Sermon
November 8, 1998
First Congregational Church, 36 Main Street, New Milford, Ct  06776
Rev. Michael Moran
Write to Rev. Moran

rule1.gif (2367 bytes)

(audio not available)

Scripture Reading

2 Thessalonians 2:1- 5, 13 - 17 As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God. Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you?

But we must always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the first fruits for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and through belief in the truth. For this purpose he called you through our proclamation of the good news, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter.

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word. (NRSV)

rule1.gif (2367 bytes)


Sermon: How’s Your GQ?

This morning I want to talk to you about a couple of Qs. Not Ps and Qs, but IQ, EQ and GQ.

First there was IQ - a term that I suspect sends shudders down all of us non-Mensa members spines. IQ is a measure of intelligence - your Intelligence Quotient. According to one IQ test that is widely available,

A General Intelligence Quotient Score (IQ Score) is a statistically derived number which indicates relative and comparative abilities that can be used to obtain academic skills and knowledge. Though an IQ test measures only a few of a human's mental abilities, these few abilities are targeted for measurement, because they are well known to positively correlate highly to many other human abilities.

Do you need me to repeat that? That’s the kind of talk people with high IQ’s love to use: Positively correlate highly.

IQ used to be used more widely than it is now, in fact, there’s even a bit of a rebellion against IQ in the form of EQ.

EQ measures emotional intelligence, or EI as some call it. Emotional Intelligence has been the subject of a cover of Time magazine, a best selling book, and an Oprah show. But emotional intelligence is not a new concept - not only does it make common sense, but it’s been discussed in the scientific literature since the 1920’s when it was called social intelligence - the ability to act wisely in human relations.

Social intelligence is the outward aspect of EQ. There is also an inner element, which would include self-awareness, managing emotions, motivating oneself, delaying gratification and stifling impulses.

EQ is different from IQ, and maybe the best way to show the difference is to compare questions from an IQ test and from an EQ test.

First, let me say that an IQ test is like a football game - it is done against the clock. EQ is more like baseball - take all the time you need. IQ is true or false, EQ is multiple choice. Here are some samples.

IQ test - If you write the numbers 1 through 25 in a row, any two numbers that are next to each other add up to a number that is odd. True or False. Time is up.

EQ test - 1. You're on an airplane that suddenly hits extremely bad turbulence and begins rocking from side to side. What do you do?

a. Continue to read your book or magazine, or watch the movie, paying little attention to the turbulence.

b. Become vigilant for an emergency, carefully monitoring the stewardesses and reading the emergency instructions card.

c. A little of both a and b.

d. Blame it on your spouse.

I’m sorry - choice d was actually other, but I thought I’d add one from my own experience!

IQ test - If you turn a left handed glove inside out it will fit on a right hand. True or False. Time is up.

EQ test - You're trying to calm down a friend who has worked himself up into a fury at a driver in another car who has cut dangerously close in front of him. What do you do?

a. Tell him to forget it -- he's okay now and it's no big deal.

b. Put on one of his favorite tapes and try to distract him.

c. Join him in putting down the other driver, as a show of rapport.

d. Tell him about a time something like this happened to you and how you felt as mad as he does now, but then you saw the other driver was on the way to a hospital emergency room.

IQ test - Using exactly three colors of paint it is possible to color the sides of a cube in such a way that two sides having the same color never touch. True or False, your time is up.

Now those of you who want more time, more questions, and feel competitive about your score - you’ve got to work on your EQ.

At any rate, what I really want to talk about today is certainly not IQ, and it’s not even EQ. What I want to talk about is GQ, perhaps the most significant of all the Q’s from a spiritual point of view and certainly one that Jesus focused on in many teachings and encounters with people.

Listen to this story for a moment and see if you can sort out the IQ, the EQ, and the GQ issues:

Matthew 19:16-26 Then someone came to him and said, "Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?" And he said to him, " If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments." He said to him, "Which ones?" And Jesus said, "You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself." The young man said to him, "I have kept all these; what do I still lack?" Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

Well, as I hear it, the young man in this encounter had a very good IQ - he was quite logical and sensible. And he had a good EQ, since he lived in harmony with his family and his neighbors and sought the fullness of life. But Jesus challenges him on his GQ, his Generosity Quotient, and there this young man comes up against the wall. He cannot let go of his money and his stuff. He wants to know from Jesus what he must do to enjoy the fullness of life - in fact he is pressing Jesus for an answer. "I have kept all the commandments," he says, "what do I still lack?" It isn’t for the sake of the poor that Jesus tells him to upgrade his GQ, it’s for his own sake.

Why would our GQ be so important? In another parable Jesus describes the danger of a low GQ:

Matthew 13: "Listen! A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and they sprang up quickly, but when the sun rose, they were scorched; and they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

In explaining the parable Jesus says: As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing.

