"Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you." - Hebrews 6:14
Dear Creator Family,
I certainly don’t want to start with “fear” in a letter about Thanksgiving and stewardship, but that is, perhaps, a realistic place to begin. In a recent conversation with a colleague, the topic turned (as it does these days) to church attendance. Expressing trepidation and fatigue, my colleague coined a new word: “smallifying.” We shared a bit of a chuckle and also a deeper sorrow at the trends in parish life and participation. Each year, the harvest is smaller.
The trends in our Church are mirrored by churches across the Dioceses and the nation. That being said, though, it does little to change the way we feel. Confusion, trepidation, reticence, fear—all of these emotions have been shared with me in conversations like the one I spoke of. In the face of what we are now calling the “new normal,” how do we rise above and overcome these negative and bewildering thoughts?
As people of faith we are called, not to culture and the fears it fosters, but to the Heavenly realm where the peace of God sustains all. God is not curtailed or discouraged by the fleeting “chances and changes” of this world. God’s presence is eternal and changeless, and God invites us into God’s own changelessness through the intervention of the Holy Spirit. Though it’s not always easy, we need not be wearied, but rather filled with joy as we praise God in Christ Jesus for all that we are and all that we have received!
Remember that the earliest stories of the Bible speak of God doing one of two things: multiplying or saving. God multiples our days; doubles our companions; prospers our labors; and numbers our loved ones as the stars. And then, whenever we’ve squandered or hoarded, neglected or idolized, forgotten the promise, or relinquished the birthright, God moves in salvific ways to preserve and protect. Why would it be any different for us?
We ask, what does the world hold in store for Creator? Instead, we can choose to proclaim, “Through whatever comes I will hold fast to my faith and proclaim the Year of the Lord’s Favor!” There’s a reason we are the Church of the Creator. We are God’s own creation, and we are loved and cared for regardless of worldly circumstances. The shadow of failure, fear, and destruction is obliterated by the blazing Light of Christ, and it is in that light we stand.
We do not know what will happen in the world next year but do know that we will overcome through the love of Christ. Our faith is not dictated by trends or manipulated by opinion; our faith is a gift from the God who is the same today, tomorrow, and forever more. In the face of that which confronts us we proclaim Christ Crucified! Christ Raised! Christ Ascended! Christ with US! We will not trade our faith for fear or compromise our Savior for appeasement.
As we enter the new year our plans have not changed. We are the hands and feet of Christ, and God’s witness of love and life to all who are in need or distress. We give of ourselves, not in response to the world—in hopeless resignation, but as proclamation to God: affirming and in thanksgiving for all that God has blessed us with.
We will be passing out Stewardship Cards this Sunday and will celebrate our new year’s commitment on the First Sunday in Advent, December 3rd at the 10:30 service. A financial commitment to our parish is the way we lay down fear and take an active role in prospering our parish to do what Christ has commanded and commissioned us for: to love and serve in His name. It’s also, literally and frankly speaking, how we operate at all. With the stated promises of its parishioners, a parish finance committee meets and lays out the possibilities for the coming year. It goes without saying that we have a fish- and loaf-multiplying God. It goes without saying that faith as small as a mustard seed moves mountains. But I say in that case, let us give freely and wholeheartedly and with the full expectation that God will multiply even the smallest pledge. If you prefer to make your pledge online, please CLICK HERE.
God’s presence is eternal and changeless, and God invites us into God’s own changelessness. It is from this place of love and promise that we reach out in God’s name. Let there be nothing small about our gratitude. Let there be nothing small in our giving. As you prayerfully consider your Stewardship commitment this year, remember what Jesus told us, “It is I, be not afraid.”
Steadfast in Christ,
Father Bill Burk†