Jump Start # 3174
Philippians 4:15 “And you yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone.”
In my office at the church building stands a very old pulpit. It looks old and it is old. Best that we can gather is that it was one of the first pulpits used by this congregation, likely around 1914. Was it new then, no one seems to know. Some were going to toss it, but I’m a pack rat when it comes to saving old things. Inside this pulpit has become a treasure chest of items given to me through the years that pertain to the history of this congregation. I have bulletins from the 1950’s. I have old photos. I have dozens of different directories through the years. I have some financial ledgers. The insides of this old pulpit is stuffed with the history of this congregation. I now have been given another special item to add to this wonderful collection. Two small wicker baskets, believed to have been the original collection plates in this congregation were donated to my stash of items. The baskets are small, but so were the contributions back then.
As I looked at those wicker baskets many thoughts came to my mind. I wonder how many wonderful preachers were helped through the years by the monies collected in those small baskets. Very likely, the men that stood behind that old wood pulpit in my office, were given money out of those wicker baskets. It’s like two old friends being reunited again after all those years. The old pulpit and the old baskets, back together again.
I also wondered how many hard working men and women put what they could into those wicker baskets hoping that the congregation would continue to grow and continue on through the decades. That little house where this congregation started in 1913, moved to a frame building, then to a large Bedford stone structure for half a century. Today, the congregation meets in a different location, in a massive building but it was the love and generous contributions a long, long time ago that opened the doors for where we are today. Those early folks of this congregation would never dream of a congregation the size and a building like we have today. And, as we give each Sunday, it’s with that love for the kingdom and that desire to keep things going that compels us to give as we do.
Our verse today comes from a thankful Paul who was reaching out to the Philippians for helping him. No one else did. His travels were not funded by some organization. He didn’t have sponsors that allowed him to travel freely. There was no one to turn expenses in. There were times when the apostle made tents. There were times when he went hungry. Many of the first Christians were poor. Many were servants and slaves. And what the Philippians had, they gave to help Paul. It made a difference. He was so thankful.
And, through the years, our contributions to our congregations have allowed the Gospel to be spread worldwide. Podcasts, blogs, class material, mics, lights, air conditioning all have to be paid somehow. Bringing in guest speakers, helping needy brethren, pushing the message out, costs. It’s the generous hearts that have made all of this possible.
I wonder what little boys might have dropped a penny into those baskets long ago. And, those same boys, grew up and they preached God’s word or went on to serve as shepherds of this very congregation. I would love to have a display case to put these old items in. There just isn’t much room to do that. Knowing the history, the sacrifices and the love that fueled a congregation is something that every member out to know about their own place. Most congregations have had some ups and downs. There were some bright moments and some sad days. But those that endured, have done so because of sacrifice, dedication and love.
In those early 1920’s, there may have been more pennies and nickels than anything else. As the depression years hit, congregations were hurting financially. Times were tough. Paying a preacher a chicken is about all that some could do. And, that poor preacher was glad to have that chicken because he could feed his family.
Today, it’s checks and electronic giving. The costs of buildings, the salary of preachers, and the upkeep expenses would shock those long ago wicker basket brethren. But the principle remains the same. We give because we love the Lord. We give because we want the doors to stay open. We give because we want the kingdom to expand. We give because we want to put the devil on notice. We give because the Lord first gave to us. God gave the best of Heaven, Jesus Christ. We can never match that gift. We can never thank the Lord enough for that gift.
Two old wicker baskets. They tell a story. They are a reminder of our past. They are a reminder of the love of others who are now on the other side. I’m so glad to have those baskets.