Heart in Hand

   A NEW BEGINNINGI have recently announced my leaving my position as pastor of the Warren Avenue Presbyterian, Saginaw, Michigan.  I have been pastor of this church for over 28 years.   I am starting this BLOG to shift from posting sermons at an old blog to my now sharing sermons and reflections more of a general nature.  It is going to be different for me not preparing a sermon every week.  I hope this blog will help me stay disciplined in sharing sermons, thoughts and reflections on life beyond the PULPIT and the 24/7 routine of caring for a congregation.   HEART IN HAND is one of the sermons I shared with the congregation several weeks prior to be leaving this position.

SERMON — “Heart in Hand”

 November 3, 2013

©Thomas B. Cundiff

Jeremiah 31:  31-34

1The days are surely coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 32It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt—a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. 33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Galatians 4: 16-26

The Works of the Flesh

16Live by the Spirit, I say, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. 18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law. 19Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, 20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, 21envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

 The Fruit of the Spirit

22By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. 26Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another.

 +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +   +


The most cherished of all blessings received my entire life is my wife of 37 years – Nancy.  Nancy.  I am sorry she couldn’t hear me say this.  She’s downstairs teaching Sunday School.  I like to joke with her:  She is the jewel and I am the cracked glass – get it – bad knees hips!

As I have shared with you before, Nancy was ordained an elder before I was ordained a minister.  We met at the Edgewater Presbyterian Church on the north shore of Chicago while she was serving the church as an elder I was a student intern.  She was working as a Financial Analyst  for W. Clement Stone and Combined Insurance and I was a student at McCormick Seminary. Two years after we met we were married.

Also, among our most loved blessing is daughter Emily Susan and her family.  I’m totally enthralled in being a grandfather to 9 month old Kenneth Thomas Moore.  The Moore family will be here for my last Sunday with you, November 24th.

I thank God each and every day for the gifts of family and yes—church.  Since I was in high school, I felt a calling by God to be a pastor.  I have been truly blessed by God to have been “called” to serve in three churches, the last 28 years here in Saginaw at the Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church.[1]  Enough of the gushy stuff!

 II.  HEART IN HAND – John Calvin

 True blessings come from God—not only in our minds in contemplating life with God but also, from a less cerebral place – the soul or heart.

God has blessed us with the most precious of all gifts – Jesus our Lord, this man who lived 2000 years ago we believe lives and walks and talks with us now – the Son of God – our living Lord.  Jesus, the Son of God, died an excruciatingly painful death for our sins only to be raised from death, conquering death, by a loving God who points us all toward the promise of eternal life.  The most priceless of all gifts God could give us, next to life itself, is Jesus who continues to live in our midst.  We are the living, breathing Body of Christ!  And this isn’t just a mind exercise.  We worship in giving glory to God, Soli Deo Gloria, for all in life Jesus Christ gives us.

He gospel hymn[2] comes to mind:  “Lord I want to be a Christian — in-a-my heart, in-a-my heart.  Lord — I want to be a Christian!  In-a-my-heart!”   Sing with me, Lord I want to be like Jesus……

This imagery on the bulletin cover of “Heart-in-Hand” comes from John Calvin, the 15th century Genevan reformer and renowned father of Presbyterianism.  Christ’s love and compassion and presence with us truly permeate the very center of our being.

           “Heart in the Hand”

           And Calvin’s Prayer:

         “My Heart I offer to you, Lord; promptly and sincerely”

 III.   SOLI DEO GLORIA — 2013 Stewardship Theme

As reformed Christians and Presbyterians; centered in Christ; informed through God’s Holy and Sacred Word:  we worship in giving Glory to God for blessings received.   Galatians lists many of these specific blessings or fruits of the spirit for which we give God glory!

 Love, joy, peace, patience,

kindness, generosity, faithfulness,

gentleness, and self control….all gifts ‘God writes on

our hearts’ that we in turn pass on to others….for which we

in turn give glory to God!


This is the mission of the church.  A significant component in our stewardship is in sharing our blessings with others.  Our very presence in this church this morning is in searching for ways we can give to others what we have found  – the many gifts of God’s Spirit known to us through Jesus.

