“To set our hearts on the kingdom therefore means to make the life of the Spirit within and among us the center of all we think, say, or do.” (Henri Nouwen)
This last month of the year finds us, as usual, worried about financial things in the church. As our fiscal year comes to its end, it’s a race to see if we can cover our ministry expenses. We hope to finish well! Along with that, we depend on giving pledges for year next budget planning. We hope to start a new year strong!
There is much that conspires against us moving forward into another year finishing well and starting strong. Current estimates are that post-pandemic (who knows when that will be?) levels of participation and giving to churches will greatly diminish, that will see a new permanent 40 percent drop. This pandemic will forever re-shape church life. Part of this is necessary and good, and some of this change will be very difficult. Add to this our own current discernment process, which is both energizing and exhausting — and makes for an intense season of community life and ministry. Some of us are captivated by contemplating new seasons ahead of life and ministry, and others are concerned we’ll never get there together.
In the midst of this all, we might choose to be people of hope; we might decide to double-down, go all-in on gratitude and joy. We might choose hope, even if defiantly so. We might fall apart, but we also might decide to re-commit ourselves to Christ and to one another in a manner of which the balladeer Bruce Cockburn sings: “But nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight/got to kick at the darkness ’til it bleeds daylight.” (Lovers In a Dangerous Time, 1984). Maybe we can come together to finish well and start strong in these next couple of weeks.
Stina’s coming home Friday. Can’t wait! And now I’m thinking about one night about fifteen years ago when I came home from a tough meeting, in the midst of a hard chapter in our church journey. I was really discouraged, maybe even really despairing, until I came up the stairs and found Stina singing in her room as if the whole world would hear it: “All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above, so thank the Lord, thank the Lord for all his love.” (Godspell via James 1:17). Her spirit infected me with gratitude and joy, and got me through those tough days. I was able to live, even then, from a place of plenty to give thanks for.
And that’s my hope for these days, that we together can see and be light in the darkness, that we might choose to hope still, even still now! That gratitude might carry us to the end of this year and into a new one, with thanks for this particular Winnetka Covenant Church family, and that our financial giving and planning might give us hope.
Love From here