This will be the last time that I will address you as a member of the finance team. I have had the opportunity and privilege of working with a group of people who are passionate about their love for this Church.
Two weeks ago Mike Nissly preached on Sunday morning and he titled his sermon, “Legacy, et al.” He used the term, et al, to suggest “and some other things.” My thoughts I’ll share today are about pledge drive, et al.
First off, Mike mentioned that at that time two weeks ago we were running about $65,000 behind in our budgeted giving for the year. That’s the number we see in our bulletin each week. That means we are $65,000 short of where we need to be to meet our budget at the end of the year if our weekly giving matches our budgeted needs for the remaining weeks of 2014. If not, that number will continue to grow. Mike explained that we are paying all of our bills except for our apportionments. These “apportionments” are our share of the Iowa Conference salaries, expenses, and missions. Our bishop, district superintendents, and other staff are not attached or assigned to a church like Carol and Jeff or Don and Rhoda or other Methodist pastors that you may know. Their expenses have to be shared by the entire conference. While some may not totally agree with how that money is spent or allocated, it is our responsibility to either work to change it or pay up. My personal feeling is that if we are not going to pay our apportionments, we need to remove the word “United” from our First United Methodist Church sign out in front of our building because united means that we all pay our share.
Secondly, if I had the voice or time for it, I would love to sing for you one of my favorite Gaither songs. The lyrics go like this: The angels got together in the great throne room, thought they’d pass some time by picking a tune. Michael on guitar, Rafael on mandolin, and Gabriel was the leader on the old violin. I think it was an elder said “What we gonna play? Amazing Grace or how ‘bout Happy Day?” The strings were all tuned and they were tapping their feet, but just when they were ready to play the first beat, God walked through the door and a hush filled the air. Gabriel put down his bow and moved down to second chair.
It’s not a riddle that’s up to be voted on, it became a law when He wrote it in stone. Number one on the list of His Big Ten, He came to earth and said it again. It’s been the same way since the beginning of time. Don’t be fooled ‘to thinking that it’s not a crime. He made it plain and clear. It’s not a rhyme or a riddle. God don’t play second fiddle.
We all have differing ideas of which family expenses fall into the necessities column and which expenses fall into the luxuries column. Here is an idea you might take home with you and chew on for a week or two. If we are paying each month for things that some of us might put in the luxuries column, like smart phones, premium cable TV packages, season tickets, concert tickets, country club dues, vacations, new car payments, boat payments, (this list can go on and on) – if we are paying for all of these things and then offering to God from what is left, then it looks an awful lot like we are asking God to play second fiddle in our band. As Carol mentioned in last week’s sermon, taxes are mandatory. Can you imagine what our infrastructure would look like if taxes were voluntary? But giving to God and our Church is voluntary. Giving out of love and gratitude, rather than out of obligation, is what makes it fun.
Thirdly, several years ago a reporter asked Norman Borlaug what he thought of organic farming. Mr. Borlaug replied, “I think it’s a great concept. Which half of the world’s population would you like to see starve?” My question to you today: If we can’t meet this year’s budget and we don’t get pledges to reverse that trend in 2015, which of our Church’s fine ministries would you like to see discontinued?
As you consider your pledge for next year, remember that your giving does make a difference. Last week during worship we were asked to write down a prayer and then share it with someone. I’m sharing mine with you. This is what I wrote: I pray that those in our Church family who have the financial resources to support our many wonderful ministries in this Church will choose to do so. Amen.