Scripture: Luke 6:37-38
Today is Wesleyan College Sunday in the South Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church. Each year, the Conference assigns a Sunday to each of the two United Methodist colleges in the South Georgia Conference for United Methodist clergy and laity; current faculty, staff, and students; alumnae; parents of alumnae; and friends of Wesleyan College to express thanks for the bold Methodist leaders who in 1836 believed that women should receive the same higher education as men.
On December 23rd, we will celebrate the 181st anniversary of that brave act that has resulted in more than 15,000 proud alumnae who have earned the Wesleyan diploma. Today, Sunday school classes and worship services in Churches around the South Georgia Conference will hear stories of decades of powerful learning experiences. Through the bounty of Facebook, our first virtual Wesleyan College Sunday will carry the message to people who are United Methodist and those who are not.
What great timing this is for us: last Sunday was All Saints Sunday in Christian churches around the world, and in a few weeks we will celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States. In many religious traditions around the world, this is a time for the faithful to be thankful for harvests; for others it is a time to celebrate light as we move into the darkest time of the year.
When you think of Wesleyan, for what are you thankful? For whom are you thankful?
Faculty who challenged you to be the best you could be
Coaches, counselors, and staff who pushed you to develop your leadership skills
Resident advisors or “dorm mothers” (depending on your age) who tended to your feelings when you were ill or homesick or overwhelmed or lost a loved one
Classmates, study partners, friends, and roommates who shared your academic and personal experiences, including the highs and the lows of college life
Chaplains, presidents, trustees who set the moral course for the College
Generous donors who funded your scholarships
In many churches, this is the time of year when we talk about stewardship of time and talents; that is, how we—the faithful—use the gifts we have been given for the good of the Church. In my church, Vineville UMC, I recently learned that what we used to call the Stewardship Committee has a new name: The Generosity Team. I love it! Rather than talking about our responsibility to be stewards of our resources, the emphasis is on gratitude. It’s about pondering God’s great generosity, and my opportunity to respond in gratitude.
As I thought about Wesleyan saints on All Saints Sunday, my list became much too long to include in this brief message. The first Wesleyanne I ever met was Betty Bruner who was my mentor in ministry. “Generous” was her first name. She was generous with her love, her time, and her resources. She served over 50 years as Director of Christian Education at Shandon UMC in Columbia, SC, and she was truly beloved. I didn’t know about her Wesleyan connection until I came to Wesleyan in 2007. And in the last ten years I have learned about and met many Wesleyan saints—living and departed—who have labored in the classroom, on the campus, and in various roles of leadership to provide an exceptional learning experience for Wesleyan students. Are you thinking of some of them as you read this?
One of my favorite courses to teach is Women in the Bible. As a result of studying biblical women for many years, I’ve written more than a dozen monologues that give voice to these women. One is Luke’s story of an unnamed woman, the wife of a man named Jairus, whose daughter was raised from death by Jesus. My story hypothesizes that she had met Jesus when he preached what Luke refers to as the Sermon on the Plain, and she heard Jesus say, “Forgive and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given unto you…for the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Luke 6:37-38). In fact, Luke talks about giving over and over. I challenge you to read Luke, chapters 12-21 and see this thread about giving.
“where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (34)
“from everyone to whom much is given, much will be required” (48)
Inviting the poor to the heavenly banquet (1-24)
10 lepers healed, only one returned to say thank you
Zacchaeus, the tax collector who was so touched by Jesus that he promised to give half of his possessions to the poor.
Parable of the talents.
“Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s and to God the things that are God’s” (25)
“this poor widow has put in more than all of them, for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on” (4)
A few years ago at about this time of the year, I was scheduled to preach the chapel sermon at Wesleyan one Sunday night. The night before, I dreamed I was in church, and I looked at the bulletin, and it said I was the stewardship speaker for the day. There I sat, wondering what in the world I would say, not having prepared anything. The next thing I saw in my dream was me, standing at the lectern, telling the following story. “I had a friend,” I said, “who had a simple philosophy about giving: give the first 10% to God, save the second 10%, and happily spend the remaining 80%.” That was it. I sat down. And then in my dream I chastised myself for not being more eloquent. I forgot all about the dream until I began to prepare for the chapel sermon the next day, and I told the story of the dream as I introduced the message about how we give of our spiritual gifts. I found that sermon saved under “Giving” as I sat at my computer to prepare this message for you. It’s actually a true story—both the dream and the simple philosophy I learned from another mentor in ministry. It echoes Jesus’ statement that meant so much to the wife of Jairus, as I imagined her gratitude for the life of her only child: “give and it will be given to you…for the measure you give will be the measure you get back” (Luke 6:37-38).
I know there are many, many things for which you are grateful, and many, many worthy causes to which you give. If Wesleyan is one of them, I hope you know how grateful we are for you. If Wesleyan has never been one, I hope you will prayerfully consider adding her to your beneficiaries. And there are other ways you can support Wesleyan. Will you pray for us? Will you share the exciting news of our excellent academic programs with your friends? Will you spread the good news of the 50% Legacy Tuition Scholarship for women whose grandmother, mother, step-mother, sister, step-sister, sister-in-law, or aunt are Wesleyan alumnae? Will you remind United Methodists of the Dollars for Scholars program that triples the church’s $1,000 per year support for one of its members? Will you tell a high school senior about our December 2 Preview Day? Will you volunteer to mentor a student, to be a prayer partner for a student, or to be a Friendship Family for a student if you live in the Macon area? There are many ways you can support Wesleyan’s programs and students.
During this season of thanksgiving, we give thanks for the many ways God has blessed Wesleyan College for more than 180 years, and we give thanks for you. May God continue to challenge us to be bold, to be brave, and to be faithful to the legacy of those who came before us while also creating a College of the future that is relevant, inclusive, distinctive, and everlasting. AMEN