Your Church Needs You!
Pastor's monthly newsletter article for November, 2015 The fifth chapter of Acts tells the story of Ananias and Sapphira. They were members of the early Christian movement. The very early Christian movement, when believers were so committed to one another that “no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common.” [Acts 4:33] Reading further, we learn that none of the early Christians suffered any need because, “as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold.” [Acts 4:34]
Enter Ananias and Sapphira. They too had some property. They sold it, and gave the proceeds to the Apostles. Well, sort of... They said they were giving the proceeds to the Apostles, when in fact they kept some back for themselves. Now we never read of a mandate that everybody in the early church who has land has to sell it, and donate the entire amount to the church. So it seems that this couple was perfectly free to donate as much or as little of the proceeds as they wanted. But they are dishonest about what they actually did, and when Peter holds them accountable for their dishonesty they drop dead on the spot.
I recently read a Huffington Post article by Professor Matt Skinner. (If you read the article, don’t pass by the link to John Oliver’s mocking take on unfaithful fund raising. But be warned: Mr. Oliver uses quite a bit of “colorful language” in this clip.) Prof. Skinner holds that this story is not, in fact, about financial stewardship. It is, instead, about the vulnerability of true Christian community, and the need for church members to give of themselves to this community. He writes, “A congregation's identity and common life matter more than its budget. The church doesn't need your money; first and foremost it needs you.”
During November members and supporters of Saint Peter will be asked to make a financial commitment to support this congregation in 2016. I want to encourage you to consider this request in light of what Professor Skinner makes clear, and in light of what Mr. Oliver mocks. We aren’t laying plans for a $65M luxury jet airplane, or promising that God will reward you for giving, but do we have some important ministries we want to fund in this coming year. If you choose to support these plans (and, honestly, I hope you do...), let it be one aspect of the many ways you give of yourself to Saint Peter Lutheran Church.
Most of all, what Saint Peter needs is you! You at worship with us on Sundays. You in prayer every day for the whole people of God in Christ, and for all people according to their needs. You dedicated to spending time each day with God’s word, inviting it both to comfort you and to challenge you. You advocating for and working on behalf of those who suffer in this world. You holding daily conversations with members of your household about what it looks like today to be faithful to the One who lived and died for us. You being financially generous with Saint Peter, so that together we can carry out the ministry we believe God has entrusted to us.
I look forward to the ministry you and I will share in years to come. And I am so grateful for the many ways you give of yourselves to this congregation and its ministry. Let’s keep it up. Together!
God’s peace to you all,