Why is the work of the church worth funding?
This was the question asked of the Synod Council in March because despite good and hard and faithful work by our Mission Support team, giving to the synod has gone down, and it is getting harder and harder to do the work of the church. The reality is that a decrease in mission support to the synod indicates an overall decrease in the giving at our churches, First Lutheran Church included. So, as leaders in our synod, we were asked why is this work worth funding. Not worth doing but worth funding. As I pondered the answer to this question, I found myself going to places within me that I don’t often go. The truth is we can all give the pat answers to this question, but those answers aren’t working. Our Mission Support team wasn’t asking for those answers either; they want to know why are we doing this hard work, why is the work of our church worth funding. So deep reflection was required to come up with an answer that was real and honest.
When I was younger, I worked hard to be loved. I did just about everything I knew how to make sure I knew I was worth something. I put on the perfect mask, I pretended to be older and wiser, tried to be what I thought people wanted me to be. I was very impressionable as I sought out love. Love was elusive; worth was nearly non-existent in my world. I was an overweight, curly-haired, bando from Santa Ana and in my mind, that didn’t amount to much of anything. Yet there was always something tugging at my soul, calling me to the divine and to worship. Even as I became one of those uber active people in the church, though, I felt like I had to be perfect and shiny. It wasn’t until I was in seminary, sitting in Lutheran Theology, that this attitude began to change. It didn’t happen overnight, but I still vividly remember the moment when I finally understood the depth of God’s love for me. There I was, 30 years of age and just discovering God’s love, not only for me but for all people. For free. Love and grace and mercy and forgiveness and wisdom and joy were mine for the taking. That moment changed my life and after some therapy and spiritual direction and prayer and study, I no longer work so hard because I know I am loved. No matter what. You may have heard me say that before, and I suppose at some point it may start to sound trite, but for me, it is a deep truth that has changed the way I move through this world and how I see people. I am loved, you are loved, no matter what.
When this is my core value and truth, then the life of my neighbor matters as much as mine. The words of Jesus to love your neighbor takes on a wholly different weight. This core truth says everything about what is required of me. I am only one person, though. I cannot possibly do all the work required to live into this deep love God has for all people. This is why the work of the church is worth funding; because over any other organization, the church looks after all the needs of the people. When my offering to First Lutheran Church is shared with yours and we then share that with the synod, to be joined with the mission support of other churches and then a portion of that money is shared with our churchwide organization who then, on our behalf, feeds the hungry, gives drink to the thirsty, clothes the naked, welcomes the stranger and visits the sick and imprisoned, the work of Jesus is being done. Then others know the life-changing love that I know deep in my soul, and it doesn’t matter that I will never see or know them. God does.
I was loved as a child and deeply so. I was worth much to those who knew me, but I couldn’t see it for reasons that I won’t go into now. The mission of the church is to make sure that people know beyond a doubt that the creator of the world loves them. No matter where they live, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation or what name they use for God, they are loved. That is worth my money and my time and my heart. It is worth yours.
I hope you consider the question of why the church’s mission is worth funding, and that in the midst of this consideration, God begins to open your heart to new truths and ways of being. As we consider together, I hope you share your stories so that we can grow in being intentionally faithful in our lives.