Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me...

Tonight I broke bread and shared wine (and some great lasagna and ice cream, too) with a few key church leaders committed to finding Christ's spirit in our struggle with the current economic crisis. I have taken real solace in the words of Acts 2:
Everyone around was in awe—all those wonders and signs done through the apostles! And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common. They sold whatever they owned and shared their resources so that each person's need was met. They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God. People in general liked what they saw so that every day their number grew as God added those who were saved.

I know that this idealized scripture is much like the Jubilee passages of the Old Testament - the heart and soul of the Lord with a more sketchy human history - but as Walter Brueggeman says this should not diminish the power and authority of these words for those who trust and believe. So we talked about making hard choices:

+ how do we stop spending down the endowment to the tune of $90K every year?

+ how do we maintain momentum and support for ministries that bring healing and hope to real people?

+ how do we celebrate Christ's call to renew and rebuild this congregation with joy in these tough times?

After prayer and conversation, some scripture study and lots of questions we began to discern that we could reduce our woes by $30K right now - and implement a series of other commitments that will both generate money for mission while strengthening our ministries of healing and hope. To be sure, not everyone will go for these suggestions: they see the challenges in a different way and will probably not want to take the risks. So let me be clear and without judgment: that is just the way it goes when you choose to follow Jesus down off the mountain, yes? It is hard and demanding - not everybody wants to follow - and the blessings are so joyful and rich! In a word, last night the leaders of our church both affirmed that by faith God has led them this far and by faith will not let us down now - and - that we are no longer dependent upon our fears about the endowment. Indeed, there is life beyond it! As Jesus promised: I have come to give you LIFE - and it abundantly!

Makes me think of Joan Osborne's rendition of the old Motown tune:

So, not only will we share these new options with the congregation and let them be prayerful about them all throughout Lent; but after the Feast of Resurrection on Easter Sunday, we'll meet together again as the whole church for more bread and wine and table fellowship - probably more good desserts, too - and talk and pray about where God may be leading us. It will be quiet and tender - loving and non-anxious - so that maybe... just maybe... we might sense the nudge of the Holy Spirit.
Bobby Mcferrin's setting of the Shepherd's Psalm speaks to my heart right now...


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