MedSchoolMonday: S3

A few questions:  How can the church make its worship relevant to the lives of its people?  How does the church incorporate mission in its worship?  How do we pass down the faith and the importance of mission to our children, not just by our words but by our actions?  How does the church offer ways to make stewardship a way of life and not just a once per year campaign?  How does the church make sure the Table of the Lord is more than just a place for our bread and wine to sit every once in a while and is a symbol of possibilities, faith, and service?

I’m beaming with pride about our church.   On Sunday we began our Second Sunday Stewardship (S3), a monthly missional/educational/stewardly/worshipful/intergenerational act of faith.  Instead of the plates being passed around for the offering, people were asked to bring their financial gifts and items that we identified local charities were in need of to the communion table during the time for the offering.   Unfortunately, I didn’t get pictures while folks were bring their gifts forward, but it was quite a sight, and the front of the sanctuary around the communion table was packed with the offering of God’s people, dedicated for God’s work in the world.   Here are some pictures from after worship as items were being sorted (so these are just a few of the offerings) and our design, created by one of our very own youth.

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Scarcity and Abundance

I know reading a sermon is the very last thing most of you want to do, but my mom requested it, so here it is.   I preached this sermon on February 7.  It was a very full and exciting Sunday with the reception of new members, youth liturgists, communion, and the Souper Bowl of Caring offering.

The scripture (Luke 5:1-11) was read and acted out by the confirmation class.  I couldn’t see them because I was narrating from the pulpit, but the congregation kept laughing so apparently they made the story  of the call of Simon Peter into a comedy.

And now the original text of the sermon:

Step with me a moment into Simon Peter’s shoes.   You’ve been working tirelessly all day and you’re discouraged because somehow despite all of your hard work, you didn’t get anything accomplished.  For Simon, it was not catching any fish.   I bet he was tired and down just ready to get home, have dinner, go to bed so that the day would be over and he could start again tomorrow.  Have you ever had a day like that?

But then as you were finishing up and getting ready to go home, someone asks you to get back in the boat and get back out onto the water.  But Simon knew who this man Jesus was.   He waited patiently while Jesus taught the crowds from the boat.  But THEN Jesus tells him to put out his nets again – the nets that he had just cleaned after working all day and catching no fish.   So he protests at first – saying, but Master, we’ve been working all day and caught nothing.   I’ve heard that the definition of insanity is repeating the same action, expecting a different result, so you could even say that putting out the nets again would be insane.

BUT because it is Jesus who is asking, he puts out those nets again.   And then something miraculous happens.  Despite Simon’s initial doubts and the lack of fish earlier in the day, he catches so many fish that his nets begin to break and he needs to call in the other boat to help him haul in the catch.    And then both boats begin to sink from the weight of the huge catch of fish.

Before Jesus came into the picture, there were no fish.   But Jesus comes in and there are more fish than two boats can handle.  And what is Simon’s reaction?  I would expect him to be jumping up and down with excitement and preparing to tell all of his family and friends about his giant catch – I’ve heard how people who fish can be with their fish stories.  If it happened today, I could see Peter getting his picture taken with the massive amounts of fish to hang on his wall at home.  Or perhaps I would expect Simon to be silent in pure disbelief.   Or maybe I would even expect some sense of relief because he would be able to sell the fish and earn a living.

But instead of excitement or relief or disbelief or bragging, Simon’s first reaction is repentance.    He falls to his knees and says to Jesus, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man”.  Now I am not sure what his sins are, but from the passage, I would guess that he is repenting from his doubt.  He did not want to let down his freshly cleaned nets because he had been working all day and hadn’t caught anything.  He thought, why would this time be any different?  He doubted God’s power and Jesus’ word.

This is interesting because as we follow Simon Peter throughout the gospels, he is one who really gets who Jesus is as Lord and Savior – he is the one whom Jesus asks, “Who do you say that I am?” and responds “the Messiah”.  He is the one that Jesus calls Peter because the name means rock and Jesus says that he will be the foundation on which he will build his church.  But Peter is also the one who sees Jesus walking on water and steps out of the boat to walk to him only to sink because he doubted.  He is also the one who even denies Jesus three times after Jesus’ arrest.

