Monday, December 24, 2012

Cheese Nips

The other day I was eating lunch with my son Charlie.
I reached over on to his plate and took a cheese nip off and ate it myself.
“Hey, that is my cheese nip!” he said.
I replied, “Excuse me. Did you get a job I don’t know about?
I believe I paid for those Cheese nips so they are really mine.”
To prove my point I started to eat more off his plate.
He looked at me and said, “Dad those aren’t your cheese nips they are God’s.”
Both Charlie and I learned a lesson that day.
The things we have don’t belong to us.
They are merely on loan from God.
We get to use them for God’s glory.
And yet we often act like we own them.
Like we deserve the things we have.

I know as a parent I get very concerned about my kids and how they are growing up and acting.
But the thing that I keep trying to remind myself is that they are not mine.
They really belong to God.
I just get to be their Dad for a finite time here on this part of their journey.
I get to be their stewards for this part of the trip.
I really didn’t make them, or form them I simply get to be part of this part of their journey’s.
As parent you are reminded of two things simultaneously.
One the one hand you realize that you have very little control over them.
They do things and say things that surprise and shock you all the time.
They do things all the time that make you think, “Where did they learn that?”
On the other hand you realize that you have been given a sacred trust to care and love them.

I wonder if that is how Mary and Elizabeth feel about their kids.
They are carrying these two lives inside them.
They give birth to them, they feed and nurture them.
And yet so much of who and what they are is already determined before they even come out of the womb.
We  know from Luke’s Gospel that Jesus would surprise and shock Mary.
As a teenage boy, he would stay behind to teach in the synagogue.
As a man, he would lead people, leave behind his home, and eventually suffer and die.
Today we celebrate Mary because of her acceptance of her role in the greater story.
Can we too see ourselves as part of that greater story?
Are we able to see that so much of what God is going to do is out of our control?
And yet we are given such an important role in what happens?
We all are given a sacred trust to play the part that God has called us to.

It is really so inconceivable because being responsible yet out of control at the same time don’t seem to go together do they.
But I think it is closer to the reality we live.
We act in this world and make a million decisions that have consequences and make a difference either for good or ill, and yet we know that sometimes things are simply out of our control.

I think this way about my giving to the church.
Every week I hand over this money.
But I don’t always see the fruits of it.
I don’t know all the ways that it will do good in my life, in the life of the community, in the life of others.
But I believe it matters that I give it.
It matters to me.
Because I believe it was never really mine to begin with.
It always belonged to God.
And one way for me to feel good about what I have is to share with others.
To share without conditions.
To just give.
And I also know that it does matter.
That someday that money will be worth more to me than I can possibly imagine.
Because it will be to God’s glory and not mine.

I do so many other things for my glory.
I do lots of things because I think I deserve it, or because I feel I earned it.
Most commercials on television that are trying to get you to buy something are about how you should buy it because you deserve it, or because you earn it.
“Get the credit you deserve.”
“Get the home you deserve.”
“Get the body you deserve.”
“Get the good night’s sleep you deserve.”
I remember that old McDonald’s slogan, “You deserve a break today.”
No wonder the Church’s teaching about money is so foreign to so many people, because it is out of the norm of what we are told.
We as people of faith say that we don’t deserve anything.
That God out of God’s graciousness gives us life and all that is in it.

Think about Mary and Elizabeth they are not chosen for their worthiness.
Elizabeth was an old woman thought to be barren.
She had given up on ever having children.
John’s birth is so inconceivable that his own father doesn’t believe it to be true.
Mary is no one of any significance.
A teenage peasant girl, from some crumby backwater town, set to be married to a carpenter also a man of no significance.
And yet both woman are chosen because they signify the type of people God wants to draw in and use.
They don’t deserve it, but God chooses them anyway.

And in some way my giving is a small reminder to me each week that I have been given my part to play by God too.
That God has called me to a life where I am not measuring my life by what I have but by what I can give away.
It is a reminder to me that I don’t deserve it, but I have been given the blessing and privilege of having it to share.

We call today commitment Sunday because we will right down on this card our financial commitment to the Church.

I wonder what Mary, if she was hear, what would she write down on her card?
And I wonder if any of would be willing to take on the challenges that she took on.
Think about it.
Be the earthly mother to Son of God, love care for and nurture him to adulthood, then watch him leave you at home and go off to change the world, only to see him be rejected and killed.
That is commitment.

In a bacon-and-egg breakfast, what's the difference between the Chicken and the Pig?
The Chicken is involved, but the Pig is committed!
That is the type of commitment God asks of us our whole life.
God puts us in charge of certain things and asks us to take care of it.
Here is x amount of money each month, you need to put a roof over your head, food on your table, gas in your car, nurture yourself, and care for your neighbors in need.
That is a lot of responsibility.
I remember as a kid my parents always telling me how much responsibility it was to be an adult.
I didn’t believe them.
It is a huge commitment.
And what God asks us of is even more because God asks us to commit not to our agenda, but that of God and our neighbors.
Compared to the bigger commitments we are called giving a portion God’s money to the church doesn’t seem that big a deal.

Our larger commitment is to carry God into the world.
It is to birth new things into God’s kingdom.
To sing Mary’s song:
God has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
He has lifted up the lowly;
Has filled the hungry with good things.

The God that Mary sings about, the God we pray to daily, worship weekly, the God who gives us talents and passions, the God who gives us all we have,  is a God worth being committed to.

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