Eternity
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.  They were not only feeding 13 men their gifts
were establishing a movement and leaving a legacy.
The gifts that were given by those folks
2000 years ago are directly responsible for your salvation.  Their legacy is you.
22 years ago this summer we moved back from
Australia with the vision of a new church that we would be starting in
Bedford.  We were partially funded by the
district and denomination, but a significant portion of our funding came from individuals.  And that happened as I travelled across the
district speaking wherever I could wangle an invitation.
And when I cast the vision for this church
22 years ago at Beulah Camp and around the churches on our district it wasn’t a
vision to have another Wesleyan Church it was a vision to establish a church to
help depopulate Hell.  And when people
gave to that vision they weren’t giving so we could have another Wesleyan
Church on the district, they were giving to a church that they’d probably never
visit because they believed the vision, they gave so that people would meet
Jesus.
And over the past 22 years marriages have
been saved, and wells have been drilled and cans of soup have been collected, and
that is fine and good.  But there will be
people who will be in heaven and not in hell because this church was
started.  And that is an eternal legacy.
And when we cast the vision for this
building 12 years ago it wasn’t a vision to have a comfortable place to
worship, it was a vision to help depopulate hell.  And because people sacrificially gave we have
this building.
And there are people who started attending
who would never have attended at the LeBrun centre who have stepped over the
line of faith and there will be people who will be in heaven and not in hell
because this church was built.
Three weeks ago a grade six student
accepted Christ as their saviour and because of the teaching that happens in
Jr. Church and Children’s church children embrace the reality of Christ and his
grace and that is because folks at Cornerstone give so that we can have a
pastors who focus on children and youth. And that is an eternal legacy.
We don’t give at Cornerstone simply to keep
the lights on and the doors open we give to to help depopulate hell.  And that is an eternal legacy.
Next week at the end of the service we will
distribute estimate of giving cards, they look like this.  And we will ask that each family who makes
Cornerstone their church home prayerfully consider what they will be able to
give in the upcoming year.  And you will
have the opportunity to say, “This is the kind of church we’d like Cornerstone
to be.”  And each of you will have a hand
in shaping our legacy.