God asks from us our first and our best: the first fruits of our time, talent, and treasure. Why we must remember who—and whose—we are. By the Rev. Brad Mullis
As much as the lush springtime, autumn with its beautiful colors makes us aware in a sensory way of the glory of God’s creation. We may have a favorite drive we enjoy this time of year, where we can revel in the palette of God’s handiwork. The fall reminds me of the greatness and goodness of God.
The fall is also for us the season when we conduct our Every Member Canvass. Some of you are new to this place (Welcome!), so let me tell you what that is, if you haven’t picked up on it already. Each year the vestry strives to construct a faithful and prudent financial budget for the next year’s ministry. Part of that process is discerning how much money we have to work with. So, Trinity asks each family unit to discern prayerfully what they will pledge to God through the church for the following year’s ministry. If you, like me, grew up without knowing about “pledging,” please let me give you two good reasons to do it. First, having a general idea of income helps us create a good budget. I’ve heard some say, “well, just make the budget on faith!” Believe me, any church budget will ultimately be based on faith. But the Holy Spirit can work through our prayerful pledging too, as we all work to use resources faithfully. Second, pledging helps us make a personal inventory of what we give. If we’re committed to tithing or to working toward the tithe (10% giving), looking honestly at our income and committing to what portion of that we will give away can hold us accountable to more faithful giving. So, after you have received and read your pledge packet, (distribution begins October 4) I hope you will prayerfully consider making a financial commitment to Trinity Church for 2016.
We serve a God of abundance. God’s grace is abundant today and forever. As God in Christ took five loaves and two fishes and turned them into a huge meal with plenty left over, so God takes our sacrificial gifts and creates an abundant ministry here. There is ministry to children and youth, ministry to seniors, ministry of music, ministry of healing God’s environment, ministry of feeding the poor and providing decent housing.
All that we are and have comes from God. We are all made in God’s image and at whatever our stage of life, growing into God’s likeness. From us God asks our first and best. The first fruits of our time, talent, and treasure. We all have talents and time to offer in service to God and neighbor here. And however large or small our monetary gifts may be, God takes them, blesses them, breaks them, and gives them back into the world transformed. That’s what happens to us to when we commit ourselves to the one who has done marvelous things.
An example of how this works is in a children’s book called First Tomato by Rosemary Wells. It’s about a little bunny named Claire for whom everything is going wrong: she spills her breakfast on the floor, her boots fill with snow, math class goes on for two hours, she cannot do a cartwheel at recess, and the bus is late! She needs a trip to the Bunny Planet, where the Bunny Queen, Janet, says:
Here is the day that should have been: I hear my mother calling when the summer wind blows, “Go out in the garden in our old, old clothes. Pick me some runner beans and sugar snap peas. Find a ripe tomato and bring it in please.” A ruby red tomato is hanging on the vine. If my mother didn’t want it, the tomato would be mine. It smells of rain and steamy earth and hot June sun. In the whole tomato garden it’s the only ripe one. I close my eyes and breathe in its fat, red smell. I wish that I could eat it now and never, never tell. But I save it for my mother without another look. I wash the beans and shell the peas and watch my mother cook. I hear my mother calling when the summer winds blow, “I’ve made you the First Tomato Soup because I love you so!”
When we offer God the first fruits, the very money and talents and time we want to hold onto, God like the mother in the story transforms those first fruits into what we need most: Soup and Love, whatever that soup represents. Our financial gifts count. They enable and empower the ministry of this place. Every pledge, every dollar, touches a human life and brings it closer to God. Every pledge, every dollar is transformed into Love and Tomato Soup for someone else and for ourselves.
How will we respond to God’s grace? The General Thanksgiving (BCP, 101) can guide us well: “that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up ourselves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days.”
We are called to give priority to faith in the One from whom all blessings flow, and in whom we live, move, and have our being. We are all called today to remember who we are and whose we are and to live our lives accordingly.