September 24, 2012
Dear Colleague in Ministry,
I was at the annual meeting of United Methodist Annual Conference Treasurers last week. Sue Nilson Kibbey was one of the speakers and was well received. Moses Kumar, General Secretary of GCFA, was there. I can always count on him saying “thank you” and reminding us that saying "thank you" can never be overdone.
I agree. We cannot say thank you too often to the people of the United Methodist Church for their generosity which has continued even in difficult economic times.
Tell the folks "thank you" this Sunday and remind them that their giving makes a world of difference.
Thank you for all you do in boldly making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.
Grace and Peace,
New! If you haven't read it yet, see the first in Cesie Delve Scheuermann's blog, Stewardship Matters, about including thank you notes with quarterly giving statements.
Living in God’s Grace
Over the past several years of engaging in this "whole-life" stewardship ministry, we've witnessed amazing expressions of stewardship within and beyond the walls of our churches. While we've been truly inspired by so many of the ways that the Holy Spirit is empowering stewardship in our churches, we (to be very candid) also have found ourselves oddly indignant when witnessing excellent stewardship expressed by other faith groups and by secular bodies. For example, there was the day when we first saw that the new Ballard library in Seattle had a "green roof"* and we said things like, "Hey, since when does a city get to model better stewardship than our own churches??" Like little kids, we declared, "No fair!" -- as if an unseen, more powerful competitor had outdone us. At such moments, it's easy to identify with the disciple John (in this week's reading from Mark 9:38) and how he might have reacted to a non-follower doing powerful work in Jesus' name: "No fair, Teacher . . . we have to stop him!"
In reflecting on our reaction (and John's as well), we realize many things. We realize that we (as United Methodists and Christians) haven't cornered the market on stewardship; and, we certainly don't control where and how the Holy Spirit will evoke awe-inspiring responses (i.e., acts of stewardship) to Grace alive in the world. We realize that we have much to learn from inspired stewards beyond the walls of our churches, would we but humble ourselves and see Grace at work. We realize that (and this is particularly relevant moving into World Communion Sunday), we have the responsibility and joy of proclaiming every diverse act that helps to unveil God's Kingdom/Household-of-Grace, whether or not we can claim it as our own. Perhaps through humbly witnessing, joyfully celebrating, and boldly announcing God's activities through other stewards, we'll find ourselves radically transformed by them and partnering with them.
In God's Grace,
Tanya Barnett & Tom Wilson
Northwest United Methodist Foundation Staff
*In a nutshell, green roofs consist of layers of absorbent materials, growing media/soil, and living plants instead of conventional roofing materials (e.g., shingles, asphalt). Green roofs help to control storm runoff, reduce a building's energy use (heating/cooling), filter pollutants, and can serve as gardens and habitat for wildlife.
Image: The green roof at the Ballard Branch of the Seattle Public Library.
As we celebrate glimpses of God's Kingdom/Kindom among us this season, World Communion Sunday (October 7, 2012) can provide a very significant "glimpse." It's a day when Christians throughout the world celebrate the all-encompassing nature of God's Kindom -- God's all-inclusive household (oikos, in Greek). This ecumenical (oiko-mene) celebration offers us an opportunity to affirm our shared vocation as stewards (oiko-nomos) - world-wide co- workers in God's plan (oiko-nomia, as in Ephesians 1:10) for the care and restoration of all creation.
Because the "feast day" of St. Francis of Assisi (the patron saint of animals and the environment) is October 4, some churches will also view this coming Sunday as an opportunity to stretch the bounds of "household" more broadly: wide enough to include God's broader creation as well. As mentioned in a past issue of Radical Gratitude, some churches may even be hosting a "blessing of the animals, plants, seeds, etc." celebration in the near future. We thank these churches -- and similarly boundary-stretching churches and institutions -- for their "household-keeper"/oikonomos witness to us, their communities, and to the world.
From Denise Levertov's poem "Beginners"*:
...we have only begun to imagine justice and mercy,
only begun to envision how it might be to live as siblings with beast and flower, not as oppressors.
...We have only begun to know the power that is in us if we would join our solitudes in the communion of struggle.
Please reflect back to a time when you feel as if you may have joined with others "in the communion of struggle" - in a joint act that somehow expressed God's love, justice, and mercy for others. Where did grace feel present in this "communion of struggle"? Where did it feel absent? How did you respond to its perceived absence and/or presence?
