poor

The James Series: Surprisingly Equal

James 2:1-17

I’ll begin by using the end of this text to remind us of last week’s major point. James talks a lot about works, but grace precedes works. We are saved by our faith in the work of the cross, not by any work we do. Works are a sign of our faith.

Earlier in our text, James is discouraging partiality, the showing of favoritism based on who is wealthy and who is not. More positively, we might say he is encouraging equality.

We don’t know exactly why James felt the need to offer this warning, but it seems obvious his audience or audiences were struggling with the idea that poor people were as worthy of a place in the congregation as rich people. It is not surprising early Christians would have struggled with notions of equality. Rigid class distinctions were the norm; the idea that God or any god could care equally for rich and poor was radical.

And James went even further, speaking of the poor as if God actually has a preference for them. “Has not God chosen the the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him,” he asked rhetorically.

In other words, the poor have something special to offer us, a closer connection to God, one rooted, we can presume, in their deep day-to-day dependence on God. Jesus spent a lot of time talking about the tremendous value of people the world treats as worthless.

When I think of the value of the poor, the gems hidden among them, I think of one encounter I had as a young journalist in Atlanta. Sadly, it was not a Christian encounter, an opportunity for witness; I simply was too immature spiritually for the events to have gone there.

It happened while I volunteered with a program for student journalists who produced an independent paper for distribution among high schoolers. I was assigned to mentor 16-year-old Lamesha, who lived with her two-year-old daughter and mother in public housing.

I was paired with Lamesha primarily because I had a child about the same age, and could use the car seat already installed in my Plymouth Acclaim to transport the two to the program’s newsroom or training events.

Lamesha, despite all her difficult circumstances, proved to be an incredibly gifted writer. I still remember vividly one first-person piece she wrote about a drive-by shooting that happened in front of her apartment when she was younger, a shooting that left a boy dead on the sidewalk. She captured the facts, emotions and impact on her world with skills far beyond her age and training. I had high hopes for her, imagining her in college and on into the world of great writers.

And then I went to pick her up one day, and she was gone. I knocked on the door, and there was no answer; I peered through the window, and the apartment looked vacant. I finally found a neighbor who was home.

“They just packed up and moved last night,” she said. She didn’t know why. She didn’t know where. I still don’t know what happened. I pray the skills God had put in Lamesha continued to develop somewhere. I fear the instability of her life squashed them.

That is just a story about what poverty costs society in general. In Christian community, James is telling us, we also lose much when we fail to recognize the value of the faithful poor among us. They are God’s new chosen people. And while we want to help them lift themselves out of poverty, there is much to learn from the faithful Christian poor.

For example, the faithful poor know what it means to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread” in a sincere way. It is hard to pray it and mean it when your primary concern is to replace the slightly molded bread with a new loaf on the way home from work.

As they talk about their daily dependence on God, the Christian poor also serve as a corrective for those of us who begin to think our wealth, power or perceived security is a result of our own doing. The only other true corrective I know for that problem is when illness suddenly enters our lives.

Every person has value in a community of faith. Every person. I would like to think the church will learn this lesson so well one day that the Lameshas of the world will no longer be at risk of falling through the cracks.

Gloria Party 2

Acts 2:43-47
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

Awe came upon everyone because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.


Stay with me on the subject of tithing, and the party’s potential will only increase.

Last week, we looked to the Old Testament for guidance regarding God’s intent for tithing. In Deuteronomy, we found something out of sync with modern notions about tithing.

Even as part of the law, a joyous celebration was key to the tithe, along with a deep concern for the people in society lacking resources. Tithing created an atmosphere of abundance, driven by a general belief that God’s people working together in harmony could create a glimpse of heaven on earth.

I briefly spoke about what a modern tithing community could look like. Mostly, I gave you some numbers to consider. At Luminary, we easily would be working with an extra $240,000 a year. With our fixed operating costs currently covered, pretty much all of that would go toward ministries.

I invited you to imagine what would be different about our church if we were to achieve such community-wide levels of commitment. I got some great feedback during worship at Luminary today about what people saw as possibilities, all ministry-related.

I tend to see things in relation to what I call Matthew 25 ministries. Down deep in that chapter, starting at the 31st verse, we see a scene of judgment, where we learn Christ assesses the hearts of his followers based on how they have treated the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the strangers, the sick, and the imprisoned—basically, the people of Jesus’ day living on the margins of society, just barely hanging on to life. This scene certainly seems to be the starting point for ministry in any culture.

