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 We always expect pastors to make sacrifices and to be willing to live frugally for the sake of the Gospel.  I am sure the pastor of my Grandfather's church did. But everyone sacrificed to make sure the church was still there.


Weekly Reflection: Pastor Dana Reardon
June 20, 2005

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Opening our hearts and pocketbooks

'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

--Matthew 22:37

 
My Grandfather was not a rich man.  He was a blacksmith. None of the people around him was rich either.  He grew up in Denmark.  He came to this country as a young man and settled in a Danish town in Iowa.
 
He was a deacon in the church.  He raised to kids on a blacksmith's earnings.  When he died we found his ledger for one year.  He had given over a third of his earnings to the church.
 
I have been having musings about this kind of dedication because of a struggle that a church I know is going through.  At this church, giving dropped drastically after a dispute over doctrine and worship style split the congregation.  So the pastor was asked to take first a $1,000-a-month and then a $1,500-a-month cut in pay.  When that was not going to work, the announcement was made that the church would close in September.
 
My thoughts are that we always expect pastors to make sacrifices and to be willing to live frugally for the sake of the Gospel.  I am sure the pastor of my Grandfather's church did.  He probably lived on chickens and baskets of corn given as offerings.  But everyone sacrificed to make sure the church was still there.
 
I have been wondering if the members of this church that I have been praying for love their church even a third as much as my Grandfather loved his.  What would happen if they all began to tithe?  What could happen there? 
 
Perhaps the pastor wouldn't mind a small pay cut if everyone were sacrificing to keep things going and to renew the ministry in that place.

Can you imagine the excitement in the place if everyone tithed and the church could stay open? 

 
So many churches I know are facing deficits, though perhaps not as large as this congregation's.  Parishioners wring their hands and worry as if they don't know where the money should come from.  Instead we should all open our hearts in prayer, and then open our pocketbooks.'
 
Luther said that the hardest conversion is the pocketbook.  It would be a shame if it took a church on the brink of closing to open our pocketbooks.
 
It would be a bigger shame if even that didn't open our hearts and our pocketbooks.  What will it take to open yours?
 

Let us pray,

Lord, all that we have and all that we are belongs to you.  Open our hearts and our hands to give what you would have us give to your work in this world. 
Amen
 
Author's note: I wrote this column in longhand on the plane to Seattle.  Since then I have talked to the wife of the pastor of the church I talk about.  She said she is praying for a miracle.  It occurs to me that sometimes the miracle we need is God giving us all the courage and the strength to step up and do what we can do and give what we really are called to give. 

 

 

 Copyright (c) 2005, The Rev. Dana Reardon. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Email her at mspastor@aol.com.
 

The Rev. Dana Reardon is pastor at St. Paul Evangelical Lutheran Church, Warwick, RI.  A lifelong Lutheran, she came to ordained ministry after 21 years in nursing, mostly in pediatric intensive care.  She graduated from Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia in 1998 and served 4 years in Upstate New York before becoming a New Englander.  She is still trying to understand the accent.  While in the Upstate New York Synod she chaired the Stewardship Team.  That began her fascination with what makes stewards -- and more, what makes for generosity. She has three amazing daughters: Pastor Reardon says much of what she knows of life she learned from them.