Generosity in Grace
So one year nearing October a dear friend of mine who has a rather wonderful if not unique sense of humor, sent me the song above and suggested I use it for the annual financial stewardship campaign. I LOVE EG Kight, a southern blues singer that simply brings it. Now you have to know blues singers tend to focus on relationships and the trials and travails of such. So she really wasn’t singing the blues for pastors entering financial stewardship season, but seriously, how great is the title of this particular track in connection with that terrible, awful, yet necessary thing we connect with churches – just cause I’m a pastor doesn’t mean I don’t know – all the church ever wants from me is money. I don’t particularly agree, as you might imagine, I hope what we want most from you at Grace is, well, grace . . . grace extended to neighbors, to family, to strangers, to self, and maybe even to pastors who get some things right, some things wrong, and some things sideways. You know, like dancing the hokey-pokey one Sunday during worship, or suggesting you try skipping to your car just to see if you still can, or running down the aisle after worship pretending that by doing so I’m getting you out on time.
Yup, money and church, not the most popular topic among church attenders or pastors or passers-by who decide organized religion is going the way of leg-warmers, pet rocks, mood rings, and Tiny Tim (google if you’re younger than 55). And yet, our connection with money is often far more defining, limiting, complex, and filled with agenda than most of our other connections in the world. How do I know if my company/workplace values me? Regular increases in salary. How do I know if I can be defined as “successful”? The worth of my portfolio. How do I know if my life’s work means anything? By how much economic strength it offers to the community and to self. We may say none of that is true for us, but we all have some kind of relationship with money whether we acknowledge it or not, because it is a part of the reality by which we live. The question I pose to myself on an ongoing basis, is whether my finances are an instrument by which I am able to balance providing for myself and offering service and help to the world, or whether my finances are an entity and end by which I evaluate the worth of my life and the lives of others. If we’re honest, our answer is probably a mix between those two extremes, either of which may have more weight in our lives at some times than others.
Yup, money and church, how do we decide what, if anything, the two have to do with one another? Maybe we think about it in terms of what we value. I could try and convince you that if you’re not giving a percentage of your income to the church your new best friend is probably wearing red tights, holding a pitchfork, and his hoodie has horns. But I don’t believe that, which simply makes my life so much more difficult. Because what I do believe is that the reality of God working in our lives becomes a gratefulness that simply extends through our generosity of spirit and heart and soul part of which lives through the vehicle that is money. Money then becomes one of the ways by which we make our heart of generosity concrete. For people of faith, a way of extending a sense of community by pooling resources to provide for what we are currently doing and the leap of faith that moves toward the vision into which we believe God is inviting us.
Concretely? We feed between 250-300 people free meals each Wednesday and Thursday night at our Center of Grace Mission campus. Our clothing closet and our clothing team serves any who walk through the doors of any age with coats, underwear, socks, shoes, pants, and shirts and most other bodily coverings. We continue with space for ESL, Migrant Even Start preschool/parent education, Pathways to Hope, and the Boys and Girls Club has blown the doors off with 120 students and 150 on a waiting list.
Concretely? Our Life Groups at Ridgeview campus have double the number of people registered in bible, theology, social justice and leadership classes with the foundational piece the opportunity to know and be known by a smaller group for community and support. We’re baptizing babies multiple services each weekend through the fall, we’re quickly running out of infant and nursery space, Kids Place at Grace Preschool is full with a waiting list, and our youth are doing mission and meeting in small groups with adult mentors to connect with real life issues and learn and grow together as followers of Jesus.
Concretely? We are understaffed, have a marvelous team working harder than we might imagine, and while we don’t always do things perfectly, we nearly always do them boldly, enthusiastically, and tend to like having more fun than church folk should really have.
So? Somebody’s Gotta Give . . . Who’s it gonna be? . . . don’t really listen to the rest of the song necessarily – it’s something about love and marriage and who’s giving what and who’s not being treated fairly and you know, all that normal blues-y song content. But as EG belts out with raspy intensity . . . Somebody’s Gotta Give . . .Who’s it gonna be?
BTW I’m including a picture of Ringo in my dryer burrowed into my warm, fluffy towels and Bud and Ringo hanging out, to tug on your heartstrings and remind you how great life can be . . . don’t you wanna Give?!?