First, if we were a tithing community, I see some of the things we already do being done in a bigger, much more effective way. Why could our food closet and our Wednesday night community meal not morph into a full-time feeding ministry, a place where all, rich or poor, could find physical and spiritual sustenance together?

In a tithing church, our clothing and furniture ministries could be so much more, operating in the heart of Ten Mile and Meigs County rather than up here on the hill. And our outreach to people in the community who feel like strangers, for one reason or another cut off from circles of friends and families, could be more organized and effective.

Here’s another one: Why just an annual one-day health fair? Why not a regularly accessible health clinic somewhere in the Ten Mile area?

Within a couple of years I think we would certainly finish this building, debt-free, and perhaps build new ones or refurbish old ones, all with expanded ministries in mind. Our second floor would quickly become a place of community for all ages. Our presence could be truly in the community rather than just in this one location. And I’ve not even begun to describe ministries our community probably needs but we don’t offer. (See, you’ve not even given the money, and I already have it spent.)

The picture I see is starting to look a lot like the church in our Acts text, and all we’ve done so far is discuss the effect of tithing. The early Christians quickly put tithing in their rear-view mirrors. They were living the kingdom of heaven on earth, if only briefly. Tithing wasn’t enough of a commitment, in their minds. Yes, Christ freed them from the law. He freed them to go further in areas tied to love of each other.

They were so excited about salvation through Christ that they began to practice a kind of holy communism, something very different from the political communism we have seen in the 20th and 21st centuries. Modern communism is imposed by the dictates of tyrants; the early church’s communal life was inspired by the feeling of solidarity the Holy Spirit brings to a group. And again, it all played out like a party, one where everyone’s needs were met.

I get excited thinking of what one local church committed to tithing could do. I get giddy thinking of all of Christ’s church returning to a commitment to joyous tithing, the kind designed to celebrate our Savior and ensure no one is left out.

Imagine churches linked together from community to community—oh, wait, we’re the United Methodist Church, we already have that going for us. Now imagine us working with real tithing power, families tithing into ministry-minded local churches and local churches tithing toward our broader operations globally.

We would still have a stewardship issue, of course, but instead of scraping by, our main task would be ensuring the abundance is not wasted on fraud or luxuries that don’t benefit our Matthew 25-type ministries. Using our abundance to pursue vision and mission is a much more exciting task than begging our way through the year, wishing we could do more.

Tithing even impacts politics, but in a way where normally divergent interest groups find common ground. If you’re a Christian political conservative and you don’t like big government, tithe. The arguments in favor of big government will go away as churches deal with most social needs faster than government ever can.

If you’re a Christian political liberal, tithe, and lead the stewardship effort by bearing the standard for the outcasts of the world, ensuring ministries happen according to Matthew 25 principles.

Why ask others to do what we can do ourselves? We have the power to feed, clothe and heal the people around us, no election needed. And the word of salvation through Christ will spread.


I have to acknowledge that many people don’t know how to respond to a sermon like this because they are overwhelmed by debt. How do you tithe when you’re struggling to pay your debt service each month? There are several good Christian programs that can help people bring their debt under control and begin to handle their finances in a godly way. Any good pastor should be able to help someone find such a program.

 

Gloria Party

Like the coin says, "In God We Trust"

Like the coin says, “In God We Trust”

Deuteronomy 14:22-29

“Tithing.” It almost rhymes with “sighing,” and that’s what most people feel like doing when the subject comes up. Tithing is a burden, the reluctant surrender of 10 percent of what we gain to some mysterious rule of religion.

Or is it? Is it possible tithing has been misunderstood, perhaps even misrepresented for centuries by the church? What if we were to discover tithing is rooted in joy?

As our text shows us today, it’s no great leap to link tithing to joy, a kind of joy that might leave our more legalistic brothers and sisters in Christ tearing at their hair. (When my Baptist deacon grandfather taught me about tithing, he said nothing about “wine” and “strong drink” being involved.) What we have before us is evidence of God’s original intent for tithing, made clear when he embedded the activity in the laws he gave to the Israelites.