*To read Levertov's entire poem, click here. Levertov's (1923-1997) poems were infused with her faith and deep passion for justice. She lived the last part of her life in the Puget Sound region where the beauty of creation and the "communion of struggle" among people of faith inspired her life and poetry.
Image: Detail of "Francis and the Wolf" by John August Swanson.
Reflections on the Lectionary
Stewardship reflections on readings for the eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost
Revised Common Lectionary Readings for September 30, 2012: Esther 7:1-6 & 9-10, 9:20-22; Psalm 124; James 5:13-20; Mark 9:38-50
Rather than sharing our own reflections, we offer these words of UMC Bishop Kenneth Carder* as he reflects on this week's passage from Mark. His words are particularly relevant for World Communion Sunday -- a day that calls us to remember the vocation that we all share together: "servants of Christ and stewards of God's mysteries" of Grace (1 Cor. 4:1).
"...we should not be surprised by John's statement: 'Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.' John's words remind us of reports of denominational quarrels or local church controversies. Current religious conversation often focuses on who is 'in' and who is 'out.'
"...Judging people by whether or not they are 'one of us' thwarts God's reign of justice, generosity and joy. The disciples missed the power and victory of God's liberating presence in the man casting out demons. Their assumption that only those 'following us' could cast out demons blinded them to God's presence in another. Rather than being grateful that demons were cast out, they were upset that the healing was done through someone outside their group.
"God has a history of acting decisively in and through outsiders. The Hebrew slaves were delivered through the leadership of Moses, a 'murderer.' Cyrus, the king of Persia, was referred to as 'God's Anointed' (Messiah) even though he did not acknowledge Yahweh as God. [Jesus] welcomed a marginalized tax collector and a political extremist (Simon the Zealot) into the apostolic band, talked to a disreputable woman at a well, and called a zealous persecutor (Saul) as an evangelist and missionary. ...When the disciples wanted exclusive claim to God's reign, he challenged them to see God's presence and power manifested in those who were not members of their group. 'Do not stop him . . . Whoever is not against us is for us.'
"...Confining God's presence and power to one's own group is a distortion of the gospel of God's universal love. How often this gospel is negated by division among those who claim allegiance to it! As one person said, 'Why would I want to be a Christian? You Christians seem more concerned about protecting your own privileges and proving you are right than doing something about the injustice and suffering in the world.'
"Status through exclusivity never brings greatness or security. Greatness and security are the serendipitous results of following the one who emptied himself and became a servant, the one in whom there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free; but all are one."
*Bishop Carder served as bishop of the Mississippi Area of the United Methodist Church from July 2000- 2004 and before that was bishop of the Nashville Area for eight years. He is currently the Director of the Center for Excellence in Ministry at Duke Divinity School. This excerpt comes from his article, "Unexclusive Gospel - Mark 9:38-50" in Christian Century; bold added for emphasis. Copyright 1997 CHRISTIAN CENTURY. Reproduced by permission from the September 10th issue of the CHRISTIAN CENTURY. Subscriptions: $49/year from P.O. Box 378, Mt. Morris, IL 61054. 1-800-208-4097
Telling the Story
Over the years I've encouraged pastors to follow a practice I learned from one of my mentors early in ministry. It's the practice of using the time of the offering to "tell the story." Here's a suggestion to introduce the offering this Sunday:
On Sunday mornings, we often hear conversations about whether or not "my team" won the previous day on the collegiate gridiron. Sometimes they do and sometimes they do not.
But football is not the only thing happening on college campuses (not even the only athletic thing). Each week students, staff and faculty are provided with opportunities to grow in Chrisitan discipleship through our campus ministries.
This week as we bring our gifts, tithes and offerings, let's do so in celebration of the ways the churches of our conference are working together to make disciples of Jesus Christ on our college campuses.
Awareness and Action
October 7: World Communion Sunday
(Much of the following text comes from the UMC World Communion Sunday web page.)
On World Communion Sunday, we can especially honor Christian stewards -- throughout the world -- who feel called to work with others to help share God's grace with those who desperately hunger for it.
