David Hardy spoke a few moments ago about the importance and the impact and the meaning of our financial commitment to Bedford Presbyterian Church. I would like to add my two cents to what he said by tiptoeing into politics as a way to pull you to the edge of your pew and then seeing where it goes from there.
As the 2016 Presidential campaign ramps up, I am sure we are going to hear more and more about taxes. And, about the 48-49% of the American public who do not pay any income tax. Most of those, but not all, pay no tax because their annual income falls below a certain level. I think this is wrong. And, while I know that through sales tax and taxes on other products like gasoline we all pay taxes, I think as long as we have an income tax everyone should pay something. Maybe it is only $50.00 a year, but if we really believe what we say we believe about our country then we are all in it together.
So now that I have your attention, the point I would like to make is not about politics or income tax, but about our church. While I don’t have the numbers at my fingertips (others do!), I know we have more households with some connection to the church than we have households who pledge or who support the church financially. I also think that is wrong. If we are going to be in it, we should be in it together. I don’t know what that dollar amount might be for any particular household, but I do think it should be something. Something which you think about and pray about and which reflects what you believe.
But, with that said, I also want to say this.
This congregation. All of you are generous in so many ways.
Some of that shows up in a budget, but some of it does not.
What does not is what we push out the door towards others.
The dollars in the children’s offering basket which this year will help to purchase clothes and shoes for the Midnight Run. And your support for the students who go to Appalachia and Nicaragua to repair and to build homes. And, the food dropped off for the food pantry. And, the Christmas gifts you buy for those in need or for those without family.
Commitment. Part 2.
Commitment to community.
I don’t know how many of you are on Facebook and, if you are, how many of you follow our congregation’s Facebook page. If you haven’t “liked us on Facebook” I would encourage you to do so. You will find inspiration and information and wonderful highlights and reminders of our ministry and mission.
One of the things we have been doing for the last six weeks of so is this. At least once a week we have been posting reflections on gratitude which members of the congregation have shared. A weekly reminder that all of us have much for which to be grateful. To give you a sense of the impact of these reflections, last week a reflection written and shared by Sarah Bensabeur reached nearly 100 people and a picture and comment shared by one of the students who participates in our high school youth program caused more than 200 people to stop for a moment and to reflect on what she had shared. In the busyness and craziness of our lives as they are, that matters and that makes a difference.
What has struck me as I have read what a number of you have written is that as you think about Bedford Presbyterian Church, what you are most grateful for are the reminders you receive here and the connections and the interactions you find here with each other.
The difference this place and this gathered people has made in your life and in the lives of your family and your children.
Maybe community is an overused word.
Or, sometimes a misused word.
But it seems to me what many of us value about this place is each other. This community. Who we are and what we stand for and what we teach and how we care for each other and for the broader communities in which we live. I know everyone here does not know everyone else. And I know everyone here cannot support everyone else with a meal or a phone call or a cup of sugar. But what we can do and what I think is important is the commitment each of us can make to that value of community which we reach towards in and through what we call Bedford Presbyterian Church knowing that what we reach towards here is not just important to you and me, but also important to others around us. We can each make the commitment to do what we can to build and to rebuild and to strengthen and to extend that understanding of community which we value so much and which is so much a part of who we are and what we believe.
Commitment. Part 3.
Now it gets personal.
More about you than about us.
Your commitment to following Jesus.
The scripture reading for this morning was Matthew’s account of Jesus calling the disciples.
Jesus says to them “Follow me.”
What Jesus did not mean and did not say was:
“Follow me to church or Follow me to the shabbat service.”
Instead, implied, and then confirmed by the rest of the gospel narrative, what he said was this: “Follow me into the world.” Follow me out there among the blind, the lame, the hungry, the lonely, the forgotten, the broken, the Samaritans and the Romans. Follow me out there where there are both crosses and deep joy. Follow me out there where it gets messy and complicated and where folks will be healed and fed and will find new life. Including you.
And, this is the Part 3 of Commitment as it relates to who you are and who you are called to be as a follower of Jesus. While we all have the work we do to support our families and the responsibilities that go along with that and along with being a parent and a partner and a member of a family, there is also this piece about our faith.
About following Jesus.
About who you are called to be and what you are called to do.
About your vocation which is different from your work.
The author, Frederick Buechner, defines vocation this way:
“Vocation comes from the Latin vocare, to call, and means the work a [person] is called to by God. [And] the place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” (Wishful Thinking)
Maybe you are like me. I find it easy to get swamped with the responsibilities of today and to forget this other piece. To forget my vocation. To forget that place of my deep gladness. That place where the best of who I am called to be stands face to face with some part of the world’s deep hunger and I plunge in rather than turn away.
It is there.
At that intersection.
Where we discover our calling and learn what it means to follow Jesus. And find the abundant life God intends for you and for me and for us and for all.