We have become confused about tithing for a simple reason: Religious leaders have corrupted the message, largely because of their concern that the money might stop coming one day. It happened in the Old Testament days as Judaism became more institutional and legalistic. In the New Testament, we can see how Jesus criticized the handling of money by the religious leaders of his day, including what we might call “tithe abuse.” For examples, see Matthew 23:23-24Mark 12:13-17, and  Mark 12:41-44.

Many religious leaders still botch this message. I must admit I have participated in this process myself, a realization that is more than a little humbling. Church leaders tend to sow confusion regarding the tithe in one of two ways. Either we attempt to “re-legalize” tithing to prop up our church coffers, ignoring how the grace of Christ has taken us from under the law, or we ignore the subject entirely, in the process failing to communicate the power God offers us as a people using our resources in community.

I know, a little explanation of what I’m claiming here is in order. There are lots of Old Testament Bible texts related to tithes of different kinds, but our Deuteronomy text is particularly important because it reveals God’s intent.

Look at it again. Are you not struck by how the tithe is to be used? Essentially, the tithe becomes the basis for a celebration, one laden with bread, meat, “wine, strong drink, or whatever you desire.” Imagine the crops all coming in about the same time, and this law being lived out by all the people in just a few weeks. The bounty and the blessing for all must have been incredible. The Hebrew word for “tithe,” ma’aser, must have been a beloved, celebrated sound.

Every third year, this tithe was a particular joy for the Levites, the priestly class who had no land, and other dispossessed people: the travelers among the Jews, the orphans, and the widows. The harvest went into storage so these people with few resources would have enough.

I also should note the tithing law talks about the Israelites as if they would have fields and crops one day, live in cities, and have a central location for worship. These agrarian and urban settings represent divine foresight—the Israelites were desert wanderers when they received the law. Because God clearly is peering into the future as he gives this part of the law, and because tithing pre-dates the law, I have no problems seeing the tithing principle as timeless.

So, the obvious question is, how might we tithe today according to God’s intent? In short, I would say we should tithe with an expectation that our churches become places of great joy and abundance, for ourselves and for the dispossessed within our reach.

Imagine how different churches would be if every Christian household were to grasp the potential of the tithe as God intended it and begin to tithe. I’m going to keep the math simple here, asking that you trust I’ve actually done some calculations using government data for household incomes and available church data. At a minimum, what is given at Luminary would double; it very well could triple.

For Luminary, that would mean at a minimum an extra $240,000 or so a year, all in a church that already has its fixed costs covered. This would be ministry money, available to make our time together a great joy and providing the kind of abundance that could touch thousands of lives locally and even far away.

It sounds like a pipe dream, but I believe that if God already has said it is possible for a tithing community to have great joy and a powerful impact, then it must be something to pursue. I invite you to spend this next week dreaming about the impact of such a church on the world.

Next Sunday, I’ll share what I see. I hope to hear from some of you online and  in our worship services regarding what you imagine.

Leftovers

Matthew 25:34-40

I spent a lot of time talking about food in the context of feasting last week, and a lot of folks said they left church really hungry, so I don’t want to belabor a food metaphor. But the Sunday after Thanksgiving certainly is a time when we have leftovers on our minds, isn’t it?

Jesus always has leftovers on his mind. Our Scripture reminds us today that Jesus’ primary concern is how we as his followers treat people who feel like society’s leftovers, put aside as marginally useful or destined for the scrap heap.

This text is something of a theological puzzle. We know from a broader understanding of the Bible that our salvation is dependent not on our works, but on our belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We look to the cross, believe that what happened there is effective, and we are saved.

And yet, when Jesus gave us images of the judgment to come, he described it as being based on what we do for others, in particular those people who from a worldly perspective don’t play a major role in society. Somehow, the idea of God’s unmerited grace and the idea of good works aimed at society’s least have to be reconciled.

As I consider all of this, I have to rely largely on what I’ve learned from trying to follow Jesus’ dictates in Matthew 25. I’ve not always done these acts of service well, but experience has been a good teacher.

Let’s look first at helping the hungry, the thirsty, and the naked. I group them together because I once was able to volunteer regularly in a rural community relief center that focused on helping people meet these very basic needs for sustenance and dignity. I know many of you have worked in such places, too.

What stays with you after working with people who are so poor they cannot get enough food or proper clothing? For me, it’s the look so many of them have in their eyes, a mixture of desperation and shame. People’s sense of worth can drop to almost nothing when they no longer can acquire what they need to keep themselves and their families alive.