But this man, Simon Peter, despite his doubts, his sinfulness – is called by Jesus to be a disciple.  And I think that’s comforting.  Peter was far from perfect.  He was not the most religious.  He did not have the most faith.  He was not a known leader.  He was not even the best fisherman.  But Jesus saw something in him.  I say this is comforting because it means that we don’t have to be the best or most anything for God to use us or call us to be disciples.

But this story does tell us some of what it does take to be a disciple. What did Jesus see in Simon Peter?   Perhaps in his willingness to serve – he did not hesitate to give Jesus his boat to teach from.   Perhaps Jesus saw something in how Peter let his faith overrule his doubt in letting down the nets despite his better judgment.    And after Peter witnesses the miracle, he realizes the sinfulness of his doubt…really the absurdity of his doubt.   Because Simon Peter had recently witnessed Jesus healing his mother-in-law[1].   Before coming to this lakeside, Jesus had just healed a possessed man in Capernaum.

With all of this evidence that Jesus is worthy of complete faith and trust, Simon Peter is still hesitant.  But I understand that, especially when his livelihood is at stake.  It might make more sense to play it safe and not rock the boat…to save your net and your energy when tomorrow might be a different, better day.  But if he had listened only on his rational side and played it safe, Simon Peter would have missed out on witnessing another miracle and being called by Jesus to be a fisher of people.   He would have gone on with his life, expecting scarcity.  But he didn’t, he listened to Jesus’ word and trusted him despite that twinge of doubt.  And his life was forever changed.

I have seen this expectation of scarcity and miracle of abundance many times in the church.   Just this month, we all heard the stories of the horrible earthquake in Haiti and how poor the country was even before the quake.   There was nothing, but panic and tragedy and loss and heartache.  BUT THEN people have proved that abundance is there….just here in this church, we have raised over $3200 for Haiti….so far.  Just here in this presbytery we have raised about $21,000.  I heard that the Hope For Haiti Now concert and telethon raised $66 million.  And that’s not including the many other  fundraising efforts by past presidents and the Red Cross and countless other organizations.

And today we have the opportunity to give again to Haiti through the youth’s Souper Bowl of Caring.  You may think that you’ve already given for Haiti, that you don’t have any more to give, but we can’t stop now…because the need is still growing.  And today’s mission is meeting the needs of Haitians and rescuers right now.  I was talking with RH this morning who just returned from spending two weeks in Haiti in his role as pharmacist.  He said that whenever people ask him what we can do to help, he says that they need food and money and medical care, what they need most is water…they don’t even have clean water.  On the poster for the Souper Bowl of Caring in the narthex, you can see a picture of people lined up waiting for water at a Water Missions International station – they are on the ground trying their best to meet the needs, but they need our help.  We may think that we don’t have any more to give – that the resources are scarce.  But we have clean water and homes, and our brothers and sisters in Haiti do not.  We live in abundance.  Last week DK talked about how the difference between a hope and wish was that when you hope you have real expectations.  So I hope that there will be another miracle of abundance today after worship and that we will continue to give sacrificially to our neighbors in Haiti.

But I wonder why was Haiti suffering before with poverty (why are any of God’s children suffering in poverty) if this amount of abundance is available?  Why does it take a tragedy to pull out the wallets and make a big difference?   We know the money is there….the money is here.   We live in a culture of excess, even in the midst of our so-called recession, there are shows on TV called “Platinum weddings” or even “platinum babies”  Seriously, I got drawn into one of those episodes last week where a expectant mother spent $35,000 on the baby’s nursery.   Some of our members were recently at a car show and told me how there were people there buying multiple cars for over $100,000 each.

But yet, when you turn on the news, we hear about foreclosures and bankruptcies and bailouts and unemployment.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that those things don’t exist.  I’m not denying that many people are struggling who weren’t before.  But I do have to wonder how extreme excess and extreme poverty coexist.

