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Financial Giving, Part One

November 12, 2007

Hello,  folks!

We haven’t used the blogging capabilities of our new website, until now. Here is where I’ll try to start posting some notes from the messages on Sunday. It gives us a chance to talk and share and keep a thought going for a little longer than a day. I’ve taken my notes for Sunday and tried to clean them up into a fairly coherent narrative for the occasion. I can’t tell you how I appreciated the encouraging words Sunday… I really don’t like talking about money. So, here goes…

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We’ll be starting at the only place a Sunday message about the financial offering can start… at a place of profound and sincere thanks.

Gratefulness. I am grateful for the financial offering here at CIB. It reflects the heart and soul of a community, the giving and receiving of gifts. And here at CIB the giving has been something for which to be thankful. So, “Thank you, really.”

You see, we are a congregation, an institution, an entity. We have a campus, rental properties and various assets. We have a budget, several bank accounts, loans and paid employees. We have bills.

Let’s face it… we want it all, don’t we? We want to have a campus. We want to worship in the sanctuary, somewhere above 50°F degrees and below 80°F, right?  We want to be involved in global missions, do some local ministry, never run out of candles and do some good in the world… that’s who we are, an institution committed to God and to the good that God wills for this world. Of course, we’re not just an institution; we are also a family, a collection of friends, a gathering of disciples, learners, followers, pilgrims. No institutional aspect should be allowed to negate or over-shadow those aspects, but they all come together to create our present reality. 

And here’s our present reality… we need to pay more bills, both this year and next year. We need to think about three things right now: 1) finishing this year with a commitment to our monthly giving, 2) making any end-of-year gifts that we can, and 3) planning for next year’s monthly giving.

Wow. Sounds like we just called a business meeting to order and spirituality just left the room… but that’s not the case at all. 

Bringing gifts and offerings, gifts and offerings of money and wealth, has always been a part of worship for God’s people. The spirituality is very easily mapped… the wealth is God’s in the first place, and bringing it back to God is about being faithful and about growing ones’ self in God’s realty… it’s worship, it’s gratitude and it’s participation with God.

Here we are… let’s be fully here. A deep beauty is present in the widow’s offering of Mark 12:41-44. The beauty present is in the faith and expectation of the woman… if she’s giving all the wealth she has to live on, then from where does she expect to gain life? Of course, her faith is in God. 

Life. Eternal Life. What is that thing, “eternal life.” It gets thrown around in the gospels pretty often, like in John 17:3. read that one verse out loud… I think there’s not a clearer picture available to us of knowing the eternal than when we see in the woman of Mark 12.

I heard a speaker to explain an understanding of eternal life, especially in connection with John 17:3, as living in the awareness of the eternal: awareness. It’s the difference in living that we see in a plant and a kitten: awareness. A plant is certainly alive, but has no awareness of a simple game with a rubber ball. A kitten has an acute awareness. We can certainly live this life with no awareness of the eternal, and we can amass many distracting treasures along the way. But will we live on that path?

Giving our wealth, hard earned wealth, is a reflection of where we perceive life to originate. We see it originate with God. And so our participation is total. Our wealth is redeemed and it participates along with every other part of our selves. The woman at the Temple challenges us to rethink wealth and giving as we rethink life. What changes must I make in my life to reflect its true source? Would such changes allow me to give much more to God’s church and our church family? For me personally, the answer is yes. I’m much in need of such a challenge and such a change.

So here is our paradox of the day… we need to give like the rich, and like the poor. Maybe it works to say it this way, changed just a little… we need to give like the rich folks that we are, and give like the poor folks that are we.

Part of our reality here at CIB is that we’re not giving enough to pay all our bills, mundane bills or really cool ministry bills, either way. We could, we can, and we must. Recognizing that life is a gift of God’s, right along with the wealth, right along with the awareness, is recognizing that life is not what we can purchase, but with whom we can participate.  

I was gearing up to have pledge cards this week. But instead of giving them out today, I’d like to ask you spend a week in thought and prayer with me. I am not ready to fill out my pledge card for 2008 just yet. I need to sit and think on my participation in 2007, reflect on it and pray. Then I need to dream a little on 2008. Our budget is not crazy much. In fact, I think it’s under what we could do, but it’s still more than we’re currently doing.

Next week we’ll pass out pledge cards and talk about the money thing a little more. I hope you’ll join me this week in praying ad reflecting on our financial giving. I also hope you’ve started the list of what you’re thankful for in this holiday season.

Peacefully yours, Todd

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