Tag Archives: mission

Stewardship is a way of life: not all about money{1-30-12}

I hate talking about finances…a a matter of fact, my loathe of all things financial is one of several reasons why I NEVER want to serve on a vestry. NO THANKS! :O)

The following statements are solely my opinion.

I agree that stewardship s more about one’s financial giving to one’s church but at the same time, when a church focuses too much on getting members to pledge more money, it can quit being ” church ” & slide into just another charitable organization.

As Christians, we are called to do Christ’s work here in our world. While this call does involve some sort of financial committment on our part, is is not all about ” the bottom dollar.”

I’ve been a member of another mainline Protestant of a church who– in a misguided effort to ” educate” members on financial stewardship, hung a hand-made poster depicting a graph of the governing body’s expectations for pledged offerings. The session{ Governing body of the denomination that I eventually came to The Episcopal Church from} listed their projected ” goal” at the top of the poster & weekly reported on the pledges received each month. This offensive poster sat in the narthex of the church building, so visitors & members alike saw it whenever they came to church for any reason. If I felt nauseated every time I saw this poster on the wall, I am sure that others who came to that church felt equally appalled.

Most of us who attend church, any church, on a regular basis know that financial stewardship is part of what God calls us to do. But seekers & new Christians who have no attended church or awhile{ or ever} might see tithing as only about money. It is not. But at the same time, an intense campaign to motivate people to tithe might be perceived as just a plea for more money. No one wants to feel guilt-tripped into giving more money. If handled inappropriately, such as a poorly done stewardship campaign will guilt people into turning away from a faith community , or even from Christianity as a whole. Although there are many reasons why I left my previous denomination, the way that the ” stewardship campaign” was handled at the church I’d left before finding Small Parish factored hugely into my decision to come to Small Parish when I did.

It is true my opinions on intense campaigns to get more people to tithe is just my opinion, I’ve arrived at this opinion based on past experiences. What might turn out as a campaign to educate people on the Biblical commandment to set aside one tenth of one’s income to the church might easily become nothing more than all about money.

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“Being right is overrated…”

“Being right is overrated.”–The Rt. Rev. John McKee Sloan

{ Thanks to one of my parishioners for that quote}

 I do not know who Bishop Sloan is but these are wise words.

Too often, we Christians are too worried about being ” right” . We are so concerned with fighting among ourselves over dogma that we forget what we are supposed to be in this world: the very hands & feet of Christ.  How can Christians be the Body of Christ when one part of His Body refuses to communicate with the others? How can one claim to be a Christ-Follower yet fail to see the face of Our Lord in the faces of those with whom we disagree the most?

I am * just* as guilty as the next person …I am so often wrapped up in my own ideas & ideals that I forget that all Christians do follow the one Christ, the Christ Who died so that ALL of we sinners can be free.

Convention Countdown

 Where has all the time gone? Today is February 1.

Good grief, it seems as though only last week was Christmas & now we are looking at Lent approaching.  As usual, my plans for Lenten fasting are from my three vices: chocolate,  alcohol and cussing.  To curb the cussing I am adding money to my ER-D  collection box.  Fasting from chocolate is hard enough…there is no way that I’m also fasting from coffee.

 My Diocese’s annual Convention is at the end of the month & I am a first-time attendee. I am alternate this year but that is a-ok with me, as this way I get to see  everything &  have more freedom to attend sessions that interest me. Unless, one of the other delegates  cannot  be present for a vote, of course.

  I confess that I am not as globally minded as I should be now, but hopefully that might change in the near future. While I admire all the overseas mission work that we Christians do, I am a firm believer that  the real mission fields  are often within driving distance of where we live. This Lent, I plan to  ask God to show me where I am needed the most in my community, parish & diocese.

 On Saturday, February 6, I’ll attend a pre-Convention meeting  in Crestview with some of the other delegates from my parish. I am sure I will have much more to write  about this experience on Saturday evening, but suffice it for now to say that it is an honor & a privilege to be attending Convention this year.

God does not cause human suffering

“God does not cause suffering or punish people with it, but God is present and known more intimately in the midst of suffering. Above all, we become more human through our broken hearts.”

++ Katharine Jefferts-Schori, The Episcopal Church

Our Presiding Bishop’s  statement on the Haiti situation is filled with  MUCH more Christian love than is that inane  statement  said by Pat Robertson. How anyone can say that the good people of Haiti are being ” punished” for  something that allegedly happened 200 years ago is ludicrous.

It scares the crap out of me that folks like Robertson even have any following. Normally I don’t  mix politics with faith when I writefor the public, but this  brings up the point of how scary the extreme  so-called” family values” portion of the American  political landscape can become.

God did not cause this  tragedy. Nor is God punishing anyone for anything that happened in the past.  As Christians, we are called to do acts of compassion, not to seek  any sort of blame.

The Question of Fasting

 { Mark 2:18-22}

I admit it, since most of my spiritual autobiography is  from a Protestant Christian tradition, I really don’t  understand the discipline of fasting. I know that Roman Catholic & Eastern Orthodox Christians fast during Lent{ and , correct me if I am wrong, but I think the Eastern Orthodox Christians also fast during Advent}. But I’ve never been good at fasting from food & do not even make a pretense to fast from food. My body needs three square meals per day.

Now, with Lent coming up I will admit that I do  abstain from the use of alcohol{ consecrated wine used at Eucharist is the execption, of course} cussing & chocolate during Lent. But this is as far as my physical body will let me fast.  During Lent I make an effort to  show penitence in other ways. I cannot skip a meal every day during Lent & I accept this as part of how God  created me. Some folks can fast  every Lent, but I am not among them.