At our own church, the session worries about money every year and has to put limits on their dreams based on the realities of the income and budget.  We fall victim of the myth of scarcity.   We can’t do this because we don’t have the money. But the scarcity is just that: a myth.  You may have heard the rather cheesy pastor joke about a minister who stands in the pulpit and talks with excitement about an upcoming project and how much money it will cost and she says, and the good news is that we already have all of the money we need…she pauses, then says…it’s just still in your pockets.   So yes, it is cheesy, but it spot on.  We are not a poor congregation.  We shouldn’t be limiting our dreams because we can’t afford it.

Scripture gives us so many passages about money.  How we are supposed to tithe (to give 10% of our income), how we are supposed to give God our first fruits before we buy anything else, how we are supposed to give cheerfully, how we are supposed to share all of what we have with the community so that everyone has what they need, how we are supposed to put our trust in God, not in our wealth.   I could go on and on.  Scripture commands us to give abundantly.   But we continue to say: we don’t have enough, we can’t afford it, we didn’t bring in any fish today – it’s time to give up and go home.

But where’s the faith in that?  Anytime we say we can’t, we’re not trusting that God can.  We doubt because our rational side wants to take over; we want to play it safe and not rock the boat.  But what we learn from Simon Peter is that when we do truly trust in God, our boats will sink from the outpouring of God’s mercies.  And I don’t mean that God’s mercies come in the form of money of fish.  Simon Peter, who had probably just brought in the biggest catch of his career which could have made him wealthy, left it all behind to follow Jesus and be a fisher of people.

Following Jesus is not easy.   Discipleship calls for obedience to and recognition of a divine power and source of authority beyond human strength, knowledge, and will.[2] In our text for today, these men who were called to be disciples faced a hard decision beyond human reason and made a sacrifice.  Because Simon Peter knew that life is not about being successful in business or storing up wealth, but about serving God and following Jesus….even when it’s hard…even when you doubt…even when you don’t feel worthy…even when it means sacrifice.   Because Simon Peter knew that when you follow Jesus, you are blessed abundantly in so many unexpected wonderful ways.   Discipleship is risky business with great rewards.[3]

Thanks be to God.


[1] Mark 1:29-32

[2] Byron, Gay L.  Feasting on the Word: Year C, Volume 1, page 335

[3] Byron, Gay L.  Feasting on the Word: Year C, Volume 1, page 335.

World on Fire

Yesterday was Youth Sunday, and I really love the way this church does it.  The group that goes to Montreat plans the service using that year’s theme.  It makes the planning process so much easier, plus the youth are really pumped about sharing their passion and energy from Montreat with the congregation.

The youth were near perfect this year – I am amazed at how much they’ve grown in the past three years.   And we heard so many comments after about how inspired people were to set the World on Fire.   And it was actually tangible in the sign-ups for our first congregation-wide Serves Day coming up in October – we are already up to 60 people signed up, and it’s still over a month away (our goal is 100).

BUT BUT BUT

As much as the service was great.  People are still finding things to complain about.  We didn’t have bulletins, and this just weirded people out.   Granted there are some logistical problems with our sanctuary layout, so next year we will probably suck it up and use bulletins.  There were complaints about the music, saying it was distracting – when 98% of the people loved it – there was clapping….and even a little swaying…in a presbyterian church.

Why do people complain about this one chance the youth have to share their passion with the congregation…to plan worship that is meaningful to them? 

I feel like it all boils down to fear.  Some people are so afraid of change and that the younger generation is going to steal their church and completely take away everything they’ve known for the past 50 years.  But they won’t – these young people are incredibly insightful and sensitive and appreciative.  We even sang two hymns from our hymnal (granted the words were on the screen and there were guitars playing the music), the gloria, and the doxology – because they mean something to the youth as well.  They don’t want to burn the church down and start over – they want to use the strengths of what we have and build on them, recognizing that sometimes the way we’ve always done things doesn’t make the most sense anymore.

