September 13 - 19, 2004



If you put an end to oppression, to every gesture of contempt, and to every evil word; if you give food to the hungry and satisfy those who are in need, then the darkness around you will turn to the brightness of noon. And I will always guide you and satisfy you with good things. I will keep you strong and well. You will be like a garden that has plenty of water, like a spring of water that never goes dry. Your people will rebuild what has long been in ruins, building again on the old foundations. You will be known as the people who rebuilt the walls, who restored the ruined houses.

Isaiah 58:9-12


‘The people who rebuilt the walls’


Read the Isaiah passage above again. Breathtaking, isn’t it?


Imagine if your church read these verses before every worship service, every church council meeting, every congregational gathering. Would folks wring their hands and say, “But what can we do about poverty and homelessness?”


The passage serves as the mission statement for Bethel New Life in Chicago, one of the nation’s most successful faith-based community development agencies now celebrating its 25th year. (This week’s Gleanings has two profiles of Bethel worth checking out.) 


Bethel proves that the promises God makes through Isaiah are true. Bethel New Life began as a ministry of Bethel Lutheran Church in Chicago’s riot-devastated West Side. What started with $5,000 in church funds to renovate a dilapidated three-flat apartment building has since grown to a highly respected agency employing hundreds, working with a multi-million-dollar budget and witnessing to the power of faith in Jesus the Christ.


In its 25 years, Bethel has provided 1,100 units of affordable housing, helped 7,000 people to find good jobs, helped steer millions of dollars worth of investment into a needy community and helped untold thousands to get substance-abuse therapy, medical care, groceries, legal assistance and, most of all, hope.


Bethel proves that when God’s faithful people get moving, God gets behind them in a big way. So to answer the hand-wringers, it's not what we do about poverty and homelessness; it's what God does through us


--Rob Blezard, Webmaster and Editor



 New this week: Sept. 13 - 19



 The Bible and Money
Pastors, start your stewardship sermons! Generous Giving has a handy index of Bible stories and passages related to stewardship. For sermon illustrations, look up some fund-raisers in the Bible or generous givers, false givers, money advisors, etc.  From Generous Giving.



 Generous alternatives to tithing
 "I believe the era of the church being the established temple of the people, if it ever did exist in that sense, is over.  That does not mean the message of Jesus no longer needs to be proclaimed.  It is just that as we need to explore new ways to do evangelism -- that is, to get the word out -- maybe we need to explore new ways to support the ministry." In Dana Reardon's weekly reflection.



  20-Day Stewardship Devotional
Good for your stewardship committee, congregation council or general membership, here is a resource that will get your folks thinking and brainstorming. Each Bible-based daily devotion challenges and inspires. From Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York City. PDF file requires Acrobat Reader. Click here for your free copy of Acrobat.




Giving hilariously: No-nonsense stewardship
 “For God loves a cheerful giver,” St. Paul writes in Cor. 9:6-7. When greed is in charge, we cling to money and possessions as if they were permanently ours. When we rise above greed, we give to God's work 'hilariously.' The Greek word we translate 'cheerful' is 'hilarious.' Paul challenges us to give 'hilariously.' That means giving spontaneously and giving joyfully. The Macedonians rose above greed by giving hilariously. So can we!” By the Rev. Ron Lavin in the Lutheran Laity Movement Archives