Stewardship Is Gifting The Next Generation

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Psalm 71:18

When I think about “gifting the next generation” I think about legacy.  What does it mean to be a legacy?  What does it mean to leave a legacy?

When it was time to apply to college I was surrounded by friends sending in scores of applications – in town, in state, out of state, out of the country even!  So many essays to write and recommendations to secure and transcripts to request.  Me?  I only filled out one college application.  It was to my mother’s collegiate alma mater, which is now my alma mater as well,  Florida Southern College.

Now some may say that I put all of my eggs in one basket.  Why on earth, Sarah, would you do such a thing?  Well, in my sophomore year of high school I received a letter from the Florida Southern Director of Admissions.  It was a letter that named me as a Florida Southern Legacy.  My mother attended and based on my preliminary information they had received about me, my academic career, and my academic aspirations, I would be most welcome to continue my education as part of the Florida Southern Family and keep the Florida Southern attendance tradition alive and well within my family.

That letter really impressed me.  And in turn, I felt impressive.  I felt proud.  I knew my accomplishments and my potential.  So did my parents.  But now, an “outsider” saw what we saw.  I was honored and humbled.  And two years later when all my classmates were scrambling to complete applications I knew exactly where I was headed.

Go Mocs!

As I reflect on receiving this letter, I am really amazed at what an impact a letter had on my decision to be a member of a certain organization.  How much mail do we receive and just set aside without even opening?  I’m talking post office mail and inbox mail!  I know I do it!  But this letter – still steps removed from personal interaction either through a phone call or face to face – made such an impact on me that I made the decision to only apply to one school and then attend that school!  That letter recognized who I was and joined me in dreaming about who I could become.  That letter said I was someone of worth, someone of character, someone of interest, and because of those attributes, this institution wanted to make an investment in me.  Florida Southern wanted me as part of their legacy.

There are lots of letters that are sent out to church members during Stewardship season.  Letters that share with folks the vision for the church in the next year.  Letters that ask people to give.  Letters that thank people for giving.  Some of these letters, like other posted and electronic mail, remain unopened.  Or if they are opened they have little impact.  I wonder if this is a casualty of churches focusing on the giving rather than the giver?  Yes, as a pastor I want people to give, but I want the people first.  As a minister of the gospel my first and foremost task is to edify the people I serve that they (that you!) are a person of worth, a person of character, a person of interest, and because of your attributes coupled with my understanding of faith, I and the church want to make an investment in you!  Then, together we can make an investment in others and this beautiful cycle of recognizing worth, investment, and creating legacies starts all over again.

Each person in the church is part of God’s legacy.  Each person on earth is part of God’s legacy!  As a part of God’s legacy, I want to do something that matters.  To me what matters is “proclaiming God’s might to all the generations to come.”  I want to proclaim to all God’s children that they are of worth, character, and interest.  How do I know?  Because God told me so.  How will I share what I have been told?  In any way I can – in letters, in emails, in handwritten notes, in sermons, in visits, in chats over coffee, and definitely at potlucks, in worship, in prayer, at bedsides and gravesides.   Long ago, people in the church – pastors, Sunday School teachers, choir directors, church ladies and more – recognized that I was part of God’s legacy and that my presence and participation was vital to the church.  Little did I know then that sharing this same message would be one of my greatest joys in life.  And sharing that message is part of my legacy of stewardship.

What legacy are you leaving?  What legacy would you like to leave?  How are you participating in God’s legacy?

Prayer: “O how sweet a walk in this pilgrim way, leaning on the everlasting arms; O how bright the path grows from day to day, leaning on the everlasting arms.  Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms; leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.”*  Amen.

*”Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 133.

Atonement: Offering For Sin

Sunday’s Scripture ~ Isaiah 52:13-53:12

My fabulous Hebrew Bible professor in seminary, Dr. David Petersen, taught me great love for a great many things.  Among them are mutton-chop sideburns, fly fishing, liver divination, and last but certainly not least, reception history.

(He also taught me a great love for Hebrew Bible…don’t worry!)

Reception history is evidence of how a biblical text has been received over time and how it has been recreated or remembered throughout history.  Reception history spans the world of the arts – literature, music, sculpture, theatre, poetry, painting, film, and more.

I believe a biblical text can be helped as well as harmed by reception history.  Helped because it draws people back towards the biblical narrative and engenders feelings of curiosity and exploration.  Harmed because sometimes folks do not make it back to the biblical text and take what they read or view at face value as what the biblical text says…which is why I stay away from most of what debuts on a certain television station that thinks it explores “history” but there is a whole lot more of “opinion” and “creative storytelling” than actual “fact.”  But I digress…

In 1741 George Frideric Handel composed his masterwork oratorio,  Messiah.  The oratorio is an extended reflection on Jesus Christ as Messiah – and an excellent example of a text’s reception history – singing through birth prophecies, his nativity, his passion, his crucifixion, his resurrection, and his exaltation.  I had the privilege to sing selections from this masterwork while in concert chorale during undergraduate.  The enormity of the piece – both its length and its meaning – remain on my heart to this day.

Four musical reflections in Messiah come from our Scripture passage for this week, which through the lens of the prophet Isaiah, gazes upon the humble yet extremely powerful offering of the suffering servant.  I have included the links to watch and listen to this scripture sung by mass choir.  May it be for all of us a meditative practice as we draw near to our study of Scripture this week.

Surely He Hath Borne Our Griefs – Isaiah 53:4-5

And With His Stripes We Are Healed – Isaiah 53:5

All We Like Sheep – Isaiah 53:6

He Was Cut Off Out Of The Land Of The Living – Isaiah 53:8

Prayer: “Man of Sorrows! what a name for the Son of God, who came ruined sinners to reclaim.  Hallelujah!  What a Savior!  Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned he stood; sealed my pardon with his blood.  Hallelujah!  What a Savior!  Guilty, vile, and helpless we; spotless Lamb of God was he; full atonement can it be?  Hallelujah!  What a Savior!  Lifted up was he to die; “It is finished” was his cry; now in heaven exalted high.  Hallelujah!  What a Savior!  When he comes, our glorious King, all his ransomed home to bring, then anew this song we’ll sing: Hallelujah!  What a Savior!”* Amen.

*”Hallelujah!  What a Savior,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 165.