I was reading our tech savvy moderator’s blog this morning in which he was defending the use of social media in the church and addressing the fears that many have of this form of ministry.  And his arguments fit here as well…when we plan our worship and our programs and do the same old thing, “who are we defending and protecting?” and “who are we leaving behind?”

Granted I cringe whenever people start talking about having a “contemporary” service to attract young people.  (I’m just a big contradiction aren’t I?)  I think that just splits the church and doesn’t get at the real problem of the absence of young people in our churches.   There are many in our generation who do like organ music AND guitars…and our church is so blessed to have many musicians and many flexible folks, and we use it all.   It doesn’t have to be either/or.

But for now, the youth will continue to ask questions, to make people a little uncomfortable, to push people out of the box, to inspire, to be inspired, and to search for a way where we can all be the church together.  And I feel privileged to accompany them on this journey.

Get Out!

Because Grammy requested it, yesterday’s sermon:

As Russ mentioned last Sunday, our back-to-back preaching Sundays turned out to be a mini sermon series on discipleship and the church.  So for this week, explore with me the role of the church in 1 John 3:16-24.  Listen now for the word of God:

We know love by this, that Jesus laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.

And this is God’s commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that God abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.

As many of you heard last Sunday, Russ and I recently watched the documentary, Religulous by Bill Maher.  Once you get passed all of the easy shots at Christians, he does make some good points – some good observations about the way some Christians do things that give us a bad name.  My favorite line of the film occurs after he is challenging a group of men gathered at the Trucker’s Chapel at a truck stop.  As he leaves them, he says, “thanks for being Christ-like, and not just Christian.”  That is quite a distinction he makes – Christian and Christ-like. 

When I looked at the whole life of Christ, including his death, and I try to figure out the one thing that flows through all of it and ask: what does it mean to be Christ-like, the one thing I find that flows through every action, parable, miracle, teaching, and healing is love.

Now that I’m a parent, I understand love in a different way.  Piglet is starting to say a lot of words and phrases.  One of my favorite to hear is when she says, “I love you” – of course it sounds like “Lo lu”, but we know what she means.  Until recently, she would only say it when prompted, but one day last week, she ran over to me, hugged me, and said “lo lu” – I’m still not positive that she knows what those words mean.  But that’s our job as parents, to teach her what love means.  As she is trying to put meaning to all kinds of words, this is one that is much harder because love is a rather abstract concept.  Words like cat, dog, milk, up, more  – those are easy to identify the word with an object or action.  But how does a toddler know what love is?  We can tell her that we love all day long, but she won’t know what it means without actions to accompany it. 

Our scripture reading puts it this way: “Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.  One of my favorite hymns is They will know we are Christians by our love.  One of the verses goes like this:  We will work with each other, we will work side by side And we’ll guard each one’s dignity and save each one’s pride.  And they’ll know we are Christians by our love.   I remember singing this song on a bus on a mission trip to Honduras, giving the song new meaning.  As we worked, played, and worshipped side by side with our brothers and sisters there, I believe they knew of our love for God and them through our actions.  There was a language barrier, so we couldn’t express all that we felt in words, but we didn’t have to – our being there, being with them, being part of the church in Honduras – embodied love, God’s love.

So Russ asked the question last week, “Why are we the Church?”  As he prepared for his sermon, he asked this question of lots of folks – our family and friends, some of you, even strangers.  But he didn’t ask me.  But now I get to have my say.  So what is the point?  What is the church?  Is it this building?  Is it us?  While I think what we are doing now – worship – is important in the Christian life, it’s not what it’s all about.  Church doesn’t just happen here on Sunday mornings.  This is roughly one hour out of 168 hours in your week.  So what happens those other 167 are what the Christian life is really about – when you leave this place and take part in your day to day activities – work, school, sports, volunteering, being with your friends and family – how are you the church in those instances?

