samedi, octobre 11, 2008

Article from last week

Giving, even in tough times, is a sound spiritual investment
You know the pain is there, even if you can't see it.The "auction" sign tacked up at a house we drive by on our way to church.The newspaper reports of sharp drops in production in the auto industry and slowdowns in manufacturing.And let's not even talk about the stock market.Behind all of these industries are people — parents who wonder how they are going to feed their children and pay the rent; teenagers worrying they won't be able to go to college; senior citizens seeing their retirement money diminish.
How should people of faith respond?Tempting as it might be, we cannot afford to wall ourselves off from others in this time of crisis, whether we have enough or are struggling.Our major faith traditions call us to help brothers and sisters in need. As we do so, we recognize how connected we are to them — how their well-being really is ours, too.Volunteering at food kitchens, adding another $10 or $20 to the check when we donate to local charities, checking on a neighbor who might need something done around his or her house can deepen our own sense of faith — and of gratitude.
Pondering the message of St. Paul's letter to the congregation in Philippi, Pastor Chad, the head of my church, nailed it when he wrote in a recent newsletter:"If the popular 'prosperity gospel' is wrong in promising that greater giving automatically leads to wealth and good fortune, another problem may be a 'scarcity gospel' that ignores what blessings we do receive when we give, such as a fuller experience of God and one another, a chance to connect with something larger and more important than ourselves, and the discovery that Jesus is right. In giving, even when it's hard, we receive — more than we thought possible."I asked a friend, the pastor of a rural Methodist church, whether the economic crisis was affecting his congregation. While there hasn't been a lot of talk about it in congregational meetings, he said that his church would probably donate part of the proceeds of a recent fair to a couple. The man was ill and his wife had recently been laid off from work.When ties of neighborly love link a community, then giving and receiving can become profound blessings.Whether we are hurting financially or in decent shape, citizens of faith are facing another, more subtle challenge in this time of trial.Judging by what we hear from our elected representatives, many of us feel betrayed — by the bankers who bet our money on bad debt, by the mortgage broker who trusted we wouldn't read the fine print, by the boss who decided he or she couldn't make payroll anymore.Righteous anger is natural, and often justified. Jesus, for one, didn't ask us to maintain zombie-like calm in the face of injustice. Nor do the Hebrew prophets, for that matter. But Jesus does call on us to try to sit down with those who have wronged us, if possible. And if we cannot do that, he commands us to forgive them.That doesn't mean we have to like them. But it does mean that our actions in these difficult times should not be motivated by a desire for revenge.In an e-mail, Pastor Chad recalled some verses from Philippians that he has found particularly helpful as he, and we, walk in the valley of uncertainty."…I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength (Philippians 4:11b-13)."Let us pray for the spiritual strength that draws us closer to our neighbors and renews the bonds of trust that we need as individuals and as a nation.Let us also beseech God for the contentment that does not deny fear, or anxiety, but knows that He is at our side — and on it.

The Focus on Faith column appears on the first Saturday of each month.

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