Dear MBCC Members and Friends:
This is your monthly email from me, in a continuing effort to keep you up-to-date on the finances of our Community. During February, those who pledged followed through – thank you! Our Pledges were right on track. Our Sunday morning offerings (non-pledges) were about half of what they were in January.
Last month I described very briefly that giving at MBCC does not come anywhere close to supporting our operations. Historically, we paid for our programs, staff and buildings with money that had been generously given in the past. Now, we are paying our bills from money paid to us by the developer. That is a tremendous blessing to help us through the short term, but we will be a healthier church if we participate in generosity to a greater extent. So far in 2016, our giving paid only 14% of the expenses of the church.
This month I’d like us to reflect a bit on a tradition, what it may have symbolized, and how we may think of it today. Each Sunday, the offering is collected and handed to Rev. Hunter, who takes it up the a piece of furniture that we call an “Altar”, raises it up in the air and prays. What is that all about?
First, what is an altar? The ancient Hebrews, like most early historic people, believed that God was angry over their wrong-doing. Because they saw him as offended and angry, they believed that he needed to be appeased with sacrifices then he would have mercy on them and not cause bad things to happen, like droughts, storms, death, wars, or bad government. So, with great fervor they brought their various animals and slaughtered them on an altar to appease this offended God, in hopes of a better life.
What Jesus taught us was that the character of God is anything but angry and offended. God may become angry at injustice and oppression, but today we generally believe that God’s very nature is love. We realize that God doesn’t live as an old man with a beard, sitting on a literal throne up above the sky, just waiting for an opportunity to cause a natural disaster. We now understand that God is Spirit, who lives within each of us. You may have heard: “we are the hands and feet of God”…it’s true. God usually acts by prompting each of us to act and carry out the loving increase of a relational system of living.
So, when we stand at the Altar and present the money we give to God, it isn’t that we are appeasing an angry or offended God in hopes that we’ll have a better life. That isn’t why we give. And when we lift up the money, none of us thinks that it magically gets sucked up above the sky into a place where God is. No, it shortly thereafter goes into the safe to be put in the bank and spent!
God isn’t somewhere else. God is within us as individuals, and more so as a community. So you express the loving character of God in your generosity. When we together lift up our gifts to God, we are symbolizing that together our resources go farther to bring about God’s kind of relational life, based in love on earth, for all people. We tangibly say we are participating with God in bringing about a new life.
So, let’s be as generous as the God inside of us is! Let’s give together to bend the moral arc of the universe towards justice.
Scott Shackleton, Treasurer