Pastor's monthly newsletter article for February, 2012
Last month we bid farewell to a wonderfully faithful man. Jerry Bond was one of the first people I meet when I came to Saint Peter. (A number of other current Saint Peter members say exactly the same thing – that tells you something.) Jerry was one of those saints we Pastors just love to have in a church: faithful, generous, committed… He completed his baptismal journey on January 11th, and we celebrated his life and faith at Saint Peter on January 16th.
He and Emily were still quite involved in our Stewardship Committee when I started my ministry here. At our Fall Stewardship Dinner in 1998, the two of them presented a dialogue between “Stewart Schipp” and his wife. It was corny, and had us all chuckling, but the larger impression it made on those of us in attendance had to do with the commitment that Jerry and Emily had to offering strong financial support to Saint Peter, and their encouragement for us to do the same.
I wish he was still around.
We’re in a bit of a tight financial spot at Saint Peter right now – as many charitable organizations are these days. We’ve been squeaking by during the past few years (ten, actually), and each January we trim the fat off of our budget so that we aren’t planning to spend more money than we anticipate receiving. But this year has been different: after years of this pattern, there just isn’t any fat left to trim off. The only way to close the gap between expected income and expected expenses from the expense side is to get rid of cherished ministries and/or staff positions.
I wish Stewart was still around, and willing to share his wisdom with us. I imagine him in the pulpit during morning worship, reminding us how fortunate we are to have a God who loves us enough to die for us. I picture him speaking of his conviction that everything we have comes to us as a gift from God. And I hear his insistence that the amount of our money that we return to God must be proportionate to the depth of our gratitude for what God has given us. “Are you grateful for the salvation you have received,” I can hear him say, “Then open your wallet.” Are you thankful for the power of God that stirs in your life,” he would ask us, “Then open your checkbook.”
When our expected income doesn’t rise up to meet our expected expenses, it can first appear to be a financial problem. But in reality, it is a spiritual problem. Churches these days don’t need people with more money. They need people with more faith. People with a deeper awareness of how blessed we are by God; people who are willing to return a significant portion of that blessing to God by supporting Christian ministry; people who are willing to give sacrificially, of their time and their money, to what matters most. That’s what Stewart would remind us of, if he was still around. In his stead, I’ll try to help us remember that message this year.
Gratefully and generously yours, Pastor Dave