LOVE. CARE. GIVE.
These are the three words which comprise the Cathedral’s stewardship campaign to raise pledges – pledges which fund our mission in 2016.
The three words betray their goal. It is a spiritual goal. We are being called upon to look at our lives. We are not being called upon to fill out a pledge card. We hope and believe that will happen. But the pledge card to the stewardship campaign is like the win registration of a race – a bit of paperwork at the end of a great struggle. When a person wins the Boston Marathon, there is paperwork to do after some Gatorade and perhaps a towel. That is what the pledge card is. The paperwork at the END of the race.
Most icons are written from one biblical moment. The resurrection. The transfiguration, The crucifixion. The last supper. A moment with the Beloved Disciple. A moment between Mary and the child-God Jesus. But this new icon of the Rich Young Ruler, written just over the past few weeks for work being done around stewardship in Denver, is odd in that it was written, from the beginning, out of two biblical passages. Yes, the primary passage is the encounter between Jesus and a rich person (Mark 10). But the secondary passage I chose for Katherine to use was this one from Deuteronomy. I heard it in daily Morning and Evening Prayer in our Cathedral. It hit me like a ton of bricks – or that gong in cartoons which signifies an epiphany.
Real giving, which transforms the giver, is from a place of gratitude – of seeing what I have. Of seeing what I have in the context of a planet of humans -most of whom have no plan for tomorrow’s bread – hence the Lord’s Prayer… If you make $65,000 then you are in the average in Denver. And if you make that much money then you are in the top 1% of the wealth of the world’s population. Me too. Rich. You can argue with me. But facts are facts.
That knowledge can do one of two things. Will do one of two things. It will either entrench me into a dark place of anger and shame-storm and I will Scrooge my way into isolation and clutching. Or, with the help of the Holy Spirit I will see – really see – what I have. Then see that it is gift from a creator and not my precccciooooussss salary or inheritance. Finally then, realize some of it back to God for God to use through the church, which I really do believe (worts and disease-ridden as it is) is the body of my savior Jesus the Christ.
It is so simple to Give. What is hard is the race before giving – the race, struggle, fight which is gratitude-seeing and which leads to the gift the way any fight leads to any victory.
May you see what you have. May you see, really see, what planet you are on and how blessed you are – that you are not dying in vans in Europe or in an ally in the Bronx, or in a waterless farmhouse in Nebraska in foreclosure. No. You are well. And have much for which to be thankful -the gift of money and possession. A lot even if not what you think is enough.
And now, as you hold that pledge card in one hand and that pen in the other, are you prepared to decide whose power gave you what you have? Because that is all a pledge is about. It is a spiritual act with logistical implications. It is not a logistical act with spiritual implications.
Take care that you do not forget the LORD your God, by failing to keep his commandments, his ordinances, and his statutes, which I am commanding you today. When you have eaten your fill and have built fine houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks have multiplied, and your silver and gold is multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied, then do not exalt yourself, forgetting the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrible wilderness, an arid wasteland with poisonous snakes and scorpions. He made water flow for you from flint rock, and fed you in the wilderness with manna that your ancestors did not know, to humble you and to test you, and in the end to do you good. Do not say to yourself, “My power and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.” But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, so that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your ancestors, as he is doing today. If you do forget the LORD your God and follow other gods to serve and worship them, I solemnly warn you today that you shall surely perish. Like the nations that the LORD is destroying before you, so shall you perish, because you would not obey the voice of the LORD your God.