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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Tuesday Lectionary Leanings: Vote Early, Vote Often Edition

Hi friends, I hope all of you in the US voted today, or are planning to vote before the polls close! I went early this morning and did not have to wait in line. Two years a ago I waited almost two hours, even though I got there 30 minutes after the polls opened.

This week I am involved in a pulpit exchange with a sister church, who has asked me to be their guest leader for their New Consecration Sunday. Luckily, the lectionary fits quite nicely. I will concentrating on the 1 Kings passage about the widow of Zarephath and the Gospel story of the widow's mite.

The stewardship program this church is utilizing focuses on the deeper spiritual meaning of our tithes and offerings. The thrust is this: it is not enough to give merely because we are blessed with much. Let's face it, God does not need our measely little offerings. What God does instead is invite us to be co-creators with God in bringing about the Kindom. In this regard, giving fulfills a spiritual need of ours, and is not merely a "portion given back" to keep the church doors open, the lights on, and gas in the pastor's car.

I'm excited to be a part of this program, and honored to have been asked to participate. What are you wrestling with this week? Are any of the rest of you deep into stewardship campaigns yourselves?


  1. For this Sunday, I am going to look back and pick up remembrance day themes. For a Quaker this is an opportunity to explore/ discuss/ discern about our peace testimony.

    As far as stewardship, I am encouraging our finance committee to consider doing one...But there is a strong voice in the community against bringing "talk about money and tithing" into worship...WTF!
    Hopefully we will be able to respectfully bring this voice into understanding about what stewardship should/could mean.
    We also have a strong "don't ask, don't tell" mentality about the funds we have in investments. The thought was expressed that if people know we have money, they won't want to give. Jeeze...sometimes it's like running uphill on ice.

  2. I'm working on the theme of survival, with the Ruth passage and the Mark story of the wido. Both Naomi and the widow are survivors, and they find survival in different ways: The widow by faith, Naomi by action.
    I'm pondering whether I can get away with using Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" lyrics in my sermon...

  3. We just had our Stewardship ingathering 2 Sundays ago. I am pledging 3x what I did in the past - more towards a real live contribution and getting towards the goal of a tithe (combined with the other charities I / we contribute to.)

    It feels good and it is scary too. I like how you put it here, CH, about how the giving is a lot more about what it does for us than what it does for God/the church. You've given me a frame for an action I felt led to (very strongly) without knowing why.

    thanks and blessings!

  4. it's "give us your money" sunday here. i'm not preaching, I'm going to Ghost Ranch in NM (praise the LORD!!!!!). However, this is my first year in a position in which tithing is both expected and possible. I'm still working that out mentally, spiritually, and mathematically.

    i'm interested to see where you all go. sr. pastor preacher here is going with the widow's mite and something about putting in all she had as an outpouring of love. (because putting it all in out of desperation doesn't really apply to our community, I guess...I don't know, I'm new.) so it's going to be about pouring ourselves out in far as I can tell, anyway. did I mention I'm going out of town?

  5. Doing the Widow's mite....might.
    We are also celebrating the veterans in our congregation. I used to think I had to preach on whatever we were celebrating or the occasion. We are not deep into the depths of the budget campaign or pledge campaign, but are beginning it.

  6. This is our commitment Sunday. I've been preaching, off lectionary, mostly O.T. stewardship texts for the last four weeks. I'm back to lectionary preaching the Mark passage this week. Right now I'm drawn to the dependence on/deep trust in God evidenced by the widow's giving, as contrasted with the independence/self-advancement of the ostensibly larger gifts. Its not making for the celebration of our generous community sermon I'd like to preach at a commitment service, but its where I'm leaning... we'll see what comes.

    I like what I read in the main post about the thrusts of the stewardship campaign at the church where you'll be preaching. It resonates with much of my preaching the past few weeks.

  7. The stewardship campaign here will end with a consecration of gifts next Sunday. It's the first time in donkey's years they've sought pledges from the congregation so there's no telling how it will turn out.

    This week I'll preach on the widow's mite but I'm going to try to avoid using it as a stick to make my folks (and me) give more. Since our Bible Study is looking at James I am flirting with preaching on the notion that, while our society values most those who have most, our church family should not operate that way. The widow with next to nothing is at least as valuable as the fella with the big checkbook. I've sometimes heard members say things like, "don't make them angry cause, you know,they donated the organ and we hope there will be something left to the church in the estate." The Mark passage says to me that this is not a mind set Jesus would approve.

    I'm just really glad that I do not know how much anybody gives so I don't fall into the trap of being more worried about what the bigger givers think than about those how have/give little!

  8. Stewardship time here!

    BUt as open as the passages seem to the topic I am at an impasse. I am looking at 1 Kings and realizing that its logic leads all too easily to the Prosperity Gospel idea of give and be rewarded. And with Mark, well we just don't know what the widow was thinking do we?

    Was she paying a debt? THat isn't stewardship. ANd I am not sure we actually owe God anything. WAs she a cheerful giver as Paul enjoins us to be? Why was she giving? WHy do we give? Why don't we give?

    ALl questions here, no answers yet.

  9. Then again, I could always take the easy ay out and talk about the new outreach website WonderCafe that was launched today. It is part of Emerging SPirit, a campaign aimed at reaching 30-45 year olds.

  10. I have sooo much going on, I can't even think about preaching...our diocesan convention Fri and Sat, a trip out of town next week for church business, working on resurrecting a parish, and preaching every Sunday but two since Palm Sunday....well, when the time comes I will probably preach on the Mark text, the widows mite...something about authentic giving from the heart v's giving for "show"...I don't know...I only have part of tomorrow and Thur to get it written, convention and all...

  11. Not preaching until Chirst King Sunday. Like the idea of bringing in Gloria Gaynor's song, but I am the nerd that actually knows all the lyrics by heart.
    Also, agree w/ re maria about not knowing who gives what. I owuld spend too much time freeting over who I was or was not pleasing. No way to do ministry, all are important. In the way of commitment Sunday, I think it is equally important for people to consider the time and talent commitment. This is on our commitment cards. We have two different people in oiur church, not wealthy, but both give tirelssly to our education program and are often first to volunteer to help out with children, crafts, progrmas, etc. This is worth a lot more than any amount of money to me!

  12. I'm thinking of continuing into Mark 13 and Jesus' words about the temple being thrown down. We tend to praise the widow for giving her all, but I think he is using her as an example of how corrupt the system is, not of being a cheerful giver.
    It feels like an opportunity to talk abou the meaning of church as institution. How do we avoid being the scribes and taking advantage of the widows and the poor and the marginalized, when we know that institutions tend to protect only themselves?
    (Or will that get me fired on Monday. Maybe I'll just demand tithing, instead.)

  13. Songbird,
    John Shea offers a reflection in his book "Spiritual Wisdom of the Gospels for Christian Preachers and Teachers, Mark Year B Eating with the Bridegroom"...which looks at the Mark text as you suggest, may help with preaching tough and still keeping your job...he speaks of what is preached v's what is practiced, and of "value discrepancy" as a failure of integration - things grew too fast, or policies were made out of expediency not values, or leaders cave into pressure, or perhaps people just don't get it. He says, "It is difficult to see the exploitation of the widow because Temple theology and practice is well established. The Law obliges all to support the Temple...however the latent functioning of this theology and practice is another matter. God's chronic concern has been for the poor and Temple policy should generate the expectation that the vulnerable should make themselves more vulnerable, and no widow should be allowed to impoverish herself..." pg. 269


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