What would your congregation or ministry do with $1 million dollars?
Would you be governed by the consumer culture that would drive you to use money for yourselves (our building, property, comfort)? Would you be driven by the myths of scarcity that tell you to save it for a rainy day, even if the hurricane is already blowing around you?
Or would you choose to live a different way, God’s way, a way that seeks God’s reign by searching for the best ways possible to use the blessings you’ve received to serve God’s mission of sharing the good news, loving your neighbor and serving those in need?
We live as consumers in a culture of scarcity, always worried about not having enough. In fact, there are three myths this culture of scarcity bombards us with: 1) there’s not enough to go around; 2) more is always better; 3) and that’s just the way it is. These myths cause us to constantly worry about resources, an anxiety that turns us into ourselves and drives us to act out of fear and seek our own personal desires.
But God wants a different life for those who follow Christ. God wants us to live as citizens of Christ’s kingdom, following a way of faith, hope, love and generosity. “Do not worry about your life, what you will wear, eat or drink,” Jesus promises in his Sermon on the Mount. (Mt 6:25-34) “Seek God’s kingdom instead and trust in what God has already given you.” This doesn’t mean we stop eating, drinking or wearing clothing (please don’t! J). It means that in our daily encounter with Jesus, our lives are transformed so much that we get to stop worrying about having more, because when everyone is as generous as we’re called to be in Christ, everyone will have enough.
That’s what happened to Zacchaeus of Jericho. One day he was a rich tax collector, short in stature, tall in wealth. Then from a branch on a sycamore tree he saw Jesus. And Jesus saw him. Jesus invited himself into Zacchaeus’ life and everything changed! Zacchaeus trusted Jesus so much that he gave away half of what he owned to those in need and used the rest to repent of his defrauding ways by giving back four times the amount he took. He stopped worrying about having more and used his million dollars to serve the mission of God’s reign in this world. In this transformation, salvation came to Zacchaeus’ house and he and his family lived in the new life Christ promises. (Lk 19:1-10)
So what would you do with a million dollars? What will you do with the blessings you do receive, even if it doesn’t hit that million mark? During this time often devoted to stewardship, I encourage you to think outside the box of scarcity and imagine how you as individuals, congregations, and ministries can support God’s mission in the world. Think about the many ways the ELCA is already serving God’s mission through your congregation, your synod and the wider church: through your local food pantries or quilt-making or clothing drives; through the synod’s support of prison ministry, campus ministry, helping you find a pastor or visiting you in times of celebration or difficulty; through churchwide programs such as Lutheran World Hunger, Lutheran Disaster Relief, Young Adults in Global Mission, and many other opportunities to love and serve the weak, the lost, the hungry, the afraid, the marginalized and the forgotten among us in our communities, state, nation and world. Thank you for all of the ways you support the ELCA’s opportunities for doing God’s mission. For finally, that is what Jesus calls us to support, God’s mission to bring salvation to the whole world, especially those in need.
A wonderful gift has been given to you and your congregation. You have been welcomed freely into God’s salvation, a relationship of new and transformed life in God’s kingdom. In this relationship, each of you is called to follow Christ and be a steward of God’s blessings to the world. And as followers of Christ you get to participate in God’s mission through your wise and hope-filled giving and service in God’s kingdom. Thank you for your continued support of God’s mission happening in your congregation/ministry, the Montana Synod, and the wider Church. Your gifts are appreciated!
In Christ’s hope,
Bishop Laurie Jungling
Elected June 1, 2019, Laurie is the 5th Bishop of the Montana Synod