e-letter 8/23/19

I don’t remember how old I was. Perhaps it was after I was confirmed as a member of the church in 6th grade. But I may have been younger, possibly 3rd or 4th grade. However old I was, I remember receiving my very first box of official church offering envelopes with my name on the box and a number on each envelope. There were 52 envelopes, one for each Sunday in the year, each with the date of that Sunday.


I remember thinking this was a big deal. My church was counting on my gifts! As a child, I didn’t have a job, so I didn’t have much to give by any means. Sometimes I got an allowance, and sometimes I didn’t. When I did, I was expected to give some portion of it to the church, either in Sunday School or worship. But I wasn’t pressured or told how much to give. My parents just told me that giving to God was important, and I took their word for it. When I didn’t get an allowance, most Sundays my parents would give me something to put in the offering plate. But now, I had offering envelopes. In my child brain, this was a bigger deal. It was important. I got a kick every time I put my money in one of those envelopes, whether it was a couple of coins or a couple of dollars. I felt good every time I dropped my envelope into the offering plate with all the other envelopes. I may have been a child, but I was a part of something important.


I was faithful for a long time in using those envelopes. I didn’t give every week, but when I did, I put it in the envelope for that week and put the envelope in the offering plate. By the time I went to college, I had bills to pay. It seemed like everything I earned, working part-time while I was in school, was going back out for tuition, books and gas. The envelopes and my commitment and excitement about them fell by the wayside. I still went to church each week. If I had a few dollars in my wallet, I might give them. But there was no plan to give. My envelopes sat at home covered with dust. I didn’t think much about it.


Then I was appointed to serve my first church. During that first annual stewardship campaign, I listened to my senior pastor preach about giving it all. It started to make sense. He talked about giving as a response of gratitude to God. He talked about how God owns all we have and it’s just on loan to us. He talked about the joy of giving, especially when we give to things that matter, things God cares about, and things that make a kingdom difference in the world. I was reminded of the joy I felt as a kid when I first got those offering envelopes and started putting my meager gifts into the offering plate. I remembered how it felt to be using my gifts for something important, something bigger than just me and my needs.


I wanted to know that joy again. I wanted to experience the kick that you get when you give to something beyond yourself. So, I started the journey of giving once again. I committed myself to the spiritual discipline of giving. I wanted to say “thank you” to God for all the ways that God had provided for me, had blessed me, and had led me to such a marvelous place in life. I reflected on the time when Scott and I were first married and never had more than two nickels to rub together. Yet, somehow, we always managed to get by. I knew we needed to respond with gratitude for those blessings.


We began that journey of giving then, and we are still on it. We are both more joyfully generous people now than we were at that point in our lives. But we aren’t as generous as we would like to be. We still get hooked by scarcity thinking. We are still tempted to get lost in seeking fulfillment and joy in things that really don’t matter and don’t last. We still need to be reminded that none of what we have is really ours. We still need to hear Jesus’ gentle reminder to “store up treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves don’t break in and steal.”


I don’t use offering envelopes anymore. I use our online giving link available on the church website. But I get the same kick and the same joy every time I give back to God and God’s work through the ministry of this church. I thought about that this week as I reflected on the Beach Baptism service last Sunday. Two folks were baptized, and many others renewed their baptismal commitment to Christ. For some this was an especially moving experience as they felt the grace of God wash over them through the waters of baptism. It was an amazing experience. I’m so grateful that my giving helps make moments like that happen in people’s lives in this place. It brings me such amazing joy to be part of what God is doing in this church and beyond.


This week in worship we continue in our “Back to Basics” message series by thinking about the spiritual discipline of giving and how giving shapes our hearts. It helps us to mirror the loving, giving heart of Christ. I invite you to read and reflect on the three scriptures we will be using in worship: Luke 6:37-38, Titus 2:14 and James 1:17-18. I also invite you to think about the question, “When was the last time you got a kick out of giving?” Reflect on your own experience of giving and how you have found joy in giving.


We are all on a journey when it comes to giving. We are all in different places. But wherever we are, joy is possible when we open our hands and our hearts in response to God’s good gifts in our lives and give. When we give, no matter the size of the gift, God is blessed, people are blessed, and we are blessed!

See you in worship!
Grace and Peace,