March 1 - 7, 2004



Signs of Hope


In a world where it avarice and violence seem to devour every good at every turn, it's easy to lose hope. But in his famous hymn of 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, St. Paul assures us that three things of God abide: Faith, hope and love.


Maybe it's for this reason one astute reader commented that this space seems preoccupied with the negative news in the world of politics and economics. The more I thought about it, the more I had to agree. (Thanks, Dad!)


We are, after all, people of faith whose counter-cultural, radical beliefs are utter foolishness to the rest of the world. That means that in Christ we have hope no matter how much our adversary tries to sour us with despair.


This week's Gleanings show how God's people are putting that hope into action. Among them: In Portsmouth, R.I., schoolchildren made over 1,000 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a charity. In Ann Arbor, Mich.,walkers raised $56,000 to help poor families pay heating bills. In Springfield, Mo., an ecumenical group is building hundreds of houses for poor Nicaraguans.


Yes, we live in a sin-sick world, but we live - defiantly, and despite the world's omnipresent evil and pessimism - with faith, love and hope.


-Rob Blezard, Webmaster and editor,



New This Week, Feb. 23 - 29


 Zacchaeus, Patron Saint of Stewards

 "Zacchaeus did not promise to read scripture more faithfully nor to attend the synagogue more regularly. On this occasion he was not pledging his time or his talent to the programmatic mission of the faith community. Worthy as those are -- and necessary for the life of the people of God -- this visit was about something else. This commitment was to re-order his financial priorities and his stewardship of material things. " By the Rev. Glenn Schoonover, from the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives.



8-Week Program: With God's Permission
Here's a complete resource for a congregation to begin using an asset-based approach to financial stewardship. "This simple program can help your congregation fund Godís mission in a fresh and exciting manner, providing enjoyment and energy to the task of asking for and receiving commitments for financial support from your congregation members." Available for free PDF download.  From the ELCA Division for Congregational Ministries.



 Decisions Before It's Too Late
In this day when the majority of our health care dollars are spent at the end of our lives when the quality is poor, I believe that every Christian should have a living will and designate someone to make decisions for them.  That someone should know the wishes of the person so the burden of the decision is not left up to someone else. In Dana Reardon's weekly reflection.


 Digging Deeper: Money and Your Heart
The third Gospel has a great deal to say about how Christians are to handle finances. "Money can make it hard for an independently minded person to admit his need and dependently trust Christ for eternal salvation. Luke 18:18-30 does not teach that giving to the poor will merit oneís salvation. Other New Testament passages make it clear that salvation is not the result of good works (Rom. 4:1-3; 5:1; Eph. 2:8-9). Luke simply illustrates how riches can hinder a relationship with God." By Mark L. Bailey of Dallas Theological Seminary, in Moody Magazine.



 Look for God's Spring Blessings
"God's gifts come to us in such innocuous ways at times it is hard to notice. Hidden in the daily routines of life, the sunshine, the rain, mowing the grass, is a story of God's silent care (Matthew 6:30). Unless we make a conscious effort, we can miss these signs of God's grace. The wonderful thing is, the blessings don't depend on whether or not we notice. God gives them freely to all (see Matthew 5:45; 10:8)."  StewardLife from the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod