November 29, 2011


Filed under: Financial Commitment,Lectionary — by Lisa Meeder Turnbull @ 5:30 pm


His conception was foretold by the very same Gabriel who appeared to Mary.

He was filled with the Holy Spirit even before his birth.

He leapt in Elizabeth’s womb upon hearing Mary’s voice.

He was destined to become the prophet of the Most High.

We meet him in this week’s Gospel:  a grown man, and a total nut case.

Look at him!

He lives in the wild;

Matthew and Mark can barely bring themselves to call his hair tunic “clothing”;

He lives on honey and the occasional insect;

And we can make some assumptions about his personal hygiene.

Most of us, if we are honest, have at some point crossed the street to avoid this guy.

And yet, like many whom society finds odd or threatening, there is truth in John’s rant: baptism is so much more than some water on our skin.

“I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. His baptism – a holy baptism by the Holy Spirit – will change you from the inside out.” (The Message)

The One who will come after….

It’s very close….

In just three short weeks we’ll be wearing our special Christmas clothes, holding candles, singing Silent Night. And a few weeks after that, we’ll celebrate the Baptism of Jesus, renewing our own baptismal covenant as part of the morning’s service.

And so in this season of Advent, this time of getting ready, John dares us to ask ourselves: What does it mean to turn our old lives in for a kingdom life? How are we—the 118th generation to share in the sacrament of baptism—changed from the inside out?

As baptized Christians, we share in God’s call to live a life of genuine stewardship.

Stewardship is so much more than “giving money to the church.” Even the catch-phrase “time, talent and treasure” doesn’t capture its fullness. Stewardship, put simply, is all that we do, with all that we have, after we say, “I believe.”

We are called to the holy caretaking of all God’s richness in our lives:

To proclaim the mystery of faith….

To celebrate the memorial of our redemption….

To make known by word and example the Good News of God in Christ….

To serve Christ in others, love our neighbor as ourselves, strive for justice and peace, and respect the dignity of every human being….

In these moments, we hold within us the kingdom life, the power and the promise that comes from being changed from the inside out.

One of the many ways we express this power and promise is through the parish budget. .

The budget is not a financial outline of what the vestry expects to take in and how they predict they will spend it. It is a living document of our faith. It expresses our values. It explains how we, the people of God in our communities and congregations, will act on our commitment to proclaim the Good News of God in Christ beyond our walls, beyond our borders, and even beyond our understanding. For congregations in transition, the budget sends and even clearer message: This is who we are; this is the ministry we share, by faith, with thanksgiving.

In these final weeks of the calendar year, the first weeks of a new liturgical year, you have likely been invited to pledge a portion of your abundance to the mission and shared ministry of your congregation. This is not something you are asked to do as a kindness to the Treasurer. It is an invitation that is nothing less than an opportunity to turn in your old way of thinking for a new way of celebrating the work of the Holy Spirit in your life and in your midst.

So do yourselves a spiritual favor—don’t just put down last year’s number, or pick a random amount that feels affordable. Engage in prayerful discernment. Reflect deeply on how you are called to live out your own baptismal vows through the “kingdom life” of the congregation.

Discover the joy and gladness that comes from bringing the first fruits of your life and labor to the Lord, so that whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is worthy of praise may be released.

Pray also that the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds as you await the One who will change you from the inside out.


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