Sermons

Today officially begins the launch of our Fall Pledge Appeal.  It is through this appeal that we will share our resources, our common wealth, to fund the annual work of this church community; our programs and ministries.

The Stewardship Team has set an ambitious goal this year. 

Currently, we depend on draws from our endowment and a vigorous rental program to meet our annual needs.  We are very blessed to have this endowment, and to steward a beautiful building people are eager to use for concerts, parties and meetings.

But we are hoping for a day when all of the expenses we incur for the ministry and programs we enjoy would be covered by the annual giving of this community.

 

Of course, that’s quite a stretch.  If we wish to eliminate our reliance on our endowment, it would mean our Annual Giving would need to increase 20% over last year.  So that’s our goal this year; to take a major step in that direction.  Through new giving and increases in current giving, we are hoping to grow our Pledge total by about $45,000. 

But how do we respond to this appeal when there are so many other needs in the world? 

I’ve come to some clarity about this recently when I was asked to defend our Capital Campaign in light of the latest natural disaster.

First, I do not believe it is either or.  I pray we are as generous as we can be to the organizations and places to which we feel called to respond.  After all, our jobs is not to do all the work God gives us to do in this place, or only through this place, but out in the world, where the need is and where God calls us to be.

But our support of our shared ministry in this place is about our own transformation and the transformation of others.  The work we do in this place helps us to become the people who will do the work out there in the world.

I thought about the fire that consumed this sanctuary in 1976.  I thought about the community gathered here at that time, some of whom are with us here this morning, and I thought about how they had a stark choice to make.  They could take the insurance settlement and give it away to deserving organizations and close up shop here.  Or, they could take the settlement and rebuild with a renewed sense of mission and outreach in the world.

Imagine for a second if they had chosen to give it all away and close. 

How much work has been done out of this place in the last 41 years since that fire?  How many people have been transformed?  How many classes have been taught, how many hearts have been touched?  How many organizations have we helped?  How many lives have been changed?  How many more resources have we generated for work in the world than we could possibly have done or even dreamed at the time.

I think about just the past eight years, since my family and I have been in this community.  Where would my priesthood have been formed?  Who would have mentored my son the way his teachers have and continue to?  When Paul was in the hospital, who would have piled up casseroles on my back porch like pastoral care elves in the nighttime?

So when my family sits down each year to consider our pledge it’s very personal, and not just because it’s my job.  It is also our life, our community, our investment in making sure this place continues to be the incubator of change and transformation it has been for us, and we have seen it be for others.

It’s hard to quantify the work we do here.  Your pledge dollars don’t purchase X number of mosquito nets or Y number of meals.  Here, your pledge works to change lives, in hopes that those changed lives will, in turn, change the world in ways both big and small.    

I know talking about money in church can be uncomfortable.  But money is, for better or worse, a major part of our lives both individually and as a community.  As church, we talk about a great many difficult topics; birth, death, illness, marriage, divorce, racism and oppression, despair, and hope.  These are the stories of our shared life.  If we can talk about these things together, I refuse to give money a higher standing by making it off limits.

We hope you will give your Annual Pledge some intentional thought and prayer.  And we hope you will join us in whatever way you can to meet our hope for this year. 

Please do pledge.  Whatever the amount, filling out the pledge card and offering it with the rest of the community’s cards is a profound act of sharing in our commonwealth.  There is no pledge too small; no pledge that isn’t needed, so please join in the act of pledging.

And we hope you will try on a stretch, whatever that means for you.  Could you imagine increasing your pledge over last year’s by 1% of your household income?  How about 20% over last year’s pledge?  Could you increase your pledge by 10% or even 5% to help us keep up with rising costs? 

If you are new to pledging, welcome.  And thank you in advance.  An exercise some have found helpful is to start imagining a pledge of 5% of your household income and then working from there until you find a number that feels possible, yet transformative.

As for me and my family, we have decided to continue our path toward pledging a increasing proportion of our total household income.

That’s what works for us this year.  It’s what’s possible, and a stretch.  We hope it will be enough to shape our relationship with this community, and to further the work of transformation in and through this place.

There are many demands on our resources these days, and I want to re-state my hope that you will support as much as you can as often as you can.

But I don’t want you to confuse St. Paul’s as just another charity asking you to write a check.

I want you to consider how you have been transformed by with this community, or might be in the future, that you might be an agent of transformation in the world.

I want you to imagine each person who calls St. Paul’s their spiritual home an agent of change in formation.  Imagine what could be done. 

Changed lives change the world.  That is what we are about. 

That is the Good News we gather to celebrate this morning.  Jesus changed lives so that those lives might change the world.  Our work in this place is to join Jesus in his mission.

So I invite you to join me, my family, and your fellow parishioners in building this incubator of change and transformation we call St. Paul’s; Help us to build this commonwealth of blessing we love.

AMEN.

© 2017 The Reverend Jeffrey W. Mello

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