March – From the Minister

I remember Sunday mornings as a child, after getting dressed up and ready for church, sitting down at the kitchen table to fill out my tithing envelope. I had a box of them that were all my own, with my name printed on the front and a space for me to fill in the date. I would carefully take money out of my piggy bank, mindful of what felt “right” to give, and seal it into the envelope, which then went into mom’s purse for safe keeping. When offertory came around in the service, I would proudly place my envelope in the basket as it passed by, knowing that I was contributing what I could to the work of the church.

I wish I could say that I stayed that financially generous as I got older, but I soon left the church, and then went through periods of economic ups and downs throughout my 20’s and 30’s. And somewhere along the way I stopped believing that my small contributions mattered. I stopped believing that they mattered to whatever organization was asking for money—and I stopped believing that being generous somehow also benefitted me in any sort of spiritually significant way. Last week, I was driving home from work and came to a stoplight in Saint Paul. Just outside my window was a man with a sign that said, “Veteran. Homeless. Anything helps. God Bless.” It was 9 degrees outside that day, though the sun was shining. At first, I averted my eyes—I didn’t have any cash on me, nothing I could give. Laying on the seat beside me was a new pair of warm winter gloves. Generosity comes in many forms. So, I rolled down my window and handed them to the man.

This is soulwork. Opening our eyes to the world around us and then figuring out how the values we hold most deeply within us inspire us to be. These values are our center, the core of us from which we reach out into the world and affect everything.

I don’t know about you, but for me it’s never easy to “give generously.” Especially when money is tight. Our society values independence, self-sufficiency, making a profit. We have legitimate concerns about socking everything away in savings for college educations, downpayments on houses, retirement funds, emergency medical expenses. What is it that offers me a different perspective? Where do I find messages of abundance and interdependence and love? Where do I go to feed my soul so that it grows stronger and brighter— strong and bright enough to center me in my belief that we are all in this together, taking care of each other, creating the world we all want to live in?

When I was a child, the answer to these questions was most certainly “church.” For many years, in my young adulthood, it wasn’t. Then I found a faith that moves me— moves my soul to grow and my body to act. The homeless veteran on the corner doesn’t care what it was that moved me to give him a pair of warm gloves, but I do. I care because I know that if I give to this church then the work of growing our souls and serving the world will continue.

Sometimes, I wish we had little pledge envelopes for us all to put our money into every Sunday—crisp and white or recycled and rainbow-colored— instead of the automated on-line unmindful recurring debit from some imaginary pile of money. Sometimes, I wish that we could think carefully about how much, and why, we wanted to be generous with our finances every week rather than just once a year, especially when money is tight.

What is it that makes up the center of you? What is the work your soul is asking you to do? And where is it that helps you discern and do these things? Maybe for you the answer isn’t “church.” Maybe it’s time to reconsider that.