When you think about it, the Church really doesn’t ask much from you. We keep on teaching forgiveness and grace pretty much all the time, inviting you over and over again to be encouraged in your own spiritual journey. We tell you that no matter what you may have done in the past, God is ready to receive you with open arms. We gently remind you that we are all sinners and that no sin is bigger than the forgiveness God offers us. Come one, come all. It’s never too late. God loves you no matter what.
We try to model that in the way we conduct things. If you’ve just had a new baby and we haven’t seen you since you got married, we cheerfully arrange a baptism. We don’t rent out the church for weddings but we’re eager to conduct your wedding here if you have had a connection here in the past or even if you are willing to make a connection. We don’t push you away because you haven’t been active enough. If your father dies and you haven’t been to church in a long time, we don’t ask why you’re suddenly interested in having his funeral here. We sit with you in your grief and go out of our way to offer the services of the church in a compassionate way. If you’ve got a crisis in your own life, our clergy arrange to meet with you, even if you haven’t been here enough for us to know who you are. We give you communion no matter what’s going on in your personal life. We don’t call you up and pester you about the fact that we haven’t seen you in a while.
The Church isn’t a patsy but it sure is kind and generous. We overlook each other’s faults. If you show the slightest willingness to accept our offerings, we are there for you in a big way. Our doors, our services, our clergy and staff, are always open to you when you are in need and even when you aren’t. You can get cancer and want a deeper connection with God and we are glad to welcome you and pray for your healing. You can go into remission and drift back into your comfortable world of sleeping in and reading the newspaper instead of coming to church and we don’t call you up and ask why it is that you’re not here unless you’re scared of dying. We’re that way because God is that way. He takes us whenever we come to him and he forgives us for not coming until now. He’ll take us most anyway he can get us and so will the Church.
But once a year we do ask for you to make a commitment. We ask you to support your church with a financial pledge. We remind you that giving ten per cent of your money is important, that we need it to offer all those services to everyone. In order for us to be here when you need us, we’ve got to be here all the time and we need a commitment from you in order to be here at all. Once a year we ask you for something specific. And we do that in a nice way. We don’t use fear to manipulate you. We don’t make up things about eternal damnation. In a straightforward but gentle way we come to you with a request to help, to give something to the church instead of just expecting something from the church. If you don’t give, then we keep on extending ourselves to you and hope that maybe one day you will make a commitment. No matter how selfish you might be, the Church will still be there for you. But each year we are going to ask you again if will make a financial commitment.
We do that for your own good. There is something that happens to people when they make a commitment. We grow. We understand grace and forgiveness so much more. We see God’s love more clearly. We become more generous. We aren’t so self-centered. Making a promise and trying to keep it pulls us into our potential and purpose. People who only live in a spirit of entitlement don’t get what life is really about. People who only take don’t really know what the kingdom of God means. Sure we need money so that we can keep on going. But we need commitment from you because that’s how people grow closer to God. God keeps on forgiving us because he loves us. And God’s love is given so that we might become more like God and learn how to be with God.
Grace is given to all, no matter what. But you can do more than just receive grace. You can become part of grace yourself. God issues love so that we may love too. God forgives so that we may forgive. God gives of himself to us so that we may learn to give.
So, are you going to commit to anything? Are you going to commit to the most important thing in the world? Or are you going to wait until you need something from us and then come to us? Commit. It’s for your own good.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.
Adult Sunday School Class Starting October 26
Maybe the Bible Was Wrong
The Bible says some things we have come to understand as being wrong. Or at least we have shifted our thinking about various issues. The story of Creation is now understood through the eyes of science and evolution. Slavery seems taken for granted in scripture but we now see that wasn’t right. The Old and New Testaments assume a very different status for women than we are willing to accept. Men had multiple wives and concubines and we teach something else today. Divorced people were shunned from society. Scriptural ideas about human sexuality are being challenged. Maybe the bible was wrong or maybe we have used it wrongly. For many of us it simply can no longer be true just because it says so in the Bible. Reasonable people have to wrestle with these ancient and holy texts in order to allow them still to help us on our journey of faith. So how do we do that work? How can scripture still form our authority and feed us? Come and struggle with our sacred story.