Dear Members and Friends,
Love is sacrifice. Love sacrifices itself for its neighbor.
-Thaddeus of Vitovnica, 20th century
Journey to Generosity: The Way of Jesus. We have begun our Season of Stewardship and embarked on a journey to generosity. When we follow the way of Jesus, we follow a path that leads to a generous way of life that derives from the generosity of God. Very few of us enter the Christian faith as fully-mature stewards. Most of us follow a journey in which our generosity grows as we become ever more aware of the generosity of God and of how we might respond adequately to that generosity.
The way of Jesus begins with the recognition of God’s love for all, and includes responding to that love with love for others. The Good News which Jesus shared is that God promises to freely, graciously, love each and every one of us. Jesus then followed that Good News with a twofold response for us: to love God with our whole life and being, and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. In other words: the Way of Jesus is the Way of Love: God’s love for us and our love in response for God and all of God’s creation.
That truly sounds like Good News! It sounds like a wonderful, joyful, glorious way of life! Which is probably one reason Jesus often described life in the Realm of God as a party! And in his day, the greatest and grandest of all parties were Wedding Feasts. These were often affairs that went on for days and involved lavish banquets, lots of drinking of wine, music and dancing and all manner of celebrating.
Each of us has received an invitation to the celebration of grace, mercy and unconditional love which is the Realm of God. It is up to us how we receive this invitation and how willing we are to extend that invitation and receive others who may join us. Our willingness to commit our resources to the purpose of God’s Realm is a way of joyously responding YES! to God’s invitation.
Ask any couple planning a wedding (or the parents of the bride) how quickly guest lists become about cost. Those without unlimited resources will tell you that venue, food, drinks, etc. all factor into who gets invited and who doesn’t. What kind of party can we throw at Christ Congregational Church with the resources available to us? How do our resources enable a diverse guest list for our church? Pope Francis says that the church grows by attraction, not by proselytizing. If there is truth in that statement, then a party where the invitation is the life of the party itself: great food, great music, lots of laughter, should be a pretty attractive way to grow the guest list. If Christ Congregational is an experience of God’s Realm, how are we attracting others to this celebration?
The reality is, it might be a stretch for us to think of our church as a parallel to the ancient custom of a raucous wedding celebration that spread itself out over multiple days. We Christians are not often known for our partying! But there are grand things that characterize the Realm of God we’ve been invited to know and to share, and while God certainly calls us to take that work seriously, we are also called to live like its good news. Thinking about our financial commitments to the church’s ministry is a great time to think about the story we are telling as a community. What kind of party are we throwing?
See you in church.
R. Steven Hudder
Pastor, Christ Congregational United Church of Christ
Palmetto Bay, Florida