A Methodist, a Presbyterian, and a Catholic walk into a restaurant and . . . talk about their church’s mortgage payments, heating bills, and pledge levels. There is a discrepancy between the numbers. But the conversation is absolutely frank, for the first time, though the ministers have known each other for years.
Since the election, we’re hearing lots of money talk. Could this be a good thing? Jesus talked about money a lot.
I have flashes of hopeful thinking: we’ll all learn to conserve, and some of the stratification between haves/have nots will disappear. But just when I’m hopeful that change is on the horizon, the experts jump in to assure us that the economy will right itself before we have to adapt to painful new behaviors.Is it painful to be conscious of how much we drive, or to have people over for a meal instead of eating out?
As many of you do, I practice tithing. I preach abundance. Usually I believe it. But sometimes I get worried about money. (Moment of truth: my husband and I have not one, but two daughters in college.) These are strange times we’re living in, economically.
But surely we realize that gifts come in strange packages, and paradox is good. As a lectionary preacher I’ve spent all fall preaching parables out of Matthew. Throw her out of the wedding banquet! If he won’t forgive, then torture him! Have faith like yeast! Don’t you know you can’t share your oil!
Preaching parables teaches us to look for the twist. Well, right now our economy has us in a twist. I just asked my congregation to consider doubling their pledges this year. Crazy talk! They won’t do it of course.And why should they?
At the same time, I’ve been asking an even harder question: Why don’t we all just disband and join those Catholics and Methodists? They have nice buildings (as opposed to our ramshackle ones) and are sweating the mortgage payments. Does it make sense for us to try to build when we can’t even afford a full-time minister? Why do we exist?
I honestly don’t think I’m the one to answer that question for my congregation.But I know it’s the right question. Why do we exist? In these economic times, the question takes on a note of urgency, and I’m hoping the answers will become more real.
Why does your church exist?