I went to a conference in Columbia in March.  One of the presentations was on shifts in the future of Christian Education.  One shift was from focusing on being disciples to being apostles.  The idea being the term disciples denotes lots of prayer and study, while the term apostle denotes being sent out.  He wasn’t saying that discipleship is bad, but that the connotation that the word has taken has lost some of its original meaning, so he uses the word apostle because the word itself means – one sent out on a mission.  We are not called just to be together as the body of Christ here to worship, pray, fellowship, and study.  We are also sent out of this place – to be the body of Christ out in the world.   Church doesn’t just happen here – it happens out there.

The leader of this workshop told the story of an associate pastor of a large church in Texas who is rarely in the church building on Sunday mornings.  He spends his Sunday mornings at a Habitat for Humanity site.  Each week, a group of young adults gathers for a morning devotion and prayer before beginning their work on the house.  The group started with people from the church, but it has grown to include many who have never set foot in a church building.  But these people are this pastor’s congregation – the same crowd gathers every week, and it’s growing.  The pastor spends his time checking in with folks – doing pastoral care, learning prayer needs, or offering counsel as nails are hammered and wood is cut. 

This is definitely church “outside of the box” but it makes so much sense.  How many stories do we hear of Jesus in a temple vs. how many stories we hear of Jesus meeting people where they are – in their homes, at the well, on the beach?  Jesus makes time for people.  Jesus ignores conventional stereotypes and builds relationships with unlikely people.  Jesus touches people who are considered to be unclean.  Jesus feeds the hungry.  Jesus heals the sick.  Jesus gives hope to the hopeless.  Jesus loves unconditionally all those who come in contact with him.

But as much as we try to be Christ-like, we are certainly not Jesus, and all these things that we are called to do as he did them may be difficult at times.  I do understand that out there – outside these walls, you are in a declining group.   People like Bill Maher think that Christianity is ridiculous, which makes our job harder, but it also makes it all the more necessary.  And standing against injustice for the good of people the way that Jesus did is risky.  It’s not always safe.  It’s not always popular.  It’s not always convenient.  It’s not always easy.

But Pslam 23, which was read earlier, assures us that God is with us – guiding us along our journey – even when the path may be scary, even when we walk through the darkest valley, we fear no evil.  The last line of the Psalm – and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever – gives me the most comfort.  It doesn’t mean that you will remain here in the church, which many call God’s house, because home is where the heart is.  I know it’s a cliché, but as someone who has moved a lot, I know it to be true.  If God is in our hearts, then we are not with God just in this place.  This last verse of the Psalm affirms that you will abide with God forever – that God is always with you and you are always with God.  As the children so keenly noted earlier – God is everywhere, so shouldn’t we be?   We should be out there, being Christ-like, loving others as Christ loved us, not just saying that we are Christians, saying that we believe.  John puts this very clearly in our scripture reading this morning saying: “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?”  If God is truly in our hearts, and we truly believe what we say we believe, then we have to be moved to action.  God’s love compels us to meet the needs of the world.

I heard a commercial on the radio last week for the United Methodist Church.  I grew up changing denominations every time my family moved, so I experienced God and church in a variety of good ways.  And those experiences taught me that we have a lot to learn from each other.  We are not in competition; we all have the same goal – we have been given the same commission – we have the same mission – to love God and to love our neighbor.  This commercial for the Methodist church showed me a new way to think about church.  They actually have a website called rethinkchurch.org, and the headline on the homepage reads “What if church were a verb?”  I really like this way of thinking, or rethinking as they would put it.  What we believe is important, as is saying what we believe, because that is what inspires and informs our actions.  People will know what we believe by what we do – by the way we…church.

