mainestewards

August 18, 2013

Backpacks and Baptism

Filed under: Children and Families,Social Gospel,Time and Talent — by Lisa Meeder Turnbull @ 2:54 pm

I don’t know how to say this without sounding selfish. I know we’re shopping for donation and I know that my backpack is in good shape and I don’t need a new one. But I can’t help it—that tie-dye backpack is awesome.

And thus it was—right there in the middle of Target—that she encountered her baptism.

 You know what, Sweetheart? I’m glad you love that backpack. The fact that you love it tells me that it’s the perfect choice for our donation shopping. One of the things we talk about a lot in church is the dignity of all people and loving our neighbor as ourselves. Today that means picking out things that we would like to have for ourselves, not just choosing the one that’s least expensive, one that’s just OK. It means that we believe that just because someone’s family relies on the food bank, they shouldn’t have to settle for an ugly backpack.

Teachable moments aren’t just for kids. Mike Piazza, Co-Executive Director of the Center for Progressive Renewal, has one very strict rule for the congregations he pastors: In the back-to-school and holiday seasons, he does not permit financial contributions toward backpacks or food baskets. Anyone who wants to participate must take the shopping list provided in the bulletin/newsletter/website and actually do the shopping.

Piazza’s purpose is not to make giving harder. His purpose is to engage the congregation in hands-on baptismal thinking—he has a genuine pastoral desire for them to experience that moment in the aisle of the grocery store, when they reach for the cheaper store-brand stuffing and think, “I buy the name brand for my family’s Thanksgiving, but this is good enough for the food bank.” He wants them to wrestle with their truth-in-action when loving their neighbor as themselves would add up to a few extra dollars at the check-out.

In my effort to live as a whole and healthy steward of my own baptism, I have certainly wrestled with that truth myself…and with its counter-argument, “If I choose the less expensive one, I can donate more.” But even then, the answer is already contained in the covenant itself: I am vowed to love my neighbor as myself. So yes, I do choose an awesome backpack and I do buy name-brand stuffing for the Thanksgiving boxes. And during our Lenten mac-and-cheese challenge, I buy the same cheap stuff that Mallory’s friends gobble down at every sleepover—not only can I afford to give more that way, but it’s so much fun to watch the mac-and-cheese mountain grow each Sunday!

As many of our congregations are blessing backpacks and looking ahead to holiday baskets and giving trees, think about how these ministries invite us go grow in our baptismal journeys. What truths do you—or your congregation—need to wrestle with? Where does loving your neighbor as yourself trip you up? How do you practice whole and healthy stewardship, right there in the middle of Target?

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3 Comments »

  1. Lisa, this post “stepped on my toes!” I contributed cash for the back to school supplies rather than shopping. God certainly used you to speak to me today.

    Comment by Brenda — August 18, 2013 @ 3:24 pm |Reply

    • Well, cash does let the organizers shop to plug holes in what they take in–generosity is never wasted.

      Comment by Lisa Meeder Turnbull — August 18, 2013 @ 4:24 pm |Reply

  2. I love your message.

    One of our congregation’s core values is RESPECT. Your text for today points to RESPECT. When we give, we CAN give as we would give ourselves or our families……or better yet, as we would give to Christ, willingly.

    (Matt 25:40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’) along with (Deut 15:10 You shall give to him freely, and your heart shall not be grudging when you give to him, because for this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in all that you undertake.)

    Thank you!

    Comment by Dana — August 19, 2013 @ 5:29 am |Reply


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