I've never witnessed anything like it. It was bizarre and it was risky.
After preaching from "The Lord's Prayer" with a focus on "Give us this day our daily bread," I ended the sermon by pointing people to the communal function of this prayer. We've often interpreted this phrase as a call to personal reflection about our willingness to trust in God to provide. There is a sermon there; it just isn't the way this prayer functions.
Jesus teaches us to pray, "Give us..."
Jesus teaches us to pray with the world.
The church in Acts 2 and Acts 4 seemed to have been formed by these words of Jesus. They met each other's needs by selling land and homes. They grew because they knew how "to do" compassion.
My prayer this week was that Acts 4 would come to life at SVC today.
We had two baskets up front. Mark Taylor (a good friend and a minster at SVC) was holding one and Stoney Ramsey (a dear friend and a man of compassion) was holding the other. God provided me with $3200 in cash, and I had divided it into 4 piles of $800--2 for the 2 baskets in early service and 2 for the 2 baskets in late service. Then, I invited people to give whatever cash or change they wanted to give, because today we were going to take care of one another.
Then, it got bizarre. Very bizarre.
We have members like many of you do who are struggling with needs. Do they pay for healthcare or do they buy food? Do they pay off credit cards or do they pay the utility bill? Do they buy school supplies or new clothes for the kids?
I invited all who were in need to come and to take handfuls of money. (I know...it sounds crazy, right? I know of a couple of churches who have done something similar, and I was inspired.)
I rebuked the spirit of pride, embarrassment, fear, and shame. We have created a culture where we are unable to say, "I am in need." Needy people are often looked down upon as if they don't work hard enough, or they haven't managed money well, or they just haven't been blessed by God.
I begged those in need to not deprive people from the joy of giving. I pleaded with them to not deprive God of providing for their daily necessities.
And, it happened.
Within the first verse of the first song, people were waiting in line to drop money in the baskets. I was shocked to witness how many people were carrying cash. I had people coming up to me afterwards saying things like, "I never carry cash, but for some reason I went to the ATM yesterday."
I will never forget the lady who came forward with a handful of change and said, "This is all I have, but I want to give it." It was the story of the woman who gave her two coins lived out right in front of me.
We had people dropping checks in the baskets with the "Pay to the order of" left blank. These checks were for $50, $500, $1000 and the memo read, "Acts 4".
As people were putting money in the baskets, others were coming to take money out. There were plenty of tears and even more laughter. Widows were provided for. The needy were taken care of. The people who cried on the way to church today because they didn't know how bills were going to be paid went home rejoicing in the providence of God. We witnessed the power and activity of the Holy Spirit.
We gave away every single penny. We refused to count the money, but I'm assuming we gave away close to $10,000 today. I sent the basket of change home with a 20-year-old college student whose grandmother needed the money.
I am so proud of our people at SVC. I get to preach in front of people every Sunday who have surrendered their lives to the Jesus-story. They teach me something new every week.
Today, at SVC, it was a day of Jubilee. We were leaping for joy because the presence of God was alive and active.
Now, I'm drained. I'm going to sleep.
PS--I wish you could have been at the bank with me when I cashed a $3200 check. I handed it to the lady and I said, "Mam, I need a bunch of cash, preferably in all 20's." She laughed. I told her that it was for a day of Jubilee. Before I knew what was going on, I was explaining to the workers at Bank of America what Jubilee meant for God's people. They couldn't believe that there was a church that was going to give money away to people on a Sunday morning. The workers at the bank went home knowing about the power of God in Acts 4.