They have another website called 10thousanddoors, its headline asks, “What if church weren’t a building, but a thousand doors?”  The point is that church isn’t about the one door that we walk in and out of on Sundays, but the many opportunities to be church out in the world – the many possibilities to serve God and to love people.  And how us getting out into the world provides opportunities for others to get to know God.  There are many people who don’t go to church, who may not know God’s love, and the idea of going to church is farthest from their mind.  But if they meet Christians in their day to day lives who are living the gospel and meeting the needs of the world, then it may open a door for them that otherwise wouldn’t be there.   I found the 10thousanddoors promotional video online, and I wanted to share it with you, because let’s face it, everything sounds better when James Earl Jones says it…or at least I think it sounds like him, you decide…

There was a lot of chanting in the background, I don’t what all the words were because it was in several different languages, but I did hear the phrase “Te amo” repeated several times, which is Spanish for “I love you”.  Even as the makers of this video encourage us to rethink the church and make more of an effort to be out in the world, they put love in the background…as the underlying reason for what they are calling people to do.  We are motivated by love, our love for God and our love for neighbor and empowered by love, God’s love for us.

As much as I like to see you on Sunday mornings, I want you to get out!  Be the church out in the world.  Don’t just believe the gospel, live the gospel.  Use all 168 hours in your week to serve God and love your neighbors.  Show that God’s love abides in you.  Being a Christian within these walls is easy.  But being Christ-like out there is the challenge we have before us.

As you come to the table this morning, remember how Christ showed his love for us – the ultimate sacrifice that he made.  Let the bread and the wine nourish you for the journey and for the work of being Christ-like, to remind you that God is with you, as your shepherd to guide you.  Amen.

Christmas Presents

SO, you all know that we have been trying to think about how we can celebrate Christmas in a new way.  I am pretty proud of our gifts, so I wanted to share with you what we did.   It really was a fun and amazing process.

For my extended family, I MADE hot chocolate mix.  put it in jars.  with marshmellows and chocolate chips.  and tied a bow around them.  with recipe tags.  I am oh-so domestic.   It was really fun to make something that I hoped the recipient would enjoy.  Thanks to Margie for the recipe – gotta give credit where credit is due.  We also gave everyone two meals at our local homeless shelter (a total of 20 meals).  What I am most proud of is the notes that accompanied each “alternative gift” so that the recipients knew that we still put a lot of thought into their gift, even if we didn’t spend that time thinking in the mall.

Because our family definitely knows how to cook and enjoy a good meal, we wanted to provide a few meals for those who are less fortunate in your honor. {My love} was recently interviewed on the news while serving dinner at the soup kitchen. Check it out:  http://cfc.wciv.com/videoondemand.cfm?id=27791

Piglet and I made photo calendars for pops, grammy, papa, mimi, aunt kathryn, and uncle josh.  Well, she posed for the pictures from the day she was born, and I arranged them into a calendar.  It is pretty darn cute!  We even made Grammy cry.  Really, it’s that cute.

For my mom, a donation to HELP of S’ville:  Mom, you have never hesitated to open up your home to friends and family who need a place to stay, whether for a night before getting on a plane, a weekend for a softball tournament, a summer while your son-in-law interns or goes to school, or for friends who are in a rough place.  Since not everyone is lucky enough to have you in their lives, we wanted to donate a night’s hotel stay in your honor for someone who is in a rough spot.

For my dad, a donation to the Honduras Mission: Daddy, we are so proud of all of the mission work that you have done in Honduras and for inspiring so many others to go out and be God’s hands and feet in communities that don’t have a lot of hope.  Thank you for showing God’s love in all that you do and for modeling for us what it means to be a disciple.

For my father-in-law, a donation to Habitat for Humanity:  Dad, you work hard to help create and remodel beautiful rooms and homes for people, so we wanted to help give someone else a beautiful home by donating a ceiling fan in your honor – because you know it gets hot here in SC!

For my step-mother-in-law, a donation to DSS:  K, it would be wonderful if all children were blessed with good parents and grandparents like you and Jim or if all children were blessed with good teachers like you.  But that is not in our control.  But we also know that kids do better in school when they have what they need – and we can help control that.  So we have donated school supplies, clothes, and shoes to children through the Dorchester County Department of Social Services in you honor.

