Is it really early October already? Time to rake leaves? Make chili in the crock-pot? Decide on this year’s Halloween costume? Yikes. And yet we are grateful that “God has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
Speaking of time, it’s my joy to share an exciting update with you about the timing of stewardship season here at fpcw. This year, we’re moving it back to the Fall for two reasons: (1) to give ourselves intentional time to take stock of the resources God has entrusted to us; and (2) to allow ample time to prepare a courageous and responsible budget for 2018 that fulfills Christ’s mission in this time and place.
As you know, this Fall we’ve been working our way through the “fruit of the Spirit,” the apostle Paul’s nine-fold list from Galatians 5. Can you name them with me? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Isn’t it convenient that Paul included “generosity” in his list? No, really, it’s not just convenient. He included it because it is absolutely central to the Christian life. On October 29, when we focus on the fruit of “generosity” in worship, we will invite everyone to make a financial commitment to the life and ministry of our church in 2018. We’ve enclosed a pledge card with this letter for your prayerful consideration.
I write to you not only as a pastor, but also as a father. Arianne and I look to this dear church that Eden and Simon will grow up in, first attend Sunday School in, first learn the hymns of the faith in,
hear their father preach far too many sermons in, first learn what it means to give of their time, talent and treasure in. I see this anchor of a church, this beacon of God’s light and life and love in Wilmette, and the renewed commitment that God is calling Arianne and me to make to ensure that its life and ministry will thrive in the coming year.
Stewardship is the stuff of real life. It’s about how we respond to God’s grace – will we respond with fear and scarcity, or with gratitude and abundance? In the gospels, it’s striking that Jesus talks about money five more times than he talks about prayer.
Here’s my challenge to you. Take a careful look at your finances. Figure out what percentage of your income you’re giving to the church and to other organizations that bless the world. And then ask if that percentage reflects your gratitude to God for all God has entrusted to you.
I know we all feel pressured by money. I do, too. I feel the impulse to clench my fists instead of open my hands. I’m tempted to view everything I own as mine instead of on loan from God for the time being.
The biblical tithe is 10%. Some people say the modern tithe is 5%, but I’m not so sure. As Lutheran pastor, Nadia Bolz-Weber says, “Tithing is not God’s way of raising money. It’s God’s way of raising children.”
Maybe you’re just starting out on the road of Christian discipleship and giving 2-3% of your income. That’s a good start. Now grow from there. Or maybe you’ve given a flat amount – like $1,000 a year – for more years than you can remember and have never thought about significantly increasing your giving. I encourage you to give it a try in 2018. Or maybe you’ve been a lifelong tither, but now realize God is calling you to consider a graduated tithe – giving above 10% of your income to your church and other organizations that bless the world. Step out in faith and see what happens.
Whatever God is leading you to do, I encourage you to give in a way that brings you joy. Give in a way that declares you have enough and that God will always provide for you needs. Give in a way that expresses your generosity to God for all of God’s abundant gifts. Give in a way that ensures this church will thrive in the coming year and in the years to come.
I’m not asking you to do what you cannot, only what you can. When we all respond to God in gratitude for all God has given us, it will always be more than enough. In our heart of hearts, we know what to do.
Thank you in advance for your commitment and generosity! Arianne, Eden, Simon and I are so glad to be among you and look forward to growing in faith together in the years to come.
With gratitude and love in Christ,
Rev. Jeff Lehn
If you wish to donate stock for your 2018 pledge, please click this link Stock Options for Pledging 2018 to access directions. Thank you for your generous and continued support of fpcw.