I wish I could to tell you a simple, happy story where people get food or clothing and the transformation in their eyes is instantaneous. That story seldom happens, however. People volunteering for the first time in such relief efforts are often surprised by the lack of gratitude they see from the people receiving help. The desperation may be temporarily alleviated, but the shame remains.

If you stick with such work, however, you occasionally get the opportunity to form a relationship—maybe even a genuine friendship. When that happens, the look in the poor person’s eyes will change. Food is important, and clothes are important, but you begin to realize that relationships are deeply important. People need to know they remain worthy of love regardless of what they have.

The idea of reaching out to the stranger works in a similar way. In the Old Testament and on into Jesus’ day, people traveling or trying to live in a place where they had no relationships were in constant danger. Who would stand up for them when they were attacked or cheated in some way? A culture where people deliberately reach out to strangers is a culture that makes people safer.

As a pastor, I also have had a lot of opportunities to spend time with the sick. The sick need much, but if I had to sum up their needs in one word, I would have to choose “restoration.”

They usually want to be restored physically, of course. Sometimes physical healing happens in unexpected ways, and that’s always wonderful to see. But even without physical restoration, remarkable events can happen when someone is sick.

Often, sickness becomes a path to restoration with God, and the presence of other people can become a very important part of that restoration. I’ve seen people work through their fears and find tremendous peace before dying simply because others were there to pray with them, to comfort them, and to make them feel loved.

Now, not so many of you may have worked in prison ministry. The idea can be a little repulsive. I remember the first time I was volunteering in a federal prison and realized I was sitting next to someone convicted of trafficking in child pornography. It took me a few minutes to warm up to the guy. The whole time, I’m wondering, “Jesus, is this really what you meant?”

I’ve also sat with and even dined in the prison cafeteria with killers and rapists, not to mention the thieving accountants who cost people their life savings. I’ve preached to these people in worship services, I’ve taught them in small groups, and certainly, I’ve prayed with them. The only way you can become comfortable doing these things is to realize that Christ died for them, too—that their sins are just as forgiven as our sins.

And as I consider all these experiences, I begin to realize how the truth that we are saved through simple belief is so closely tied to Jesus’ expectation that we do good works for the least among us. It all goes back to grace; God loved us enough to save us even though sin had rendered us worthless, and we’re expected to model his behavior.

By going to the least, we open the door so God’s grace can better reach them. We also open another door, the one to our own hearts, and God’s grace is better able to reach us. Serving the least works very much like a sacrament, changing all involved.

That’s why it is so important to do some or all of these outreach efforts, to be there in body as the work is done. We can give money all day to support such ministries, but to experience the change, we have to be present.

Action!: The Precious Present

James 4:13-5:6

Where is your head right now?

I’m asking you to think about what you’ve been thinking about. How many of you are absolutely, perfectly focused on worship? That is, when we sang, all you thought about was the song; when you prayed, all you thought about was the prayer; when I started preaching, you were rooted in the giddy excitement you always feel when a sermon begins.

Conversely, how many of you know that in the last half-hour or so your minds have wandered off into the past or the future? Maybe you saw a friend and started thinking about the warm words you exchanged a few days ago. (Or maybe the opposite happened.) Maybe your stomach rumbled and you started wondering where you’ll go for lunch.

The human mind is a time-traveler. Our bodies are always in the present, but our minds jump into the future or the past at will. In fact, it is very difficult to keep our minds perfectly in the present.

That’s not necessarily a problem. I’m simply describing a fact regarding how our minds work. Both the past and our vision of the future help us to make critical decisions. I mentioned last week, however, that James tells us our words sometimes betray our failure to keep God central in our lives. That idea is the core of our Scripture reading today, in particular when we consider how we talk about the future.

Again, a little context helps. Last week, I mentioned James wrote his letter at a time when the rich were getting richer and the poor were getting poorer. It helps to know exactly who the rich were; basically there were two classes of rich.

The first class was the landed gentry, people who did little work but profited from vast tracts of land they had inherited. Like plantation owners in the Old South, they had very high status in society. They also were sometimes criticized for cheating the laborers who worked their fields.

The second class was made up of merchants, who in James’ day were often richer than the landed gentry, but of very low status.

James was not being critical of wealth, just as Jesus was never critical of wealth. Both warned, however, of the incredible distraction wealth or the pursuit of wealth can become. James took particular note of the merchants, running from city to city and planning years in advance, with no acknowledgment of their own mortality or need to rely on God.

