Reflections on Giving
St. Paul’s “Gratitude Month”
Luke tells the story of 10 lepers who came to Jesus and asked him to heal them.
He said, “Show yourselves to the priests,” and when they did, they were cured.
One of them remembered to be grateful, and ran back to Jesus to thank him.
Jesus said, “Hey, weren’t 10 of you healed? Where are the other nine?”
Life is full of positive and negative experiences, and it can be difficult to be grateful for what we have, rather then focusing on what we don’t have. Life itself, which we have been given freely by our Creator, is such a miracle that we often take it for granted.
When we look at a glass of water, is it half-full or half-empty?
As we begin our fall pledging season, let’s be grateful for what we have and share it, by giving what we can to St. Paul’s, with God and others who are less fortunate. Let’s be the one who remembers and not the nine who forget!
One day, Jesus was in the temple and he saw the wealthy bringing in their tithes, followed by a widow, who gave a very small amount, something like a couple of pennies.
Jesus praised the widow for giving all she had, “out of her poverty,” noting that the rich had given out of their wealth. For her, it was a great sacrifice, while for them, it wasn’t really a stretch.
Generosity is giving without holding back, doing so with joy and without expecting anything in return. It’s powerful and inspiring. It manifests itself not by how much we give but by how we give.
Let’s be honest—the temple needed to have its more fortunate supporters do their duty and bring in their tithes. It couldn’t have functioned only on what the widow and others of modest means might provide. So everyone was playing their role in this situation.
However, Jesus is telling us that the real story is to be found in the widow’s gift because it was one of great generosity.
As we move into the pledging season for St. Paul’s, let’s think about being generous, whatever that may mean for each of us.
It is well known that Jesus asked one of his audiences, “What does it profit a person to gain the whole world and lose their soul?”
The Lord was speaking from experience. Satan had promised him the whole world during a time of testing before he began his ministry. We have to assume that Jesus was actually tempted by this offer. The whole point was for him set an example for us, by experiencing what we experience, and yet to do the right thing. If it had actually been easy for Jesus to say “no,” it would not have been a true temptation.
Of course, he did refuse the offer, and went on to gain something far more meaningful than ruling the entire planet—he became the founder of a religious movement that changed the world.
What are we trying to gain today, given Jesus’ dramatic example? Let’s hope that our soul is being nurtured by our spiritual path, and we are giving to support our life and work together as a way to gain something more than power, influence, or material wealth.
Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you, seek, and you will find, knock, and it will be opened to you.”
Much of human behavior can be summed up in two words: giving and getting. We spend a lot of time getting what we need to survive in this life, from food and shelter, to clothing and transportation. Yet, humans also have a unique propensity for giving, and Christians have long been known for their commitment go giving of their time and treasure.
Giving is often associated with sacrifice, but research shows that giving is really a positive emotional experience. In other words, we get a lot when we give.
We also generate a “virtuous cycle of giving” when we support a giving organization like St. Paul’s. As a reflection of God’s love, we give to the world through St. Paul’s outreach efforts and we give to our parish community through the many ways in which the church supports our families and us.
As we approach our decisions about pledging for 2017, please consider how you can best activate this virtuous cycle for the coming year and in years to come.
The Bible is full of stories about harvesting. At one point, Jesus tells his disciples that “the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.”
Though much has changed in 2,000 years, much remains the same! Don’t we always feel that we need more people and resources to take advantage of the opportunities God has given us?
Each year, as we come to the end of our pledge period, we have “Ingathering Sunday.” This term comes from harvesting, and from a time when people gathered together to give thanks for their crops and for all that God had provided for them. In Judaism, Sukkot is the Festival of Ingathering.
This year, Ingathering Sunday is on December 12. We will celebrate no matter what our pledging “harvest” might be, because we know that each of us has asked prayerfully what we can commit to St. Paul’s and the results will be “just right.”
However, we pray that the “harvest” is bountiful because there is so much we can do as we look to have a positive impact in 2017, both within our parish and beyond. We hope to expand the ways in which St. Paul’s is itself a “giving organization.”
So thank you in advance for your pledge to St. Paul’s this year!
See you on the 11th!
Parishioner Reflections on Giving to St. Paul’s
Recently, St. Paul's parishioner "BK" spoke at Sunday services about why she and her family give to St. Paul's, and why they "stretch" a bit when they do. Here are some excerpts from her talk:
I volunteered to speak this morning about what St. Paul's means to me, and why we support it financially.
St. Paul's has been a key part of our life for almost 15 years. We had been attending Trinity in Boston and when our kids were very young, we looked for a place closer to home. We "church shopped." I've lived in many places and rarely went to church in the town where I lived...feeling a good connection was always the most important criterion.
When we found St. Paul's, we knew we were home. One of the things that stood out most for me was "Passing the Peace"… people moving around, smiling, engaged…I remember thinking,"This is a real community where people care for one other."
Over the 15 years, I've had times when I've been very actively involved, and other times when I've not had the bandwidth. My kids are now 18 and almost 15. Over these years, there have been times when I've been able to hold others, and times when I've needed to be held. Times when I had the capacity to feed others, and times I've needed to be fed.
I've been on Vestry, Stewardship, taught Sunday School, taught Confirmation, led Retreats, and planned auctions. I've also had big swaths of time when I've just come to worship on Sundays. (Sometimes just sliding into the pew before the second reading is a big win.) Through all these times, this community has been my home—my foundation—my place to grow and practice my faith, and to put my life in a much broader context.
I know and love what St. Paul's offers spiritually, musically, educationally, and how important mission and service is. From the years I was involved with Stewardship and the Vestry, I also know a lot about St Paul's operationally. I know what it takes to be able to offer these things that I value, and the things that you may value. I also know how hard Jon works, and the support that he needs to be able to offer his best to all of us.
It's a lot. Based on the number of people who regularly attend, I remember the number being about $2,500 per family or pledging unit. There are some people who just can't afford that—and some who can
afford that and much more. I guess "afford" isn't a great word to use. Joan Dedian talked a few weeks ago about the concept of giving until it hurts a bit. I guess that's how we see it. We give small to medium donations to many great charities throughout the year. Our giving to St. Paul's is different. To us, this is not a charity to support. St. Paul's is our home and our family. We want to give an amount that hurts a bit. We want to give an amount that confirms how important this place and all of you are to us. Sometimes it's not easy.
I encourage you to give some more thought to your pledge and how it reflects how you value St. Paul's place in your life. I've heard the vestry wants to fund a new position—a Chief Operation Officer—and I applaud that decision. It will free Jon up to do what Jon does best. We will support that with an increase in our pledge. If all of us do that, the Vestry will be able to approve it. Let's all invest in our home and our family.