“The gifts of God for the people of God, for the world.” This is the theme that the Stewardship Committee has chosen for this fall. The first part of the theme “the gifts of God for the people of God” comes from the communion liturgy. After the breaking of the bread and pouring the cup, the minister holds up the elements and says that these are the gifts of God for the people of God and then welcomes all to the Table. The words are ancient and profoundly true: when we come to the Lord’s Table, we are receiving God’s most precious gift – God’s own self in the presence of Jesus Christ who gives himself for our lives and for the life of the world. More broadly, these words remind us that everything we are is a gift from God: the fact that we are alive is not of our own doing. It is God’s free and gracious gift!
“What shall I return to the Lord for all God’s bounty to me?” asks the psalmist (Ps. 116:12). The simple answer is: we respond by how we live our lives. As we grow in faith, we respond to God’s generosity to us by growing generosity. This has both spiritual and material implications. Generosity of spirit is seen in how we love others, how ready we are to forgive, to welcome, to share. Generosity of material possessions follows. Sharing what we have is also a spiritual discipline.
People often ask: how much should I give? The biblical model is the “tithe” or 10% of one’s income. Deuteronomy 26 describes the people of Israel coming together at the harvest time each year and bringing the “first fruits” of the harvest as an offering of thanksgiving to God. How does this model work for us today? As you plan your household budget, you might begin by asking what percentage of your annual income are you now dedicating to philanthropy: the church, school or college or seminary, arts organizations, other charities? If you are not yet at 10%, what steps might you take to move toward that goal?
“The gifts of God … for the world.” Our gifts to Highland Presbyterian Church touch the world in many, many ways. As being part of this church shapes you (through worship, fellowship, and study), so you influence others outside the congregation by the way you live. Our church property is home to two institutions (Highland Nursery and Weekday School and Kentucky Refugee Ministries) and multiple support groups that shape and support the lives of hundreds of people every year. Our care of this property makes these other ministries possible. Our direct gifts serve families and children in Louisville who are in need, and they support the ministries of the Presbyterian Church regionally and around the world.
I feel privileged to respond to God’s generosity by supporting the ministry of this congregation. I hope and pray that you do as well.
Cynthia Campbell, Pastor