Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Letters from the Soul: This Month's Newsletter Column + New Sermon Series

(No sermon from me on Sunday--but I'm excited to tell you all about the new sermon series I'll be kicking off this upcoming Sunday!  See below, after my newsletter column. -E.A.)

May 2014: "A Steppingstone to Tithing"

Dear Church,

I've heard it all from folks outside our parish...

"All the church does is ask for my money."

"The church shouldn't be so focused on money."

"It's my money, not God's."

Sometimes, I try to gently correct. Other times, it is all I can do to sigh, shake my head, and change the subject.

Truth be told, I really should be braver on the subject. My first-ever opportunity to teach in church was at my childhood congregation, when I was 11 and gave the call to stewardship, just like our elders here. I confidently (and rather brazenly, for a pipsqueak on an allowance of five bucks a week) proclaimed the need to give back to God as we have been provided for by Him, even though I had no clue what a foreclosure was, or how a credit card balance or payday loan interest could ravage a household budget.

Being an adult, though, means seeing all the different ways the world tries to separate us from our savings. Which can make it difficult for us when the church then asks us to give as well. Yet it is still important to give. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, if our giving does not pinch us, we are not giving enough. There should be things we want to do and cannot do because our giving keeps us from affording it. Giving should be a sacrifice we make.

That is why 10% of my net income goes straight back to FCC. I do not tell you this to in any way pat myself on the back--Jesus would not approve of said back-patting, I think. But one of my rules that I keep for myself as your pastor is that I should never ask you to do something that I myself am not also willing to do. And this is something I am more than willing to do.

One of the easiest ways I've found to get into the habit of giving 10% to the church is to begin at wherever my giving level is at the moment and increase it by 1% every six months or every year until I reach 10%. That way, it isn't a complete shock to your budget, and you are still setting out on a spiritual practice that makes possible all the ministries we do here at FCC!

For, as Doc Davenport always reminds us in his own calls to stewardship as one of our elders, God loves a cheerful giver.

Yours in Christ,
Pastor Eric

This Month in Worship: May 2014

According to church tradition, Easter is not simply a single day but an entire 50-day season, marking the time spent between the Resurrection in the Gospels and the arrival of the Holy Spirit in Acts of the Apostles. I have in past years striven to maintain focus on the theme of resurrection for my Easter season sermons, and this new series is no different--just as we visited a resurrection of the dead story in 2012 with the raising of Lazarus, so too will we spend the Easter season of 2014 exploring another such story--the somewhat less known and familiar story of Jesus reviving the daughter of Jairus as chronicled in Mark's Gospel. This is a story that offers not only physical resurrection for the daughter but a resurrection of health for another anonymous woman, and we will be walking alongside each of them as we take the month of May (plus Sunday, June 1!) to hear their stories proclaimed. Interspersed within this series, on Sunday May 18, will be a guest sermon while I am in Boston attending my sister's graduation from Boston University. I look forward to celebrating the Easter season this year with you in worship!

I'll see you Sunday,
Pastor Eric

Easter 2014: “I Say to You, Arise: The Gospels’ Least-Known Resurrection Story”

May 4: “A Man Called Jairus,” Mark 5:21-24
May 11: “A Woman Called Daughter,” Mark 5:25-34
May 18: Off
May 25: “40,000 Quilts,” Mark 5:36-39
June 1: "Talitha Koum," Mark 5:40-43

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