Beloved, as most of you probably know by now, it’s Stewardship Season! That time of year where we talk about the church’s finances and our giving. Next Sunday is Stewardship Sunday, the Sunday we bring our pledge cards with us to church, with our annual commitments of time, talent, and money written down on them.
And, so, to really encourage everyone to dig deep and give till it hurts, I’ve chosen a scripture lesson all about martyrdom. Because what could be more inspirational for generosity than imagining your pledge card as giant cross you’ll have to drag around behind you for an entire year? No? Well, if you don’t find the image of financial crucifixion motivating you to get out checkbook, don’t lose hope just yet. Maybe there’s something more to giving than just “losing our lives in order to save our lives.” I mean, what does that really mean?
Here at the beginning of Lent, I have a confession to make, Beloved. It was my freshman year in college, and I needed money to help pay my way through school, so, I got a job… as a telemarketer—for a semester. I know, I know. I’m sorry. But as an 18-year-old kid, they were the only ones who would hire me. So, for months, I sat in a room with a bunch of other young telemarketers who were trying to raise money for the school by cold calling alumni and their parents. Our supervisor was sitting at the front watching us to make sure we didn’t take a break between calls. You just had to keep going.
I was new and untested so the top of the battered and creased multipage spreadsheet I was calling numbers from was labeled: People Who Have Never Given Before. It was hardly an inspiring title to a new recruit. And hang-up, after hang-up, after cursing, swearing, shouting hang-up, in which people reminded us just how much bleepin’ money they had already paid to the school, under the watchful eye and sharp ear of my supervisor, I just had to keep going. And I didn’t want to. The sound of the tinny ringing tone through my headset became dreadful to me. And the only worse sound was the sound of it suddenly stopping and a voice sweetly saying, “Hello?”
Beloved, it’s the most wonderful time of the year! It’s the hap-happiest season of all! We’ve been waiting all year for it, and now it’s here! You know what it is! Let me hear you say it! STEWARDSHIP SEASON!
Stewardship Season comes but once a year, but all the girls and boys and children of every gender wait in anticipation for it all the year long. Why? Because it is that time of year when we make an intentional transition. At no other time in church life and, perhaps, at no other time in any aspect of some of our lives do we make such a regular, intentional transition.
In the Stewardship Season we as a church go on a journey. We look back over the previous year; we look ahead at the year to come. We evaluate what has come before in our ministry and we prepare for what is coming. We make decisions about who we want to be as a church, what we want to achieve, and how we will make that vision a reality.
David told me a few weeks ago that he’d like one of the scripture readings for his wedding to Ahmed to be about Abraham—Abraham, after all, is the common ancestor of Islam and Christianity (and Judaism, of course). I thought it was a great idea—something that honored Ahmed and David’s shared heritage and their shared values. And there are lots of stories about Abraham in the Bible that could cover that ground.
When David told me he’d made his selection, I didn’t think this particular reading we just heard was the most obvious choice—a story about Abraham and Sarah being so old that conceiving a child seemed impossible to them (but—spoiler alert—they got pregnant anyway). And I found myself thinking it over quite a bit—this choice.
Those of you who know David know he’s an intentional fellow. He must be trying to tell me something. Right? And I could only come up with one theory. And, so, the next time I saw David, I pulled him aside, and I said, “David, I’m your pastor and you can tell me anything. Are you pregnant?” God works in mysterious ways!
On Valentine’s Day, my Valentine and I went to go see the new Frida Kahlo exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. I admire Kahlo’s art, her politics, and her whole personality a great deal and I’ve been to some exhibits that have focused on her painting before. But reading reviews of the Brooklyn exhibit I learned that there wouldn’t be more than a handful of paintings. This exhibit is focused more on Kahlo’s personal effects which had been locked away for 50 years after her death. And now they’re taking a little tour out of Mexico City to Brooklyn.
I was kinda iffy about whether I’d want to pay to walk through rooms displaying a bunch of dresses—hundreds of Kahlo’s were discovered when her personal effects were released—but that’s not really my thing. And if the exhibit had simply been entitled “Frida Kahlo’s Dresses” I probably would’ve passed. But the exhibit is entitled, “Appearances Can Be Deceiving.” Hmmmm. Now that’s interesting.