Pastor Mark’s eNote – About Giving (but please read anyway)
With your bulletin this Sunday (as with last Sunday), you will find an estimate-of-giving card (a.k.a. pledge card) for 2016, and at the close of our worship services you will have an opportunity to return the card. You can also enter your pledge online. And, don’t worry, if we don’t hear from you, we’ll mail you a card as well.
This is important. With your estimate of giving you are committing your support for the work of Christ through Hamilton Mill UMC. Yes, this Sunday is different, and yet it’s like every other Sunday, for whenever we gather, we gather as a people called to give.
In their classic book, Freakonomics, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner tell of a study done back in the 1970s. Researchers wanted to learn more about the motivations behind blood donations, so they began to give people a small stipend for donating blood. The results were FEWER donations. As Levitt and Dubner put it, “The stipend turned a noble act of charity into a painful way to make a few dollars, and it wasn’t worth it.” Larger payments, of course, could have brought much more blood but also many more complications, as some people inevitably would have resorted to cheating or even stealing to make more money.
So, when it comes to giving, the simpler the motivation, the better. The truth of the matter is there can be many reasons to give our money, time, prayers and energy to the church, from tax breaks to stature to influence, but you will find the best reason within your own heart. When we give, it does good, and it does us good. It connects us to something and someone beyond ourselves; it makes us a part of a holy and loving ministry. There is something almost sacramental about filling out a pledge card or preparing meals for our own or others or distributing groceries at the pantry or sitting with children or teens in a small group. Our lives connect with Christ, who gave himself for us.
My favorite preacher and teacher, Fred Craddock, described with three words our motivation for good works: “Grace begets graciousness.” When we have experienced the grace of God in Jesus Christ, that same grace will flow through us.
I hope you will pray and think intentionally about your level of giving for 2016. The needs are great and the opportunities rich for us as a church in this community. In the coming months we will move into our new worship center (Steel is being lifted into place even as I write these words). It’s thrilling to watch the progress and even more exciting to ponder the possibilities before us as a church. Christ calls us to be an outpost of God’s kingdom in this community—nothing less—and for 20 years this church has answered the call.
So, my thanks to all of you who give yourselves for the work of the church. My thanks to all of you for passing along the grace you have found in this place.
Rev. Mark Westmoreland