We spent 3 years coming to Federated before joining last year. I could say, not joining earlier was a scheduling issue. But revealing more, I admit that the idea of being a faith or stewardship witness completely terrified me!
I feared I would have nothing to say.
Lately, I’ve had an imminent feeling that I would soon be asked to be before you – and I was secretly okay with this.
Why we joined and why we give is best explained through some little stories.
We first started coming here because Lisa wanted a deeper spiritual connection for herself and our family. We experimented with other places but didn’t really, “feel it” as Mark Simone might say. We enjoyed Federated. Nonetheless, early on, different among us would make weak excuses for not coming. We were “too busy”, “had too much homework”, or just “needed to chillax”. But, Lisa held strong and excuses began melting away.
Anna went through confirmation this year. Parents attended some sessions led by Mark and Tony and I was lucky enough to be with Anna when we discussed the Fruit of the Spirit.
I will never forget the happiness that enveloped Anna when her friends shared that the fruit that most embodied her, was “joy”. She lit up with a beaming smile when she realized she gave joy to others. That night around the dinner table, Anna led the same discussion. “Hey Lance, which fruit do you think best embodies you?” “Hey Beckett”, she said, “Which do you think best describes Mom, and why?”
When it comes to words, Lance is more Hemingway than Tolstoy. When I ask him why he loves coming here, he says, “I just like it”. He cherishes his time with the JOY group and Marty, gets immense satisfaction out of helping others, and found spiritual enlightenment while summiting a 13k foot peak in Colorado as the sun rose over a herd of elk. He and his friends
agreed, “What other reason does one need to believe in God?”
Beckett came downstairs early a few Sundays ago, dressed in a nice collared shirt, his hair combed and calmed – which is quite a feat! I asked, “What are you doing?”; he replied, “I just want to be ready to go to church.” He used to be petrified to come on this stage for ‘time with children’. But recently, he strode forward without looking back for reassurance.
While our kids love the ‘treats’ in Fellowship Hall, they come because they feel the presence of God and unconditional love. Lisa and I have a hand in this for sure, but we have only exposed them to you, and it is you who have enlightened them.
My mom and dad came here with us Sunday September 17th. My dad preferred a Catholic mass. I wanted to tell him that he’d benefit more from hearing Hamilton or Susi, but I refrained. In the end, he couldn’t get his iPhone to locate the nearest church (I feel only a bit ashamed for not helping him but knew it was for his own good!).
Hamilton serendipitously spoke about God’s inactions. If you were here, you will no doubt recall the telling of 24-year-old Alex who drove his car off a bridge in Boston. The father admonished a friend who said, “I just don’t understand the will of God.” “It was not God’s will that Alex died”, his father said, “God is not a master puppeteer but rather chooses freedom for us
and choice from which love springs. God’s heart was the first to break when the final water washed over Alex’s car.”
My dad lost his father prematurely 50 years ago, and he has never understood why God did that, or why he didn’t intervene, or why she left a widow with 11 children. As we exited the pew, my dad wept openly to me. Tears flowed down his checks as he told me, in his happiness, that he finally understood that God had neither allowed his father to die nor
taken his father away. In fact, “God’s heart was the first to break”.
What is it worth to me, that my father can wash away 50 years of pain and doubt in 20 minutes in our church?
As for me, every Sunday for years when I speak the Lord’s prayer and say, “…as we forgive those who sin against us”, I have chipped away at trying to forgive a colleague at work. I am delighted to share today that I have forgiven him and it is a liberating feeling.
What I know, is that when we come here, my entire family experiences peace and mindfulness. This is our oasis in a sea of busyness and of expectations we feel we have little control over. We always leave with a spring in our step and with joy in our hearts.
On the topic of giving, the days I like the least here are those October sermons rich with requests for our commitment. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of people always calling and asking for money.
But on reflection, I know the ask would not be constant and strong, if it were not required. And when I search my heart, and reflect on why we come here and why we give, I know there is no better or more important commitment that we can make. I cannot value the increased enrichment that my family and I have received by being welcomed and bettered by all of you.
And for that, I say, “Thank you”. But I also say, “Let us give, and give now, and generously, so that we can get on with being enlightened, more joyous, and better servants.”
Let us pray.
Dear Lord, reveal to us in our reflection the vast gifts we receive from you, this church and our family here. Inspire us, in our gratefulness, to share back generously so that we may be even more fulfilled. In the Lords name, we pray, Amen.