The Mission of the Twelve
Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere
~ Luke 9:1-6 (NRSV)
We did something in Household Huddle this morning that may not seem out of the ordinary on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, but it’s something that I want to share with all of you. We talked about the things that we are thankful for. Of course, we were all thankful for our families and friends, our pets, our homes, our schools, and having enough food. But then I asked everyone to think about what they were thankful for when it came to our church. And that is what all these Post-It notes hanging all around me are about. Just in case you can’t see them from your seat, they say things like “fellowship” and “learning about God,” “lighting candles” and “reading in worship,” “friends and family” and “pews to sit on.” They mention having a place to belong, a place where everybody can help, a place to have fun where you can just be you. They were thankful for ringing the bell and for all the different kinds of music that we have in worship. Of course, for donuts after church, and for the playroom. They were thankful for the activities that bring everyone together, like our suppers and the fair.
Now I know that some of you may be thankful that the fair is over! Though don’t forget, we do have the vendor fair coming up on December 1st. Ah, the weekend of the fair! I know that many of you are exhausted because a lot of hard work and energy went into pulling the fair together, as it does every year. And to be honest, the fair is always stressful for everyone. I have to say, I don’t have a single clergy friend that doesn’t start to worry around the time of their church fair. Not that they won’t raise enough money, but they worry because parishioners often get burned out. Feelings get hurt and relationships begin to crumble. Ah, the church!
But the truth is, everyone works hard at the fair to make sure that the church has enough money to make the budget at the end of the year, to make sure that we can pay our bills and heat our sanctuary and keep the doors open. But I’ve been doing a lot of thinking recently. I wonder, what would our church look like if we simply had enough? Think about that for a minute. What would this church look like if we simply had enough? Would there be more people in our pews? Or money in our offering plate? Would we do more mission work? Or have a bigger staff?
Would we no longer need to do fundraising? Or would we have a big Sunday school? Would we hire people to take care of our building or start renovation projects to update our space? What would it look like to have enough? Friends, these are merely questions, and to be honest, I don’t have the answers.
Now I know that this is going to sound like a funny statement to make on our Pledge and Promise Sunday, but it is something that I strongly believe. Friends, money will not solve all our problems, and money will never make us feel like we have enough.
My husband always tells the story of a reporter who was interviewing JD Rockefeller, who is often referred to as the wealthiest American of all time, since he was a billionaire in the early 1900s. The reporter asked him, “How much money is enough?” To which he responded, “Just a little bit more.”
I also think about a conversation that I had with Carole Baker, the pastor of the Central Congregational Church in Attleboro Falls. Several years ago, an elderly member of their church passed away and left them a million dollars! A million dollars! Can you imagine! Many parishioners thought that their prayers had been answered! Now they would have enough money to fix their bell tower. They wouldn’t have to constantly ask their parishioners to give more and they would have so much more time because they wouldn’t have to do so much fundraising. It was going to be wonderful! They could finally stop worrying because they would have enough! And it was true that they could pay their bills, and that they had enough money to fix their clock tower and even their front steps. But unfortunately, no one could decide how to do any of those things. You see, the small congregation that used to join together to work hard for their church suddenly began arguing and fighting. It was wonderful that money was no longer an issue, but they had lost sight of who and whose they were and why they were at the church in the first place.
Friends, one of the things that makes Oldtown the amazing place that it is, is the way that everyone works together and shares a piece of not only who they are, but also what they have. From our young people who help us to ask questions and to look at the world with a sense of wonder and awe to our older members who carry with them years of wisdom and insight. And from our long-time members who carry on the history and the experience of how things have been done before to our newer visitors and friends who share a fresh new look at the possibilities here in Oldtown.
Friends, are we always going to get along? No. Are we always going to agree on how things should be done? No. Are we always going to struggle with our budget and feel like we don’t have enough people helping out? Probably because that is human nature. We never think we have enough, but our faith tells us something different.
Friends, Jesus tells us that not only do we have enough, but that we, ourselves, are enough. Do you remember what Jesus said to the disciples in our scripture reading today as he sent them out to share the good news with the world? Just go! “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic.” And then he reminded them not to worry about what other people say and do, but to do what is right, what He taught them to do. Scripture says, “Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town, shake the dust off your feet.”
Folks, this is a very hard-working church, and it’s a church that loves and cares not only for its own but also for its community and the world. But we have to remember in the midst of all of our hard work and fundraising, and as we prepare our promises and our pledges for the coming year, that we are disciples of Jesus, and that we are here because of our faith in him.
Friends, we are blessed beyond measure here in Oldtown and we have an abundance of gifts to share if we simply focus on the joys all around us, on the love between us, and on the things that we are thankful for. Those things will help us as we work on building up each other and our church and our community and the world instead of breaking it down.
Just think, we don’t have a mortgage on our building. We don’t have outstanding bills. We don’t have big staffing costs. We keep our expenses to a minimum. We think before we spend, and we do our best to share our time, our talents, and our treasures to the best of our ability.
So, brothers and sisters in Christ, as you fill out your pledge and promise card for the coming year, I hope and pray that you and your family can give out of a sense of joy. Please, don’t give out of a sense of guilt or obligation, but instead, think about what this church and your faith brings to your life and then give out of an honest sense of gratitude. Search your heart for what you feel is enough and then
thank God for giving you the ability to share.
My friends, may it be so, thanks be to God, Amen!