October 17th, 2021 – 21th Sunday after Pentecost
UPCOMING ACTIVITIES FOR WEEK OF: Oct 18th – Oct 24th
Monday……………….. St. Luke, Evangelist
6:00pm Women’s Club
Wednesday………….. 5:30pm Confirmation
Thursday: ……………… 10:00am Bible Study
Saturday:………………. St. James of Jerusalem, Brother of Jesus
Sunday: …………………. 10:00am Worship
11:00am Bible Study
The commemorations this week are recognizable. Luke has a gospel and James a letter in the New Testament. Yet the life of James is one that is hard to contemplate. We presume he grew up in the same household as our Lord (Galatians 1:19), yet he does not claim that in his own letter, merely a servant but “brother” to those he writes. He didn’t believe until after the resurrection (John 7:3-5), and it took a special appearance (1 Corinthians 15:7) – something Paul notes they shared. Paul and James are often seen as in conflict, yet when they meet they recognize each other’s apostleship (Acts 15). Maybe the hardest saying of James to contemplate is James 2:19 which has to do with his conception of faith – “Even the demons believe.” Faith is not just historical knowledge or mental assent. The demons have that. Faith is that living thing that brings forth the fruits of repentance, which the demons do not have.
PRAYER THOUGHT AND MEDITATION
The one thing the makers of the lectionary did understand was church budget seasons. They built in a couple of weeks of stewardship or monetary lessons in the middle of October. I’m assuming anyone who will read this has seen Wayne’s note. I’ve had several private and group conversations myself over the past month. There are some simple facts: church finance over the past two generations has morphed into an 80/20 thing. 80% of the budget comes from 20% of the offerings. That might always have been true. 80/20 rules abound in real life. The other fact is that the total number dividing into 80/20 has declined. We aren’t alone in this. Nationally the median congregational attendance in 2000 was 137 people, in 2020 it was 65. (Median means 50% of the congregations were larger and 50% smaller.) There are three comments I’d make here. 1) Pre-covid we had actually bucked the big part of that trend. The 2008 national number was 115. Our average attendance in 2008 was 57, in 2019 it was 64. If we had been on trend it would have been 32. 2) While we were zooming services, I could fool myself into thinking that we were holding together when I mentally added people online to people present. But I say fooled, because the heart of any church is corporate worship, and that goes double for a smaller congregation. The mutual consolation of the brothers and sisters is in that gathering of the body of Christ. This isn’t to get into an argument over if it is or was fear or prudence. Everyone can and will make their own decisions there. What can’t be denied is that missing corporate worship has made the body of Christ smaller. If one was feeling apocalyptic you might say that “a third of the earth was burned up…and a third of the waters made bitter (Rev 8).” 3) We focus on numbers because that is who we are. If it is not a number we don’t take it as real. But we know in human terms without numbers, that isn’t sustainable.
This article is not meant to pre-explain the budget meeting. This article is to encourage theological reflection and prayer. And the verse that caught my eye this week is from the OT lesson. “There is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun, riches were kept by their owner to his hurt (Ecclesiastes 5:13).” Probably the straightforward way that could be taken is what I typically mean when I’ve commented about the broader church: “we barely give enough to keep ourselves evangelized.” We have all been given gifts from the providence of the Father. And part of those gifts are for the keeping of His church. The modern church just doesn’t preach the tithe. Even though the law of God has a third use as a guide to our path, actually preaching the tithe is coded as greedy, when I’m convinced that it is a giving to love that God multiplies. “Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. (Mal. 3:10 ESV)” There is a grievous evil, riches kept to the owner’s hurt. We don’t have because we don’t give.
But as I meditated over those words I also came to a second understanding. The riches might not just be read as money. The riches of God are his people. There are lots of congregations that are holding onto these riches, and for what? To keep their building open? To keep their expression of themselves around? (There is a local church that has had their pulpit vacant for going on 4 years because “nobody meets our needs.”) For any number of other petty reasons? “And he is the father of a son, and has nothing to give him (Eccl 5:14).” We withhold ourselves from the gathering (Heb 10:25) weakening the body. We withhold the tithe missing the blessing promised. And maybe we withhold God’s people because we are worshipping something else. We shouldn’t be surprised when we have nothing to give our sons.
Yet the joy, the only place the teacher of Ecclesiastes comes close to that, is in the work. “For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart (Eccl 5:20).” That joy down in the heart is the Word of Christ. There is much worry in all the other possessions. This alone grants rest. Becoming a congregation occupied by the Gospel, that is the prayer.
- Thurs 10am: We are going to be reading the last letter of John starting this week. Come Join!
- Confirmation: Work on memorizing the commandments and read the 4th commandment questions.
- Life Application Fellowship (LAF): October 21st, Fruits of the Spirit
- Sunday Morning: Back to Mark, intending to wrap up with the passion story. Come Join!
- Catechism Moment: I’m going to stop making promises. I do intend to get back to this.
Women’s group is Monday. Dinner and fellowship. 6PM. Sign-up on the bulletin board so I have some idea of numbers
UPCOMING CONGREGATIONAL MEETINGS
October 24th will be the budget presentation and officer nominations. November 7th will be voting.
BEEF ON WECK
We are going to attempt a Beef on Weck on November 6. You might be asked to help, please do help. Ellen and Lisa and Abel Acuña are the contact points.