Jesus told a parable found in Luke 12:13-21 along these lines, although his story was aimed more at the landed gentry. A rich landowner, pleased with his abundant crops, begins talking about the future as if he is in control. He’ll tear down his barns and build bigger ones, he thinks, store the excess, and then take it easy. Little does he know that death will come for him that night, and he will face the maker his riches were intended to serve.

An interesting side note: When the Jews rebelled and the Roman army responded by destroying Jerusalem in the year 70, the Jewish landed gentry were for all practical purposes wiped off the face of the earth. Both Jesus and James were being prophetic in their teachings.

There’s a simple, very true cliché that Jesus or James could have used: “You can’t take it with you.” And if you can’t take it with you, why would anyone who believes in God pursue wealth with disregard to God? As one Christian commentary notes, such an attitude is the “sin of arrogant presumption.”

Learn to think about the future in the right frame of mind—with the right attitude toward God— and your relationship with wealth and possessions can become much more healthy.

James helps us to achieve the right attitude by giving us another simple phrase to keep in mind, “If the Lord wishes,” as in, “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.” In the South, we might say, “Lord willin’, I’m gonna do that.”

Similar phrases serve almost as a mantra in other parts of the world. You may have heard that devout Muslims will use the phrase “Insha’Allah” before making plans or beginning events with an uncertain future. Translated, they are saying, “God willing.” Interestingly, it’s not just Muslims who use that phrase. Middle Eastern Christians, for example, Coptic Orthodox Christians, use the exact same phrase, taking James’ advice as they look to the future.

Using such a phrase doesn’t mean they or we are simply surrendering to fate, succumbing to the weak theological notion that God causes every tiny event, good or bad. What they and we are doing is remaining mindful that as followers of Christ, we should make all of our decisions conform with God’s will for this world.

This is where James’ lesson becomes freeing rather than restricting. First, we put our minds in the present, that place I call the precious present because it’s the one place everything is very clear and real. If you’re uncertain about God’s will, you can go to Scripture now to seek God’s truth. You can pray now, staying with God fully until you hear from God. We encounter God in the here and now, when we allow ourselves to do so.

Understanding God, we then can look to the future with a big-picture understanding of what we know God will do. That’s what James is doing when he talks about riches rotting and gold and silver rusting. It’s a metaphor for a time when riches are useless, when there is nothing left but the loving relationship we have with God through Jesus Christ. We may reach it at death; we may reach it when Christ returns. Regardless, the time is coming, and no form of wealth or material possession has a role to play.

When we get our heads around these ideas, it’s not hard to understand how we should handle possessions and wealth. Certainly, God sustains us in this life, giving us what we need. And where we find abundance, we’re called to ask ourselves how God is leading us to use those riches to grow his kingdom.

The concept of tithing, giving 10 percent of our income toward the church’s work to expand Christ’s kingdom, fits into all of this, of course. Tithing has nothing to do with church budgets. As I’ve said before, if Cassidy UMC had a million dollars in the bank, I would still encourage you to tithe because you need to maintain that connection between your financial resources and God’s work.

The same goes for how we allot our time. In particular, I become concerned when I see Christians delaying their involvement in Christ’s work, waiting for the day when the education is out of the way, when the career is where it’s supposed to be, when all is settled and the future seems clear. That day never really comes—one of my regrets is the time I wasted thinking in such ways.

If you’re an investment-oriented person, think of James’ teaching this way: What better return is there than the eternal reward we gain from faith in Christ? And even better, it’s a return we begin to see right away in the changes Christ makes in our hearts.

Wind in Our Sails: Our Gifts

The third mast of our Lenten ship brings us to the subject of gifts.

We have many gifts to offer God; certainly, we’re giving gifts back to God and our neighbors when we use our time and talents to spread the love of Jesus Christ. Those gifts tie more directly to the idea of service, however, and we’ll talk about service next week.

Today, I want us to return to a topic we discussed in January, our financial gifts. By the way, I should once again say thanks. We’ve started off the year on a positive financial note, with your tithes and offerings exceeding your expenditures by about $5,000 so far. If the trend continues through the rest of the year, it’s going to be much easier to expand our outreach to people who need to know Christ.

