RECIPIENTS OF A GIFT
You may be, like me, surrounded by reminders that you have received gifts from those who preceded you. One paperweight on my desk was given to me by my maternal grandfather, Bill Owen, and it is teak from the deck of the U.S.S. Indiana. There is another paperweight, given to me by my mom, Anita, and it has a piece of wood from the original beam in Wesley’s Chapel on City Road in London.
It’s not just the paperweights they gave me, though. My Grandpa helped me learn to love others, enjoy music, and his appreciation for the world of politics rubbed off on me. My Mom taught me the story of God’s love, in Jesus, in a way that has shaped the rest of my life. She taught me that when you love people you show up and you serve. My Mom also taught me how to enjoy milkshakes, Lucille Ball, and she mentored me in the art of being 5 minutes late everywhere I go.
There are other gifts in my office. There is a gray sheep -not black or white- that Carrie Newcomer made for me when she once used my office in Elkhart as her dressing room before a concert. There is a small vase from Central America, an angel holding a bouquet of flowers, and there is a picture of Ella and Olivia (two amazing gifts!).
We are the recipients of gifts.
The Church of the Wesley Foundation of Indiana University
There is a worship bulletin from First Methodist Episcopal Church (of Bloomington) on my desk. The paper has yellowed since the bulletin was for a service on May 30, 1926. Clarence E. Flynn was the Minister, George E. Schlafer was the University Worker, and Miss Helen English was the Pastor’s Assistant, the front of the bulletin says. There is a picture of the church building, and it shows the building the way it was over a decade before the disastrous fire that consumed the sanctuary.
The thing that strikes me about the bulletin is so much of the information has to do with children’s and college ministries. The congregation of First Methodist Episcopal Church, three years before the Great Depression, was all about children, youth and reaching out to the Indiana University campus.
The congregation, some ninety years ago, worked, prayed and gave money so that we might receive the gift of a Christ-centered community passionate about loving, welcoming, and discipline new generations.
We are the recipients of the gifts they gave.
My prayer is that you will remember how others blessed us as you consider what you will give to God in 2018. The opportunities to shape the future by loving and disciplining new generations is exciting but we can only do it when we each give our best.
The announcements in the worship bulletin from 1926 point out that “Children’s Day” is observed “to further interest in and help provide means for the education of our young people.”
The offering on that Sunday was to be divided into three parts, and each part was to be used solely for the ministries to children and youth: one third would go to a loan fund to help worthy students; one third would go to building a cottage at the church-owned campground at Riverdale; one third would go to support the Sunday school at First Methodist Episcopal Church in Bloomington.
Two different youth groups were meeting at the church (they were called “Epworth League”), and then there is a whole section in the bulletin listing all the gifts church members have been giving to support the Wesley Foundation (campus ministry). One family gave the stunning sum of $10,000, and there was a range of fits down to a gentleman who pledged to give “$1 a week—a lot of money in those days—”until further notice.”
First Methodist was leaning forward back in 1926.
The only full-time member of the pastoral or program staff, other than the Pastor was the “Associate for University Work.” More than one-half of the staff resources were given to ministry outreach beyond the local congregation. People at First Methodist weren’t preoccupied with the needs of their own groups but they wanted to change the world!
The people of First Methodist were giving it forward!
Give – It – Forward
“How do I do this?” is the question we ask when we first put on skis, pick up a watercolor paintbrush, or try fly fishing.
Last Sunday, in a meeting with some people who are considering joining the church, we talked about giving.
How do we give?
We are to give cheerfully, the Bible says.
We are to give our best, the first fruits of the harvest, and not the leftovers.
We are to give sacrificially; Jesus reminds us as he points out the widow giving all she has. (Giving is always, first, a matter of the heart…an expression of our love.)
We are to give 10% or a tithe, we are told. Doctors talk about “good numbers” in terms of blood pressure and cholesterol, and God knows that life works best and our soul is healthiest when we give at least 10% back to God so good things can happen in the world.
Paul, in 2nd Corinthians 9, says this: “What I mean is this: the one who sows a small number of seeds will also reap a small crop, and the one who sows a generous amount of seeds will also reap a generous crop. Everyone should give whatever they have decided in their heart. They shouldn’t give with hesitation or because of pressure. God loves a cheerful giver.”
Recipients of a gift
That yellowing worship bulletin from 1926 has been on my desk for months. Why? Because it reminds me who we have been. It is a call to mission and outreach. It points us to our future.
Join others in doing something great this Sunday morning as we Give – It – Forward.
See you in worship this Sunday as we continue THE STORY! Remember that our worship schedule is Morning Connect at 8:45 and Classic Worship at 10 (both in the sanctuary). The Open Door, our contemporary/informal worship gathering, is at 11:15 in the Buskirk-Chumley Theater.
Our college outreach ministry, Jubilee, happens on Wednesday nights at 7:30 pm at the Bloomington Sandwich Company on Kirkwood (we’ll buy your meal!).
CHRISTMAS EVE DAY WORSHIP SCHEDULE
Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday this year.
Our worship team has confirmed that the worship schedule will include two services in the Sanctuary on December 24th at 9 and 11 a.m. The Family Service will be 5 pm, a simple service of Communion (you can come and go if you like) will be in the Chapel from 8:15-8:45, and then there will be a Service of Lessons & Carols in the Sanctuary at 9 pm.
It’s a good time to begin thinking about who you will invite to join you for worship in Advent as we focus on the sermon series “Broken Darkness” and then talk with them about Christmas Eve!