GENERATIONS OF GENEROSITY

One generation shall praise your name to another. ~Psalm 145

GENERATIONS OF GENEROSITY

One generation shall praise your name to another. ~Psalm 145

GENERATIONS OF GENEROSITY

One generation shall praise your name to another. ~Psalm 145

2017-2018 Stewardship Campaign:

Generations of Generosity

The first week of October marks the beginning of the five-week stewardship emphasis for our congregation called “Generations of Generosity”. We will look back on what and who has shaped our ideas of stewardship, and we will consider how we can influence the stewards of tomorrow. The campaign will culminate with our estimates of giving on Reformation weekend, October 28-29, 2017.

Trees show up often in our sacred stories. Scripture begins with humanity encountering the tree of knowledge. It ends with Revelation, where the Tree of LIfe provides fruit and healing for the nations.  In the middle, God promises that even though people feel cut off and forgotten, hope sprouts like a new shoot from old stump. 

Roots provide trees with nourishment and stability. They connect the long history of a place with the new life constantly being produced. Without roots, trees wither and cannot long endure. 

The church needs roots too…and thank God it has them! Our worship and music are connected to the long history that has sustained generations before us. Baptism and Holy Communion nourish and sustain us like it did our ancestors. And then there are the people, people whose generosity and faithfulness have long made ministry possible for countless others.

Hans Link is among those persons and who at 96, is the oldest member of Saint Michael. Today we give thanks for the time, talent and resources Hans and his wife Jo have provided to so many for so long. We give thanks for the Sunday School teachers, the musicians, the pastors and friends who shared both generosity and faithfulness with them as they were growing up. 

You are a root, too. Yes, you…reading this right now. No matter your age or position or ability, God is providing you with the opportunity to be both generous and faithful not only for needs that are now, but also for generations yet to be. And as we share with others, we will find our own lives being nourished in the process. That’s how generosity, and faithfulness, work. Isn’t that great!

It was the branches that I remember most.

Many images remain with me after doing relief work in Biloxi Mississippi following Hurricane Karina but the trees made a particular impression. Many of them, rooted in shallow soil or transplanted into suburban yards for quick shade, did not survive the storm. But then there were the Oak trees just off the beach.

For generations, they had been rooted in the same spot, arrayed with branches made strong by previous storms. A fifteen-foot wall of water had leveled every man-made structure in sight, but the trees held their ground. The leaves were gone, some branches were broken, but for the most part the structure was still there. Scanning the horizon, they rose above the despair proclaiming all was not lost. Life would sprout up again.

We spent our time in Biloxi at Bethany Lutheran Church, working with Lutheran and Episcopal Disaster Response, “structures” that had also weathered storms before and who had the will and the way to help people rebuild.

Our offerings support many structures within the church, essential branches which provide logistics, leadership, and resources so that ministry can happen. Disaster relief, world hunger, new mission starts, global partnerships, refugee support, theological education, campus ministry, and the administrative offices of the church all have the will and the way to get ministry done.

Currently, about 8% of Saint Michael offerings are given to the Nebraska Synod to support these branches. The question I think is this: As branches ourselves, connected to the vine of Christ, is there more we are called to give? The need is great. God provides the resources. We have the privilege of connecting the two. That is JOY! That is faithfulness! That is generosity that spans generations!

Leaves are the original solar panels.

Each year leaves capture an estimated 130 terawatts of energy from the sun, which is 3 times the annual power consumption of human civilization. As leaves make their way up the food chain, they provide the energy that powers virtually every other form of life on the planet.

Leaves are also the original battery chargers.

Leaves convert the immediate energy of light into the stored energy of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates power nearly everything else, including our own bodies and the vehicles we drove to worship in today. The ability to store power and use it in some other way, place or time is a remarkable thing!

We are like leaves; the Light shines and powers our lives.

The abounding and steadfast love of God is the warm sunlight that energizes Life, both in physical and spiritual dimensions. Faith turns us toward this Light and enables us to absorb its rays, helping us to know love, mercy, forgiveness, healing, and purpose, And then, something remarkable! We came up with a way to convert and store the “life-energy” we receive and give it to others.

Money is the carbohydrate that powers ministry well beyond ourselves.

Think of money as a storage and conversion device, a spiritual carbohydrate not unlike a piece of bread. Bread is essentially stored sunlight. Money is stored anything! It can buy medicine for sick children, provide shelter and food for the hungry, maintain facilities, provide education, make music, and any number of other things individuals cannot do on their own. When we give money, we simply share some of the gifts we have first received in a form anyone can use. That is, after all, what leaves do: share the power of the Son with the rest of the whole world.

Even though Nebraska is the “tree state”, forests are not exactly our specialty. We are better known for prairies but we do have the Nebraska National Forest near Halsey, the largest human-planted forest in the nation! #Nebraskapride

Forests are amazing. There is something that happens in a community of trees that doesn’t happen with an individual tree. The forest creates an ecosystem, a unique environment allowing other life to flourish.

In a forest, death creates the catalyst for new life. The picture on the front is from Olympic National forest in WA. A fallen tree is the “nurse” that provides the start for new trees in the nation’s only true rainforest. When thinking about stewardship, a planned gift from an estate can be the catalyst for all kinds of ongoing ministry.

In a forest, everything exists in relationship. A grouping of Aspens is considered a singular organism because their roots intertwine and sprout individual trees. An Aspen ‘clone’ in Utah is the oldest living thing on earth, dating back 80,000 years. Sometimes two Aspen shoots are used in weddings to symbolize two lives becoming one.

The church is like a forest as well. Rooted in God’s faithfulness, branched into the world, with leaves bathed in the light of grace, we join with other communities to form a kind of “gospel ecosystem”. Churches, hospitals, camps, social service & relief agencies, colleges, seminaries, and global mission partners all join in creating a “unique environment” where the healing, hope, and reconciliation of God’s kingdom is being lived out.

Our offerings support this larger “forest” in many ways. We give directly to certain institutions and through our shared contributions to the Nebraska Synod, we also help sustain amazing ministries across the state, nation, and world. What a blessing to belong to a forest!

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