During our stewardship season, we get to listen to the gospel witness as a guide to our values. As we consider what is most important to us, we’re also naming what deserves our financial attention. We do this both in our households and as a church- we budget our values. It’s a way to refresh our memory each year about what Jesus says leads to abundant life (hint: it’s not what the very skilled holiday marketing experts are leading us to believe with those convincing ads).
Sixteen chapters into Luke’s gospel, we see Jesus fulfilling what was predicted even before his birth; only his version of kingdom power shocks those in authority. He wears no fancy clothes, rides no chariots, buys no home, seeks no political office, he doesn’t build a wall of protection; no, he addresses the rich men in power who are neglecting the poor and says, “You cannot serve both God and money. When the Pharisees heard all this, they made fun of Jesus, because they loved money. Jesus said to them, “You are the ones who make yourselves look right in other people's sight, but God knows your hearts. For the things that are considered of great value by people are worth nothing in God's sight.”
Reign of Christ Sunday is the perfect reminder that no amount of earthly riches satisfy the human heart. We are created to cultivate rich spirits, not possessions; but oh how the pursuit of things captivates us. You know that feeling if you–like me–have ever bought something to satisfy an emotional need…only to feel disappointed when it doesn’t? We were meant to gather only what we need, not more. Our daily bread; manna for today’s journey. I suspect Jesus isn’t as concerned with the amount we hold as he is with the hold that amount has on us. Jesus wants us to break free from earthly attachments, “For the things that are considered of great value by people are worth nothing in God’s sight.”
What is the antidote to the trap of consuming more than we need? It’s simple: Jesus says, “give it away.” Why? Because Jesus knows we will never experience true spiritual freedom if we become too attached to our money. Of course money matters, because at the core of every financial decision is a value being expressed.
I enjoy normalizing talk about money, because I trust, as Jesus says, God already knows our hearts. The expression of our generosity is simply a benefit to our shared goals, because generosity is contagious. It feels counterintuitive to ask an already exceptionally generous crowd to give even more during this month of Stewardship…and I might be more hesitant to ask for those pledge cards (due next Sunday) if I didn’t have the joy of filling one out myself.
Our family has set up an automatic monthly withdrawal to this church as a way of speaking our values. In fact, I’ve come to appreciate reviewing my bank statement as a way to ask, “am I investing in what truly matters to me?” For example, I pay a car payment each month because I could not fathom doing my family life and ministry without it. I make a contribution to this church each month, just slightly more than my car payment, because I could not fathom doing my family life and ministry without you all. I feel truly fortunate to have the financial means to support this church, because I’m investing in us…in what God is doing among us in the Pierre & Ft. Pierre area. That’s my why in a nutshell. So many of you have shared your “why,” and I can't thank you enough.
We are bearing witness together to the Reign of Christ, to the world in which money is used for things that make a difference, that increase our wellbeing; that bring life and collaboration toward shared goals: Togetherness, empathy, justice, mercy, life-changing community, worship, and service. I don’t know of another institution that is quite as organic and beautiful as a church family investing in their future together.
I’m sold on church because of you all. This is my church- this is your church- this is God’s church; as Cherlyn, Brenda, and I remarked this week at our budget meeting- WE ARE the sole funders of this church. If I don’t give, if you’d give, we don’t exist. We are just a mom and pop operation here- and that’s SO cool to me- we’re hardworking people with enough faith to believe that sharing our resources is an investment in our wellbeing and in the wellbeing of our neighbors. That’s it! That’s stewardship at its finest. And that’s enough for me. So when I look at my bank statement and I see my church giving out pace my car payment, it stings a little at first, but I’ve been at it long enough to know I am better off for the investment made. You cannot serve both God and money. The more we practice release, the more freedom we receive.
So THANK YOU for helping invest in the future of our ministries. In 2022 we’ve had 90 households contribute financially, that’s incredible! And if you stay tuned next Sunday, I have big news to share in the generosity department. Thank you for saying “We will not let the reign of Christ happen in this world without us!”
Rev. Emily Munger
delights in connecting sacred texts with everyday life.