In 1975, 6-year-old Julie Fleurinor and her family fled Haiti for Miami, along with thousands of other refugees escaping oppression and poverty. Today, thanks to a World Communion Scholarship, she dreams of returning home someday to bring healing and hope to her beloved but beleaguered native land.
Remarkably, Fleurinor is earning two master’s degrees: one in divinity from United Methodist-related Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill., and one in social work from Loyola University in Chicago.
She plans to use her training to provide holistic ministry—spiritual and social—to struggling communities in both the United States and Haiti.
Your offering on World Communion Sunday, the first Sunday of October, provides scholarships for U.S. (racial- and ethnic-minority) and international students, on both undergraduate and graduate levels. In worship, please look and listen for an invitation to make a special offering on behalf of the ministry of these students; or please click here for resources to help interpret this important offering. Thank you.
“Salt is good, but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it?
Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
--Mark 9:50, NRSV
“The issue of health,” said Prince Patrick Myers, “is my paramount concern because a viable society cannot exist in the absence of a good health-delivery system for the people. Today, Liberians die because of lack of good health facilities and the limited number of health-care workers."
Myers is from Liberia, a West African country that in 2003 emerged from a brutal 14-year civil war. Among the many challenges faced in reconstruction is the building of a health-care system. The 24-year-old recently completed his first year of medical school at The Gambia University.
Dr. Mark Schroeder, associate professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health and member of Asbury United Methodist Church in Madison, Wis., coordinated his congregation’s support to help with Myers’ scholarship. After graduation, Myers will serve for five years at Ganta United Methodist Hospital. The plan was approved by Ganta Hospital, Asbury Church, Bishop John G. Innis and medical missionaries. The World Communion Scholarship program is proud to join in this embracing partnership.
Celebrated on the first Sunday in October, World Communion Sunday supports World Communion Scholarships, the Ethnic Scholarship Program and the Ethnic In-Service Training Program. One scholarship recipient expressed determination “not to let anything top my drive to succeed. I could not afford to be in college today if I did not receive scholarships through my church, my family and my community.”
Mary Grace Galapon, a deaconess of the Mindanao Philippines Annual Conference, cares about healing families. As a child, she labored as a housemaid in exchange for food and clothing. Amid this turmoil, her survival came because she was allowed to go to church. There she found hope.
“Social work,” she said, “is where I see myself in a new perspective of carrying out Christian mission.” Davao Philippines Area Bishop Leo Soriano said that of the 60 deaconesses in the Davao Episcopal Area, most, if not all, are involved in work directly related to a local church. Most serve where the mission of the church is new, in programs addressing poverty, health, illiteracy, injustice, farmers, fishers and laborers. Galapon has the commitment and initiative to work directly with the communities beyond the local church.
She received a World Communion International Scholarship to complete her master's in social work at Silliman University in Dumaguete, Philippines.
United Methodist gifts to the World Communion Sunday offering help Galapon and others to achieve vocational dreams.
--Adopted from online copy by Lisa Katzenstein, General Board of Global Ministries
We admit that we spend a lot of energy
trying to achieve greatness,
trying to attain security.
Please help us to remember that
true greatness and lasting security,
are simply the results of following You,
as Yourself empty again and again and again.
In this time of offering,
please make us to be a little "emptier" of our strivings
so that we can be much "fuller" with You.
In Your name we pray, Amen.
from Radical Gratitude
Walk together in God's mission with our scholars. Give to your utmost ability. As we invest in education and leadership, churches and communities transform the world. By God's grace and sitting around the Lord's table, we bear witness to multiple ministries everywhere. Amen.
from United Methodist Communications
God of love and grace, if it had not been for you, these gifts we give would never have reached our hands. If it had not been for you, God, the hymns of joy we sing would never have been born in the hearts of the hymn writers. If it had not been for you, God, there would be no blessings of life and creation that inspire us to sing and worship. If it had not been for you, God, there would be no Son sent our behalf, no sacrifice that redeemed our lives and gives us reason to gather and to live as His body in the world. If it had not been for you, we would be lost. By your love for us, we give, we create, we sing, and we are saved. We praise your name! Amen. (Psalm 124)
from General Board of Discipleship
"The ability to accept change is about mentally 'moving over' the old ways of doing something and looking at another option for achieving the same or a better result.
The focus of your leadership should always be on your mission! If there are different ways to achieve better results - you need to make those changes!"
-- Tuck Aaker