e-letter 11/16/18

This time last year, I was training for a half marathon! Looking back, this was a pretty wild decision. The fall of my last year in Seminary was arguably one of the busiest semesters ever. I was preparing for Board of Ordained Ministry interviews, working at least 25 hours a week, and carrying a full class load. Somehow all of this slipped my mind when my mom asked me to race with her, so I agreed to a 13.1 mile commitment.
 
At first, I thought I could just strap on some shoes and set out on my runs, gradually increasing my distance and shortening my time to keep up with my rock-star-runner mom and sister. But I learned a lot in training for that race! First, some research and preparation were required to commit to this goal. Then, I had to prepare my resources for the reality of running: shoes, clothes, electrolytes, encouraging running partners, and good music.  I posted my 13.1 training plan in a prominent place in my house and crossed off each run that I completed. It took preparation, dedication, and a lot of effort, even when I didn’t feel like it.
 

Before this experience, I thought that dedication to a goal like 13.1 miles were just for other people, not for me. I thought my body and my life would be unable to handle the extra pressure that training for a half marathon presented. But in that semester, running became an escape and even a way of praying. When I crossed the finish line in December after completing my race with my mom and sister, I was in awe of myself. I had finally learned that dedication and commitment weren’t just for other people. They were for me, too.   These last few weeks, we’ve been talking about “Defying Gravity,” and leaving behind the weight of the material on our lives through generous giving. Confession time: my giving has been sporadic at best for my whole life. And just like with running, I made excuses as to why I didn’t have to plan my giving before now. I was a student. I didn’t make a lot. The church will be fine without my pennies. The list goes on.

 

But throughout this past year and especially this past month, I’ve been reflecting on what saying yes to this commitment– to all of you– really means. Sometimes we think that dedication and commitment are just for other folks, that we are doomed to fail, or that it is impossible. But with dedication, preparation, one another, and the generous “yes” of our God, they are possible. We must “get off the fence” as Rev. Mark Becker said, and dedicate ourselves to the work.

 

As I think this week about turning in my commitment card for 2019 (don’t forget to bring yours this Sunday!), I am reminded of how terrified I was committing to my 13.1 miles. It seemed so large and daunting to dedicate myself to it — and that was only fitness related! This goal seems simultaneously easier and much weightier, because in turning in a commitment card, we are dedicating ourselves to partnership with God in the work of the Kingdom. We are committing to partnership with each other, this local church, in thick and thin. We are remembering that our partnership spans across ministry to and with infants and to and with our elders. We are helping the church itself defy gravity, focusing on Kingdom work instead of financial concerns.

 

In that way, I’m looking at my commitment card as my “couch-to-13.1” plan: it helps dedicate me to a set of planned giving to the church, defying gravity and disciplining myself to generosity. I am preparing by reading and listening to wise forerunners in the race, who remind me that this plan is the base requirement. In addition to that requirement are the many extras:  shoes and electrolyte chews, Communal encouragement. Prayer. Discipline. Volunteering to see the kingdom work in action in our many ministries. Sharing in your other spiritual gifts.

 

As you pray about your planned giving for 2019, I hope you remember the Kingdom work God has already begun in this place. In my short time here, I’ve watched you give generously and love your neighbors in extraordinary ways. This Sunday continues that work and I can’t wait to commit to run this race with you. It seems a lot less daunting knowing that we do it together.

 
Peace,
 
Pastor Allee