Grace to you and peace from God the Father and from our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
About a month or two ago, I walked into Crossroads and sat down on one of the stools at the bar. Clarence was there, and he wanted to talk. I’d had several opportunities to visit with him since he’d moved back to Cat Spring. On several of those occasions, he talked about missing Irene and Jannette. Losing two people in one lifetime who you loved deeply takes a toll. But on this particular day, Clarence wanted to talk about something else, something that brought him great joy.
"Pastor," he said, "let me tell you something. I enjoy giving. It makes me happy." He then talked about an incident that happened right there in Crossroads. A family had come in, and they had a little girl with them. She was hungry. She wanted a snack, but mom and dad didn’t have money to pay for it. She really wanted something, but time and again, her folks said, "No. We don’t have money for it." Clarence said he felt for that little girl, so he reached into his wallet and paid for that little girl to have a snack. Clarence said, "You should have seen the look on that little girl’s face, Pastor. It was worth every penny. It really made me feel good. I’ve been blessed, Pastor, very blessed. I’ve got plenty to share, and it makes me feel good, and it makes others feel good too." And Clarence meant what he said.
Somewhere along the line in his life, Clarence discovered what it meant to be generous. He discovered how blessed he was and how he could make a difference in the lives of others by spreading that joy. He discovered how much the Lord loves a cheerful giver, as our second lesson proclaims, and Clarence discovered the tremendous blessing that God gives to those who give.
"Oh," you might say, "that was just a snack for a little girl. That wasn’t much."
Well, let me tell you a little something about Clarence as his Pastor. About six months or so ago, we decided to turn one of the rooms in the church office into a prayer room. Clarence was so enthusiastic about the idea of a prayer room that he drove up to my house, honked the horn until I came out and handed me a $1000 check to help pay for the room. He was delighted to give.
"Oh," you might say, "that was just one instance."
Well, yes, but it wasn’t the end. A few months ago, the eternal flame holder right back here broke. We needed a new one. After recommendations from the Altar Guild, Council approved the purchase of a new electric eternal flame with the cost of up to $500. A few days later, Clarence came into the church office. He left a $500 check. It was shortly after he did this that I ran into him at Crossroads and we had the conversation I began this sermon with, although I’ll add one bit that I didn’t say earlier. Clarence chewed me out in a rather nice fashion by saying, "Pastor, why did y’all approve that from the Memorial money? Why didn’t you just come to me? I’ll take care of that. You don’t need to spend that other money."
And Clarence wasn’t just saying this. He meant it. Believe it or not, just over a month ago, at our council meeting, we found that we needed some extra funds to finish out the prayer room. Council approved $1000 out of the Memorial Fund to cover those expenses. Guess who showed up and gave us another $1000 check?
Paul wrote it in 2 Corinthians. I read it earlier, but I will say it again, "The Lord loves a cheerful giver", and what Clarence discovered is that when one gives and one is generous, one is cheerful. The two run hand in hand.
Just ask Bonnie and Lisa and Sherry and Shirley and Morgan and Makenzi and Blake and Brooke and Shane and Meagan. They will tell you what PoPo did for them. They will tell you how generous he was in buying his granddaughters candy and go-karts. Ask them if he helped pay for "medical expenses" or if deer had bounties on them. They will tell you about PoPo having a dollar here or a dollar there just to give out. Why? Because, Clarence was generous. He had a kind heart and a desire to make others feel good.
Why am I emphasizing this so much this morning? Aren’t there other things that I could have spent time talking about? Couldn’t I have talked about how when he moved back to Cat Spring it took Trixie–the little dog up at Crossroads–and him a few weeks, several pairs of pants, and a pair of Dickies overall’s–to evolve into a peaceful co-existence and then a great friendship? Couldn’t I have talked about his military service and his love of country? How he served in World War II and earned three bronze crosses and how he was touched greatly by being able to attend the Veteran’s Day programs at Bellville Elementary last year? Couldn’t I have talked about his love of gardening and dancing and how he taught Bonnie to dance while listening to Lawrence Welk on Saturdays and teaching all his grand children to dance by taking them dancing when they were young? Well, yes, I could have emphasized all those things, and I guess I just did in a fashion, but I wanted to emphasize Clarence’s generosity because his generosity helps us to see God’s generosity.
For, my brothers and sisters, we who are Christian believe that God has been quite generous to us. And I’m not just talking about all the possessions and talents and money that we have. Yes, we certainly believe that God has provided us with all of these things, but God’s greatest act of generosity was the gift of eternal life that He has given to us through His Son, Jesus Christ.
For you see, because of sin, we were alienated from God. We were separated from Him, and despite the attempts of generations of people, that gap could not be bridged. God longed for reconciliation. God longed to have the brokenness restored that once existed between Him and humankind, and as it became painfully obvious that humanity could not mend that relationship; God knew that He was the one who had to act. And so, God sent His one and only Son into the world–not just to teach us the right ways of living, but to give Himself as a sacrifice for many. When Jesus died on that cross, He gave everything. Jesus was completely generous, and God raised Him up to show something very, very important to you and to me. Christ was raised to show us that reconciliation had taken place and that death was not the end. Let me repeat that: death is not the end. Because of Jesus’ generosity, death has been defeated, and those who believe in Him share in the gift of eternal life.
This is tremendously good news. It changes the nature of how we view things. It means that even though we gather today to mourn the fact that Clarence has died; we do not say goodby. It means that because Clarence believed in Jesus Christ and was adopted by God, Clarence has gone to be with God, and those of us who share that belief will one day share with Clarence and those who have gone before the great gift of eternal life. We will see Clarence and Irene and Jannette once again at the banquet which has no end. This is why we can say with confidence as the Psalmist did, "You will turn my mourning into dancing!" It’s all
because of God’s generosity–a generosity that Clarence helped us see. (Read obit)