When David and I were starting our life together, still reeling from the whirlwind of weddings and moving halfway across the country, we sat down to set up our first budget together as a married couple. It was really important to us that we stay aware of what was happening financially, because we were in a much different situation than we had been even 3 months earlier. We had just bought a house, student loans were about flood our mailbox, and I didn't have any job prospects. There were a lot of expenses we hadn't had before.
So as we sat down at the table, I knew we were about to take a serious, hard look at how we can - and should - spend. The first words out of David's mouth, though, were "It's really important to me that we tithe. I know it'll make things tight, but I've tithed for almost two decades - I'm not going to stop now."
It took me all of one second to say "Ok." I mean, if I keep saying that God's an important part of my life - which God is - and I want to spend my life convincing people to live the way God wants us to - which I do - then I should follow God's rule about tithing, too.
I'm trying not to brag, but ever since then, tithing has become an important part of my identity as a Christian. I'm proud I tithe. It's not even a question - it's just what we do. How we spend our money is shaped by whatever is left after our bills and our giving - and I wouldn't have it any other way. To tithe before anything else is to say, in a very concrete way, "This matters to me. Giving to the Church, helping to build the kingdom of God, is more important to me than other things I do."
And for me, that's true. This week, you get to decide how you might want to give to the Shared Covenant Ministries' plans to build the kingdom of God. On the Estimate of Giving Card, it asks you to offer not just your money - though that's important - but also your time through the passions and talents with which God has blessed you. Bring it with you to church on Sunday, so that we can responsibly plan our ministries for the coming year.
What do you want your giving to say about you?
This has been an exciting year at the Shared Covenant Ministries. This year we've really started to dream and scheme about the ways we can be God's hands and feet in this world. You can see in our Narrative Budget our what we've done in the past year and what we're hoping to do in the future! I strongly believe that the Shared Covenant Ministries is on the cusp of something huge, if we really trust where the Spirit is moving and give in to God's call.
Where is God's call in your heart? What are the things that you hope the SCM can begin, or continue, in the coming year? The best way to begin answering God's call is to share what you hear with each other.
This week, give some thought to what you see ahead. Try to describe one or two things you would like to see happen in the SCM, something hat could help fulfill our mission. I am eager to see how God is speaking through our hearts as we express our hopes and dreams for the future.
Church is one of those distinct areas of the world today where we deal with a whole community of people - and people we wouldn't necessarily know outside of church, at that. When we pray with, sing with, and eat with people over so many years, they inevitably make a difference in our lives.
When I first came to the SCM, I barely knew anyone in Wisconsin. I had no idea what it meant to live in a rural area, and didn't know whether or not we'd all be able to get along as a church. I had nightmares of torches and pitchforks, that somehow I'd offend people so greatly that I'd show up one Sunday and the locks would be changed.
But people are people are people. And We all cared about each other and God, and really, that's what matters. And by being able to share our lives together over the past few years - being together during celebrations and tragedies, births and deaths and everything in between - you as a community have taught me so much about what it means to be a part of a church. We're never done learning. God's not done with us yet.
Who in our church family has made a difference in your spiritual life?
For many of us, church has always been a part of our lives. For others, we're more newcomers to the faith - or at least, to organized religion. But one way or the other, something has brought us here and kept us coming. Church holds a special place in each of our hearts. For me, church was where I learned how to sing. Church was where I learned about how privileged I was and some of the ways I could care for other people. Church taught me the greatest story ever told. And Church was where I met David.
Since I came to the Shared Covenant Ministries in 2013, I have learned more than I ever imagined about how to be the lead pastor of a church. I have loved more people than I ever imagined possible and felt loved by more people than I ever thought would care about me and my family. It's been such a blessing to be a part of this community.
Yesterday, we collected Heart Cards from some of you about what you love about church. Here's what a few of them said:
How about you? What do you love about church? Add them to the comments below.