The Meaning of Money, the Health of Giving
My father loved the parsimonious comedian Jack Benny, one of the pioneers of 1950’s network TV. He loved to recount the skit Benny used to do about a mugger who accosts him with the challenge, “Your money or your life!” After a longer than expected silence, the mugger asks, “Well?!” to which Benny replies, “Don’t rush me, I’m thinking, I’m thinking!” For more than a few people these days, this anecdote is more sad than comic.
Our nation and region still feels as if we are in the grip of a recession. Millions remain out of work; the national debt keeps climbing; our savings, at best, remain flat. A national election is almost at hand, but I suspect that whatever the result, much of our anxiety will still be with us on November 7.
This is the reality in which I write this autumn to ask you, for the fifth time, to make a financial commitment to Christ Church for next year-something we can count on-a pledged commitment. Will you offer a gift of money to serve our mission, in addition to your prayers, your presence, and your energy? And what is our mission? I presented the Vestry this week with a new draft “Mission Statement” and asked them to think about it. Here it is. I ask you to look it over and pray about it too, and tell me what you think:
Christ Church exists to offer open hearts, searching minds, and helping hands to all who come seeking to know God and to make God known to others; and to act as God’s heart, mind, and hands to strengthen the Kingdom in all that we are and do.
To accomplish this mission requires physical, human, and financial resources plus a strong dose of divine help. All of them are storehouses of power, we might say, that enable us to be faithful and effective in being missionaries. And we are missionaries, all of us!
Here are several mission principles I urge you to consider as you think about whether or how much money you will offer next year to the mission of Christ Church, Covington:
●If I hoard my money, content to bask in its golden gleam, I nourish only myself. If, on the other hand, I share the money I have, I cultivate its living power to help others while nourishing myself in a deeper way. (Reread lyrics to the well-known children’s song, “The Magic Penny.”)
●It’s no mistake: being asked for money is always a test, but not the kind of test governments impose around money. For Christians, the issue is not obligation but responsibility, not enforcement but valuing. Tithes and gifts are expressions of how we weigh the competing values in our lives. The rector doesn’t know what you give, but God does. It’s about your weighing God’s values with your own.
●Because of the previous two principles, there is a third that follows. Your gifts and tithes of money can never be automatic or mechanical. Just because you’ve given $10 a week for 27 years doesn’t mean you can spiritually afford not to think about doing something different in 2013. Maybe more, maybe less. What matters to God is that you bring prayerful, deliberate attention to a very important decision.
●Finally, grace is free but not cheap. Giving and getting are all tied up together. You can’t have one without the other. This is a deep Mystery and hard to talk about. The early church saw it this way: Christ himself became “Holy Coinage”, “paying” for Creation with his own flesh and blood. We remember this Mystery every Sunday in celebrating the Eucharist. The same “law” applies to us as well. If you have no “skin in the game”, and unless you have a willingness not to clutch or hoard your money, no church can help you enter the kingdom Jesus brought us. Yes, pledging and giving back to God are a risk. Indeed, it is the most important risk you will ever take, the risk of trusting God with your life.
To sum up: our goal then for the 2013 “What Wondrous Love” appeal for Christ Church is 100% participation from every person or family in our congregation. 100%! Whatever you can give. Whatever you feel moved or called to give. Above all, please make a thoughtful, prayerful commitment and put it in writing. Help the church use the power of money to achieve our mission, to show the world that you value what you believe, and thus keep your own “skin” in that “game” of Redemption into which God has so graciously invited us.
Thank you for the opportunity to continue serving this church, its wonderful people and fine staff. There is both challenge and joy here and, most of all, so many opportunities to be God’s heart, mind, and hands.
Wishing you grace and peace
The Rev’d. Thomas Blackmon