For my brother and sister-in-law, a donation to the March of Dimes and the local homeless shelter:  M & B, I had not heard of March of Dimes until we met you in Columbia for the March our senior year at PC.  I was moved by all of the signs on strollers of low birthweights and how early the babies had been born – and the healthy happy children sitting in the strollers now.  We are so thankful that J is a perfect little boy now, but we also know that you don’t want other parents to go through what you had to endure – I can’t even imagine, so we have donated $100 in your honor to the March of Dimes.  And since you also know how you can never have enough diapers with a newborn (and how expensive those doggone things are when you have to buy a bazillion of them), we have also donated diapers and wipes to families at the Crisis Ministries Homeless Shelter in Charleston in your honor.

For my sister, a donation to My Sister’s House (a battered women’s shelter):  K, you have set up such a beautiful home with many beautiful things for you, J, and Abbey.  We wanted to give another woman that chance by donating a 16-piece glassware set in your honor.

For my brother-in-law, a donation to the Susan G. Komen for a Cure:  J, we are praying for your mom and your family as she faces breast cancer – we pray that she will be 100% cured, but since we believe that God works through human hands at times, we have donated $50 to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure in your honor.  We pray the scientists and doctors working on a cure find one and help heal your mom because she has a many years of enjoying her FIVE grandkids ahead of her!

For Nana, also a donation to My Sister’s House:  MM, you are definitely the hostess with the mostest!  We wanted to help another woman be able to be a good hostess by donating a set of dishcloths, dishtowels, and potholders in your honor.

I seriously got teary as I wrote some of these notes thinking about how much these people mean to us and how grateful we are for them and the chance to spread the wealth this Christmas season and give someone else the chance to be blessed as we are surely blessed.

And you know, technically, the Christmas Season has only just begun – we still have 10 days. 

Merry Christmas.

Stepping Up

I don’t know why but I am continually amazed by my church.  They always come through – they (most) always do the right thing.  But still, I’m amazed each time it happens.  I guess I prepare myself for the worst, just in case.  Me of little faith.

Example #1 – With the multiple hurricanes that have gone through Haiti recently, our presbytery decided to take on a special project called Help for Haiti.  They arranged for a large shipping container to carry supplies to Haiti and asked churches to donate money and supplies.  We had to get the boxes from the presbytery because they all had to be the same size, as to maximize the space.  When session decided on how many boxes we would commit to fill, we were confused about the size.  When they came in, they were about 3X the size we thought.  So we had 12 gi-normous boxes, and asked the congregation to fill them.  Oh my heavens, did they ever.  Our narthex was nearly overflowing yesterday when I left work.  In addition to all of the supplies, we also got generous monetary gifts.  AMAZING.

Example #2:  A few weeks ago, the session began discussing how bad our financial situation was and what to do about it.  Dip into the Endowment Fund, get a Bridge Loan, freeze committee spending, etc.  They finally decided that the first step should be going to the congregation – educating and asking.  And instead of the chair of finance standing up and saying something as he usually does, they decided that they would make a statement and have the whole session stand up and make a presentation during worship.  They did a great job and people listened.  Last Sunday, we received $16,200!  Which is almost $10,000 more than our projected income needed each week.  We are still getting in less than we budgeted for the year, but we are no longer in danger of not being able to pay staff and ultility bills on November 1 as we were before.  AMAZING.

Not to mention that both of these things happened at the same time, AND just a few weeks after collecting over $1700 in a special offering for Hurricane Relief in Pearlington, MS. AND we received $350 for the Peacemaking Offering this past Sunday. AND we are in the middle of a national economic crisis.  AND we don’t have a head of staff.  Praise Jesus.

In both cases, it wasn’t pastoral leadership that made the difference, it was the congregation.  And that is how the church should work – the body of Christ at its best.  Again, PRAISE JESUS.

Jubilee on Wall Street?

As I mentioned in my post about the bailout, I preached recently on issues of money and the distribution of resources.  In additon to talking about the recent mess on Wall Street, I mentioned a story from the life of Shane Claiborne and The Simple Way about their Jubilee Celebration on Wall Street.  I just found this post from God’s Politics written by Shane, and it even has a video of the event – I wish I had seen this before.  You should read and watch.  It is powerful. 

There is another way.