Today’s Word from Pastor Jim…
We are followers of Jesus Christ. We are the disciples of Jesus today. Jesus sent his disciples forth into a broken world, a world populated by broken people, and he told them to expect miracles. “With God all things are possible.” The three-year ministry of Jesus was marked by grace filled tender moments, radical teachings, and a multitude of miracles. When Jesus was around, miracles happened. Diseases disappeared, food multiplied, sight was restored, the dead were raised, and storms were calmed by the sound of his voice. I believe miracles still happen; I have on rare occasions experienced something for which there was no logical explanation short of a miracle.
On July 23rd, the Rev. Lisa Kipp visited Trinity Lutheran Church on a Sunday morning. She told us of the good work of Lutheran World Relief and thanked us for partnering with them, serving our neighbors in a time of need. At home in the USA or around the world Lutheran World Relief is present giving out quilts, working with other relief agencies, offering food and shelter to those devastated by war, drought, or disaster. The people of TLC gave $2000 that week to LWR and another $2000 to ELCA World Hunger. This expression of generosity was not a miracle, it was our standard operating procedure. We give money twelve months a year to 40 or more local and international charities. Blessed to be a Blessing!
But then four days later a FedEx packet arrived at our church offices, it was from a brokerage company, inside the envelope was a check for $50,000. The check came to us from one of our members, but the gift was anonymous. The check was made out to TLC, but the donor designated the money to support the work of Lutheran World Relief. The simple note read, “Made some money in the stock market. Just passing it along. Just like a river if money does not keep flowing it becomes a cesspool.” The same day that the check was received in our offices, Lutheran World Relief received the $50,000 gift online.
I think it important at this point to clearly understand what happened here. This was not a miracle; this was not an unexplained or supernatural occurrence. This is the way that it is supposed to be among the followers of Jesus. We are blessed, but we are never blessed in isolation, we are blessed in order that we might be a blessing to others. This anonymous donor was joyfully and generously living into the calling of Christian discipleship. This is exactly as God intended it to be. This is God’s way of caring for those who will never be able to care for themselves.
This was not a miracle, it was not a miracle at all, it happens everyday in every community. It happens every week here at your church. Most of the checks we receive are for $50 or perhaps $1000, occasionally, there are windfall gifts or estate bequests. The amount given is not nearly as important as the grateful attitude of the giver. Giving out of fear is not Christian giving. Giving to “get out of jail free” is not consistent with the teachings of Jesus. We give not because we expect something in return, rather we give back because we recognize that we have already received so much from God and others. We are stewards; stewards of creation, stewards of our money, stewards of our homes, stewards of our Required Minimum Distribution’s, stewards of our bodies. In the previous sentence the word “our” is misleading, because in fact, nothing is “ours”, at least not permanently. We arrive on the earth naked, helpless and without possessions and we will leave the world in the same state.
In our world there will always be a percentage of the population that are rich, and Jesus reminded us that “the poor will be with you always.” Some people will not be able to overcome the hand that they were dealt in life—some are born into poverty, some are mere pawns oppressed by corrupt governments, still others have physical or psychological disadvantages. Life is inherently unfair; opportunity is not equally distributed. In any accounting of the 8 billion people on earth, we are among the richest. You may not feel rich, but in fact you are. You may not feel privileged but in fact, you are among the most privileged in human history. How does one respond to the abundance of blessings that have come our way? Our anonymous donor showed us the way.
Blessed to be a Blessing! Living a life of gratitude!
See you in church tomorrow morning.