“Heart in Hand”……this motif reminds us that we are Christ’s “missional” church doing the important work, ‘promptly and sincerely’, in the context of this wonderful city and this specific neighborhood—the Cathedral District.


 So for the next few minutes I would like to talk about our being a “missional church” called to share with others what God has placed in our hands – the heart-felt love we offer others in the name of our living Lord.

For what God has placed in our hearts

God also places in our hands

to be shared with others!

 To give you some specific information:

We have in the operating budget of this church just over $7,000 for mission.  When it comes to trimming the budget, this could be the easiest place to make cuts.  It’s always been important that we give a generous portion of our tithes and offerings to mission.  $7,000 is a good / respectable  amount for a church our size.  Roughly $82.00 per member goes to pay for the mission work we do locally as well as sending nearly $3,000 to support the mission work of the Presbytery, Synod and General Assembly.  These funds also go to pay for Summer Magic.  We also use these funds to connect in giving donations from our church to a dozen local organizations and agencies – on your behalf.  The Mission Team and Session work hard as stewards of your gifts to make sure all of this $7,000 is invested well in doing Christ’s work near and far.

We also have a variety of ‘Special Offerings’ we receive throughout the year—funds in addition to the $7,000 in our church operational budget.  The Peace offering; One Great Hour of Sharing; Mother’s Day offering for Habitat; Christmas Joy Offering;  and the Coins for the Hungry we  received this morning.  These special offerings add up to at least another $5,000 – from your hearts delivered directly to the hands of those in need.  You know how I know you are a “MissionalChurch” – a church with a deep commitment for mission?   Your generosity in giving to these special offerings is exemplary.

The operating budget of $7,000 plus $5,000 in special offerings adds up to $12,000 or in terms of an amount per member – that is $141.00 per member going from our hearts into the hands of the those in need.   Not bad for a congregation of 85 members!

Going further (and God forgive me for some boasting) – perhaps the greatest mission gift we give to others in this community is lodged in this magnificent church.  This is not just a building.  This is a church with a mission in the context of this neighborhood to serve this city—especially the children of this city.  We continue to be the only Presbyterian church in the city of Saginaw East of the Saginaw river in doing this important work.

Worth sharing with you again:  we do not charge rent to the Women of Color’s or the Mark Neumeier Youth Center or the Kappa League Youth Leadership program.  In my memory, on my watch, we have never charged rent for the use of this church.  We want to open our doors to those who can’t afford to put their precious dollars into rent.

For those who might be curious as to the “monetary or dollar value” of the use of this building if we were to charge rent?  The “fair rental value” of just the Gym, an estimate the youth center received two or three years ago from Yeo and Yeo — $30,000 a year.  The youth center shares in the utility expenses and the Women of Color’s donates back to the church in the form of “in-kind” services.  To charge rent?  These groups probably wouldn’t be able to use our facility if we were to charge rent.

While this church is a blessing for us in worship, it is also a blessing we pass on to others with open hands to the children of this community.

Truly, with loving hearts and open hands, we GIVE GLORY TO GOD through the use of blessings God has entrusted our care…..tithes and  offerings and the use of this building  — to use the idiom, this “diamond in the rough” – one of the most important of all our assets we can give to others.  And yes, it takes your tithes and offerings to keep the doors of this church open.

We ask that you make a pledge in contemplating not just what this church means to you in your own personal relationship with God….but to also contemplate how much this church means to others.

We pray that you will find room in your heart (and check book) to increase your pledge for Christ’s work in 2014.   There is true, measurable value in supporting this church in the context of this community with your tithes – and your offerings.

 IV.             CONCLUSION

 I want to end with another quote from John Calvin.  John Calvin has said,   “We are surrounded by God’s benefits.  The best use of these benefits is an unceasing expression of gratitude.”[3]  That is why we gather to worship, Soli Deo Gloria, in giving Glory to God for benefits in life we have been blessed to receive through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Heart in Hand!




[1]   First Presbyterian Church of Davenport, Iowa and Northminster Presbyterian Church in Evanston, Illinois were my other two calls.

[2]   Lord I Want to be a Christian, footnote for hymn #729, Glory to God, the Presbyterian Hymnal

[3]   , www.presbyterianfoundation.org, stewardship quotes, October Newsletter, 2013.

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