On a recent Sunday the liturgy began
with this reading: "Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust
is the Lord! They shall be like a tree planted by water
The tree shall
not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought
it is not anxious, and the tree does not cease to bear fruit." (Jeremiah
17:5-10) It was the same morning that our Annual Outreach Grant was awarded
to Calvary Hospice. There we were, in the midst of our parish's "drought"-financial
deficit-embodying the prophet's message. Instead of being anxious, we were reminded
that Saint Luke's Church is the tree planted by the stream of living water.
To paraphrase Paul's words in the epistle: Some might say, "How can we spare $3,000 when we are looking at a $100,000 deficit?" His response: Christ has been raised from the dead. If Christ has not been raised, if new life is not possible, then the parish's February Pledge Campaign is futile. And if we are "Climbing Jacob's Ladder" only to balance the budget, we are of all people most to be pitied. But, in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead-our reaching out to assist those who offer dignity and care to the dying are the first fruits of an amazing harvest.
(1 Corinthians 15:12-20)
Throughout his earthly ministry and ever since in his ministry through the Church, great multitudes of people have come to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ proclaimed. They come to have their troubles lifted and to be healed. Blessed are you who are poor, hungry or tearfully mourn-your reward is the Kingdom of God: you will be filled and comforted in heaven. But Jesus does not say to those who are weeping or racked by hunger, "So, hang on and wait 'til the end of time," does He? No! To the poor, to the ridiculed, to the ostracized and the forgotten-to teenaged fathers, battered women, scared children and those in the final days of their living and dying with cancer-Jesus says, "Rejoice now and leap for joy." And simultaneously Christ turns to us, the Church, His Body in this time and place, and calls on us to be with these people, to be His Christ Presence now, to help them leap and joy.
Can you imagine looking at Christ, shrugging our shoulders and replying: "We'd really like to but we can't; we have a budget deficit"? Of course not! As people of faith we know that God calls on us to be first fruits, a real taste, of Christ's Resurrection with people in need. That's what being the Church is all about, no matter the circumstances or temporary blocks we find along the way.
Yes, these days, we have been sorting out our resources for the support of our parish. Talking about the 'nicest things' that have ever happened at Saint Luke's has been a way to start with the 'as is'-the people and experiences we know within our community's circle; a way to take stock about the things that matter. But what matters most is that we are ever-widening the circle, not only to be more inclusive of others but to recognize this means being a more open/inclusive self. Each of us needs to be ready to greet and incorporate the 'new'. Thinking back over your Saint Luke's life, well, by itself, only looks back. But with faith and expectation, memories become like kindling wood that take the spark of Christ and burn into new ideas. Instead of memories, we are alive with mission. The 'nice things' that happened ignite new ministries.
Yes, this February has focused on our raising an additional 100,000 pledge dollars. That's just the beginning. We are supposed to be widening the circle, are we not? So here comes the next goal before the February Campaign is even completed: We need to match the 100,000 dollars with 100 additional households. And this intensification of welcoming new members needs to be matched by a step-up in ministry. We should not be wringing our hands, worrying about how we might have to make do with a cut-back choir, we should be laying out plans for expanding our musical support of worship and sharing these talents with the wider community (Talk about helping others to leap and enjoy!).
You want some first fruits of what can happen! Instead of crumbling lavatories, deteriorated flooring and dank meeting spaces, we are going to renovate the lower level of the church and hall into a children's learning center that is fitting for our Christian Education program and inviting to an outside ministry partner who will make good Monday through Friday use of the space, as we make good on yet another way of responding to the needs of people. And why limit ourselves to 3 or 4 Gingerbread events a year? Why not readings and exhibits of area artisans; and a summer theater arts camp for children?
All of this is to suggest that as people of faith we are both beneficiaries and emissaries of the Resurrection miracle. For every good thing that happens to us at Saint Luke's, we are called upon to turn it into good things for others. That's the difference between a 'club' and the Church! We are presently focused on our giving so that the church doors stay open beyond 2007-doors that swing in two directions: our coming in to be built up in Christ; our going out to share Christ and welcome others. Christ is the most wonderful thing that has ever happened to anyone at Saint Luke's or anywhere else. On a morning when we prayed and gave for the good of Calvary Hospice, we were reminded that we are called to bring Christ, be Christ and see Christ in everyone, everywhere.
Yours in Christ,