One of my Presbyterian pastors had a great concept about Lent.  Rather than { or as well as} subtracting something from our lives during Lent, she asked the congregation of which I was a part at that time to make an effort to GIVE BACK to the community by doing more service-related projects & helping those in need, show more loving-kindness to your family,  increase your prayer life, ect. She  created paper leaves  & on the first Sunday of Lent, invited the congregation to  take these ” leaves” home, & each time they GAVE BACK , to write their act of compassion. During the Children’s Moment at the Presbyterian church throughout that Lenten season, she invited all of us to add our ” leaves” to the  barren tree. By Easter Sunday, that formerly barren tree was ” brought back to life” with the  recordings of the congregation’s  acts of loving-kindness.

The Reverend Dr Martin Luther King, Jr, whose Nativity we Americans  celebrate today, was a fine example of working towards bringing our world closer to shalom.  But there is still so much that we  Christians need to do to further Dr King’s vision of total  equality & justice for all people.

Out of my limited collections of memories from my life as a Protestant, this is one of the most positive. The ” Giving Tree” was a very physical reminder of what we are all called to do as Christians. We are called to help our sisters & brothers who & when they need us the most, to spread loving-kindness & acceptance for all God’s people. We Episcopalians are all about outward & visible signs of an inward & spiritual grace & that Lenten practice at that Protestant church is still an outward & visible memory which I still carry with me to this day.

So for me, fasting is not merely about abstaining: it is about increasing my service to others, starting with my family & parish & hopefully broadening that   sense of being an instrument of shalom to my community .  As Lent approaches, I will ask myself What Can I, Sarah Beth, give?

Amen.

The Nativity of Dr Martin Luther King, Junior. 2010

Water into Wine

Today’s Gospel lesson had to do with the first miracle that Christ  performed. At the wedding at Cana His Mother informed Him that there was no more wine for the guests at the party.  He instructed some servants to fill some ordinary clay jars with water…a lot of water, since there were apparently big jars.  Then Our Lord  turned all that water into wine for sure at the wedding feast.

Jesus has the power to change ordinary ” stuff” of our world into what is most needed here on Earth.  

Today most of we regular churchgoers will have heard or preached homilies on the situation in Haiti this morning, but my thoughts about this Scripture lesson are slightly more personal to my life as a Christian. To me it speaks of vocation: what Our Lord might be asking me to do. Right now the discernment of my future is more than a bit scary , but I know I am not alone. God is with me, and God sent the Son to  help me be a better Christian servant-leader. I do not yet know what form this servant-leadership will take: I’m too young & inexperienced to make any permanent  discernment just yet. But recent events in my life have proven to me that Our Lord is with us & God will, in God’s own Time, let us know what it is we are supposed to do to help our sisters & brothers further the KIngdom of God here on earth.

For instance , I know for a fact that I am not called to be an overseas missionary. I lack the physical capabilities to do any sort of  hard physical labor & I would just be  a bother to those who have the physical Gifts it takes to do some on-the-ground relief work in places through the world such as Haiti. But of course all of us can remember the people in Haiti who were killed or lost all they owned in this terrible quake. Prayer is very powerful, so powerful that our Roman Catholic  sisters & brothers support some monastic communities whose main ” job” { if you will” is to pray without ceasing. I admire those who are called to the cloistered & totally contemplative life: since I know that I am not QUITE that much of a contemplative. But prayer without ceasing is a very  valid ministry & one which our secular society often overlooks.  If you want to see an example of  a faithful  monastic community of prayer, check out the Web site of the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters in St Louis.

 So, How will God use me & you to turn water into wine? What is it that all of us are expected to do to fulfil our baptismal covenant? What is Christ telling me to do? How can I discover when & where this ordinary clay jar filled with water will be turned into wine that will  metaphorically sustain others?

My Mission Here & Now

Mission can & often does occur in foreign lands, but more often than not it is needed the most in our own communities.

I am a person with Autism. And God made me this way for a reason.  I am what doctors call” high-functioning”, meaning that I am above average intelligence. But there are other areas in my life which are cause for struggle. But I am who God created me. If I wished to be anything different then that would be negating  who I am as God created me. That would be wrong. God delights in all God’s creation. Some people might not understand, & therefore fear, those who are different, but we are God’s Children too.

There is a GREAT song  called _ I’m In Here_ written from the perspective of a child with Autism. While I clearly did not write those words, I could have written them when I was young. People with autism are , first & foremost PEOPLE. 

 My mission is to educate the public about people such as myself & to advocate for the rights of all persons with disabilities…but especially those of us on the Autism Spectrum. I love working in my ” mission field” , even though what I spend a lot of time & effort doing is not ” churchly”, it is  social justice .  It is very important to feed the physically hungry, but there is a whole mission field open in the world of advocacy.  I’m directly affected by Autism but there are so many other social-justice ” missionary” work that needs the help of we people of faith.

 We speak a lot of doing mission work overseas & that is all well & good. But ” mission”  needs to be synonymous with ” action”.  God calls us to use our Gifts to make the world a better place, to  further the Kingdom Of God on Earth…or that grand vision of ” shalom”.

My ” mission” is with families who love someone with Autism. I volunteer with two organizations which  support families & people who are affected by Autism & I love every minute of it!   For now & in this place, Autism  awareness & education is my mission field.

 As an adult on the higher end of the Autism spectrum, I’ve discovered that I am a God-given resource for both parents & professionals who work with and/or love someone with Autism. I talk{ sometimes too much!!!} & pray that my voice might be a voice on behalf of the voiceless.