When John Greenauer asked me to say a few words about stewardship and why I support the church I got a bit nervous.
Stewardship and charity are very personal decisions, and if you are like me, you may sometimes dread the seemingly endless requests for time or money. Everybody says their cause is the most important, the most critical, the most worthy of my time or money. I end up feeling just a bit pressured and irritated.
Now I’m up here asking you to consider sharing your time and resources with First Congregational UCC, possibly making folks feel a bit pressured and irritated – so that gives you an indication of how strongly I feel about this church and what we stand for.
But don’t worry, I am not here to lay a guilt trip on you – after all, we are not Catholics. If you want guilt you can head over to St. Joseph’s for 11:30 mass.
But I will share a couple of thoughts about why Cindy and I support this church.
In our house, we try to send checks to organizations that have supported us through difficult times, to those that study a disease that has impacted a loved one, or perhaps to help an animal species the girls are particularly interested in. We send checks in honor of our grandparents to organizations they cared deeply about. And we try to increase our church giving a little bit each year.
And regardless of the amount, I sometimes end up feeling our gifts are insignificant and unable to make a dent in the huge needs that exist in our world. But of course that’s not true.
Despite that nagging feeling we know our contributions are combined with many others and the whole can become significantly greater than its parts – and among the organizations we support I believe the church is perhaps the most effective at this miraculous expansion. Loaves and fishes are not the only things the teachings of Jesus have multiplied.
I will occasionally refer to a Christmas or birthday present as a “gift that keeps on taking”. Usually it’s something like an electronic device that cost 20 dollars but I will have to spend $300 bucks on batteries to keep it running. Definitely a gift that keeps taking.
But gifts to the church are different. Whether time, talents, or checks, these are gifts that keep on giving. They multiply. No matter how large or small. The church welcomes our gifts and reaches out to those in need in our community and world; it reaches in to give us inspiration, fellowship, beautiful music, and youth programs. It reaches back to honor our past and the values our parents taught us. It looks forward to the continued service of justice. Gifts to the church pay it forward, and they give back to us. And that can be very satisfying.
When I was young I remember once hearing my father, pastor Schnabel, respond to a stranger’s question about his line of work by saying “I’m in life insurance”. Now, I suspect this is an old pastor’s joke referring to eternal life, forgiveness of sins, that sort of thing. But actually, giving to the church does seem a bit like one of those “whole-life” insurance policies, the ones that are both an insurance policy and an investment.
We don’t purchase this insurance to buy our way into forgiveness or heaven, but rather to enrich and sustain our lives. It is spiritual insurance against complacency, pain, and difficulty. It is also an investment that pays guaranteed dividends both to the community and back to us. When I invest in the stock market I worry I may never see that money again. When I invest in the church I see my time, or my dollars, paying immediate dividends that cannot be lost, and I feel the sense of satisfaction that comes from gifts that keep on giving.
So, thank you for your past gifts, and as you make your highly personal decisions about charity and stewardship this year, consider again including a whole-life policy with First Congregational UCC, or perhaps increase your existing coverage. I know you won’t regret it. I invite you to join us and enjoy those guaranteed dividends and the miraculous multiplication of these gifts that keep on giving.