I don’t want us having an extended conversation about numbers today, however. During this Lenten season, as we talk about prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness, we’re talking about matters of the heart, or perhaps “habits of the heart” would be a better phrase, if I can borrow a title from an important book published in 1985.

In our Scripture reading today, Mark 12:41-44, Jesus pointed out the very heart of giving by showing us a poor widow making her offering at Jerusalem’s temple. Specifically, she was in the part of the temple known as the treasury, located in the Women’s Court, as deep into the temple as women were allowed to go.

Here, rich and poor men and women mingled, making their offerings by pouring them into what looked like 13 brass trumpets, their bells upturned like funnels. The handfuls of valuable Jewish silver shekels from the rich would have rattled mightily going in, drawing attention to the wealthy givers.

In contrast, the copper clink of the widow’s two almost worthless coins would have been either lost in the din or perhaps even laughable to some, if she were unfortunate enough to drop them in during a moment of quiet.

And yet Jesus told his disciples, “This poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Clearly, when we talk about gifts, it’s not just about the number of digits following a dollar sign. The widow’s gift is a financial expression of deep love for God regardless of her particular situation. (I wonder what her mansion in heaven must look like; surely it is one of the biggest ones on the highest hill.)

In an ideal world, the widow who gave her all would have had nothing to worry about. At the foundations of Jewish society was the principle that the least in society—the orphans, the widows, the landless wanderers, the poor—were to receive care from those more blessed. In particular, the people in charge of the temple system, making proper use of the resources flowing through it, should have guaranteed this woman had nothing to fear.

We do not live in an ideal world, however. Back up a few verses in Mark, and you can see the problem in Jesus’ day. In Mark 12:38-40, Jesus denounces the scribes, lawyer-like bureaucrats who worked the religious system to their advantage. In particular, Jesus noted, “They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers.”

For a modern analogy, think of silk-suited televangelists who pick and choose Bible verses to build a convincing argument that the elderly poor and others should write checks to them.¹ Scribes used Jewish law in a similar way, selectively choosing and interpreting rules to tell widows the additional burdens they needed to bear. Those brass funnels in the treasury turned into black holes, with bureaucrats on the receiving end sucking up the money so it never emerged to help those in need.

The system could have worked if those with plenty had maintained hearts for those without. Instead, the rich used religion to show off.

The system could have worked if those running it had stayed true to their calling, remembering that the core of Jewish law was to love God with all your heart, mind and strength, and to love your neighbors as yourself.

These principles for giving and using gifts wisely remain the same today. I asked you in January to make percentage pledges based on how you felt God was leading you, using pledge cards that you took home. If you’re still considering that pledge or want to reconsider it, I’ll give you another piece of guidance.

Make your giving decisions when your heart is full of love for God. That may be during a particularly fulfilling moment in worship or in prayer, or simply at a time when you feel blessed. It even could be during a low moment—I know that might sound strange, but it often is in our lowest moments when we’re most sensitive to how much God loves us.

Remember what Christ has done to relieve us of the burden of sin. Like the widow he watched in the treasury, Jesus gave his all. Don’t give because I say so; I’m just Chuck. Give because you truly understand who God is and what God is doing in the world.

I’ll also tell you when not to give. If you ever think this church has stopped doing Christ’s work, don’t give it another penny. I don’t think anyone can legitimately make that complaint right now, though; there’s just too much good being done here in Christ’s name. We may disagree on strategies and priorities from time to time, but the leadership of this church, and most of its membership, I dare say, understand why we exist.

If you give with loving hearts, and if the church continues to use those gifts to reach out with loving hearts, the Kingdom of God will expand because of the people at Cassidy UMC.

——————–

¹I had a fascinating experience while writing this sermon. I needed to get away somewhere quiet, so I went down the street to Warriors Path State Park and wound up sitting in the grill at the marina. While there, two middle-aged women and a much younger woman began talking rather loudly about their opinion of preachers. (I was not dressed like the stereotype of a preacher, instead wearing hiking pants and a baseball jersey.)

“I just don’t trust them,” one of the older ladies said. “I believe in God, but I don’t go to church.”

A big part of her complaint was that she thought preachers were too well-off, citing one she knew “living in the big house with the rich people.” (Even as grateful as I am for the house this church provides its pastor, I don’t think she was describing the Cassidy UMC parsonage.)

Apparently, we all need to spend more time at the grill, and I look forward to getting to know these ladies better.