"The cares of the world and the lure of wealth," Jesus says, "choke the word of life."

I take that as a warning to watch my GQ. Not that I’m completely stingy - there are times when I experience a truly generous impulse, like a bird inside that wants to fly. But the cares of the world and the lure of wealth exert a strong and consistent downward pull - like gravity dragging that bird down. Because of this I could very easily relate to the opening paragraphs of this article from a special section of the Times on Giving. The author, Susan Jacoby, tells about the development of her GQ from an early age:

When I was 7, my parents said I must reserve a portion of my weekly allowance for the collection plate at Sunday Mass. But the amount was to remain a secret between God and me. The tabernacles and chalices were made of gold and silver, I reasoned, so God didn’t need more than five cents on the dollar. Lest anyone think I was a stingy, selfish child, I want to make one thing clear: I gave lots of money to the March of Dimes because my best friend in second grade had a brother in an iron lung. Every time I saw a canister I would put in a dime or a quarter, not the measly nickel, (or penny, if I had incurred heavy expenses that week) I customarily gave in church.

All giving is personal, she continues. With the possible exception of sex, no activity offers a clearer reflection of individual affinities, values, and neuroses, at age 7 or 70.

Susan Jacoby sounds apologetic about her 5 cents on the dollar put into the church offering plate. What she may not realize is that such a percentage of giving would put her in the top ranking GQ of most worshippers, especially in this part of the country.

Another article in this special section specifically talks about church giving. It’s entitled "Churches Find New Ways, and Old, to Pass the Plate Around."

When the Rev. Robert Farr preaches to his congregation about donating money to the church, he speaks about giving as a form of spiritual discipline. "This is not about your money, it’s about your life," Mr. Farr tells members of Grace United Methodist Church. "It’s about having a generous spirit."

When it comes to giving money to their churches, Americans are inclined to be generous.. religious giving amounts to billions of dollars each year. Still, a study released of financial data in 29 religious denominations concludes that while total dollars given to organized religion has been rising, the amount churchgoers give as a proportion of their personal income has been gradually declining. Mormons give the highest proportion, above 7%. Members of mainline Protestant denominations like Presbyterians and Methodists (and the United Church of Christ) give about 2%, while Roman Catholics give less than 1.%.

So Susan Jacoby has no need to apologize for her GQ - her 5% puts at the head of the class. Here in our congregation we have voted to challenge one another to give 2.% of our income to the church. We always try to deal with a proportional goal because we know that GQ cannot be measured by absolute amounts. We always bear in mind this story from the Gospel of Luke.

Luke 21:1-4 He looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, "Truly I tell you, 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."

We get pledges here that range from 20 grand to 20 dollars. No one could tell you which of those pledges represent a high GQ because that really is a secret between God and the giver. But I’m sure we have room for growth in this area, and not just for the sake of the budget or the church, but because every point we raise our GQ will have a direct and positive benefit in our lives. Each of us will find that generosity is its own reward and we will be able to answer, in the wink of an eye, the first and fundamental question on the GQ quiz. It is more blessed to give than to receive. True, False, or blame your spouse.

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word. Amen.

rule1.gif (2367 bytes)


Let us pray:

Thank you, God, for the abundance of grace and love which you bestow upon us. Help us to become more mindful of your gifts and more generous in our giving, not simply in our life as a church, but in all our relationships and daily encounters. Remind us to always pray for one another and for the well being of our neighbors and our world.

Today we lift up our prayers for all who have been displaced and dispossessed by the terrible storms in Central America. May the relief work of those on site be backed up with a generous outpouring of support from this country.

Today we recall how on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month eighty years ago a great and horrible war came to an end in Europe. It would be followed a generation later by another and equally fearsome war, then by a generation of cold war. And even today in slow burning terror the rivalries and animosities continue to destroy the lives of thousands and threaten the peace of people everywhere. Lead us from war to peace, O God, and sanctify the memory of all who have served in defense of those basic rights which allow us to live as free people.

We pray for the concerns of our congregation, for families facing difficulty, for broken relationships, for those whose livelihood is insecure, for the sick and the bereaved. Especially we pray for the families of John Westfall, Mary Miller Blood, Barbara Holsten, and Harriet Buckingham, in whose memory flowers have been given. We pray for your healing presence to be with Kay Devlin, Marci, Ellen Gerety, Neil Golden, and those we name in the quiet of our hearts.

We pray for those who have united with our congregation today and ask you to bless and protect them and help us to grow into loving fellowship with them. May we be true to our mission as your church to praise and glorify you in worship, to proclaim the Gospel by our words and actions, and to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we serve others in the name of Jesus Christ. May we always strive to nurture, enable, support and challenge one another in our journeys of Christian faith.

Keep our lives and the lives of those we love in your care, and thank you for the generous invitation to offer our prayers in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

Benediction

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word. Go in Peace. Amen.

Return to HomePage