“Money”

Worship Script 2


 

Worship Script (2 of 4)

"A Spirit of Abundance"

 

 OPENING WORDS

By Emily DeTar Brt

We gather together
And as we look around
We see a bounty
For here people come baring gifts
The gift of presence
The gift of time
The gift of loving hearts
And healing hands
Come in and know
That you yourself
Are the greatest gift
To be offered
Come, let us remind each other
How we are all gifts

 

HYMN #349 We Gather Together

 

FIRST READING

We Are Overflowing

By Emily DeTar Birt

Why do you turn and look at yourself
As if you will never have enough?
Is it not the drop of water
That create the ripples on the water
Is it not the single ray of sunshine
That draws light upon the walls?
Is it not your simple smile
Your gentle touch
Your seated place
That changes everything
That casts something new
Into this space
Do not undersell yourself
What a gathered set of riches we are!
Like the dancing lights of stain glass
Filling up the cathedral

To the arches rafters with color

Look at our gathered presence
What an abundance we are

 

SECOND READING

The Year of Jubilee, Introduction written by Emily DeTar Birt

In the Old Testament, there is described a special year of sabbath, called the Year of Jubilee! It is a year when all debt is forgiven, no one can make a loan, and all finances are handled with kindness, as offerings to God. Below are readings from the Old Testament about this year of Jubliee.


Leviticus 25:10-17, 25-28
And you shall hallow the fiftieth year and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you: you shall return, every one of you, to your property and every one of you to your family. That fiftieth year shall be a jubilee for you: you shall not sow, or reap the aftergrowth, or harvest the unpruned vines.  For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you: you shall eat only what the field itself produces.


In this year of jubilee you shall return, every one of you, to your property. When you make a sale to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor, you shall not cheat one another. When you buy from your neighbor, you shall pay only for the number of years since the jubilee; the seller shall charge you only for the remaining crop years. If the years are more, you shall increase the price, and if the years are fewer, you shall diminish the price; for it is a certain number of harvests that are being sold to you. You shall not cheat one another, but you shall fear your God; for I am the Lord your God.

If anyone of your kin falls into difficulty and sells a piece of property, then the next of kin shall come and redeem what the relative has sold.  If the person has no one to redeem it, but then prospers and finds sufficient means to do so, the years since its sale shall be computed and the difference shall be refunded to the person to whom it was sold, and the property shall be returned.  But if there are not sufficient means to recover it, what was sold shall remain with the purchaser until the year of jubilee; in the jubilee it shall be released, and the property shall be returned.

 

HYMN #402 From You I Receive

 

STORY FOR ALL AGES

Sophia’s Quest By Becky Brooks

Once upon a time there was a teacher named Sophia. Sophia had been a teacher in the town where she lived for so long that the kids she first had in her class grew up and had kids of their own and sent them to her class too. Nearly everyone in the town knew Sophia and loved her because not only was she an excellent teacher, but she was also very kind.
One day when Sophia got to work, she found a note on her desk. The note read:

Dear Sophia,
I will be around tomorrow.
I wonder if I might stop by your house for tea tomorrow afternoon.
Your Friend,
God


At first Sophia thought it was a joke. But the more she thought about it, the more she realized that if it was a joke, it wasn't a very funny joke. And she couldn't think of anyone who would play a joke on her like that.

Then she thought: what if it wasn't a joke? What if God really was going to come to her house tomorrow afternoon? Sophia thought she should get ready, just in case.

On her way home from work, she stopped by the store and bought one of those mats people put on their porch that says, in big letters: WELCOME!

When she got home, she cleaned her house from top to bottom. She brought in fresh flowers from the garden and put them in a vase in the living room. She cleaned and cleaned until everything was sparkly.

In the morning, Sophia realized didn't know what God liked to eat, so she baked bread and made a casserole and fruit salad, and baked some cookies too. And what about the tea? Did God like hot tea or iced tea? She thought she better make both. And what if God's favorite thing in the whole world was lemonade? She thought she should make some of that too.
She was so nervous! She didn't know what to expect.
Just then, there was a knock at the door. Sophia's heart went pat pat pat.

She took a big breath, opened the door slowly, and on the other side was...the Mayor of the town.

"Hello Sophia! I was walking by and smelled the delicious fresh baked bread!"

Sophia said, "I'm so glad you're here, come in, come in! I am expecting a very important visitor who you might want to meet! Please come in and make yourself at home."

Sophia and the Mayor sat, having a nice discussion when there was a knock at the door. Sophia's heart went pat pat pat.She took a deep breath, opened the door slowly, and on the other side was...a group of children from her class.

"Hello Miss Sophia! We were walking by and noticed the smell of fresh baked cookies!"

Sophia said, "I'm so glad you're here, come in, come in! I am expecting a very important visitor who you might want to meet! Please come in and help yourself to some cookies."

The children were giving the Mayor some much-needed advice when there was a knock at the door. Sophia's heart went pat pat pat. Deep breath…open door… It was...the entire women's covenant group from church!

"Hello Sophia! We heard the tea kettle and laughter and thought you might be having a party!"

Sophia said, "I'm so glad you're here, come in, come in! I am expecting a very important visitor who you might want to meet! Please come in and make yourself at home."

ll afternoon people stopped by Sophia's house, lured by the yummy smells and happy sounds. The townspeople filled her house, upstairs and downstairs and overflowed into the back yard and the front yard. As they got hungry, they made dinner together and ate as the sun set and the moon rose.

It was a great party. People were playing games and telling stories and baking and playing music and talking together. Sophia had such a nice time that she completely forgot about her very important guest. Even as she waved goodbye to her friends at the end of the night, she felt only contentment at having such a lovely party.

In the morning, though, Sophia woke up and remembered everything. She was confused. Whatever had happened to God? All during her walk to work she tried to figure out what had happened. Along the way she smiled and waved to the people she ran into who had been at her party. She thought to herself that she really should do that again sometime.

When Sophia arrived at work she was surprised to find another note on her desk. It read:


Dear Sophia,
I had such a wonderful time yesterday. The bread was delicious, the cookies were divine! Tea mixed with lemonade is my very favorite! Thank you for being such a wonderful host!
I hope we can do it again soon!
Love,
God

 

MEDITATION

We Make It Possible

Words by Anonymous, Last Paragraph by Emily DeTar Birt


I come on Sunday feeling weary, having worn out the snooze button on my alarm clock. I come on Sunday feeling frightened, having seared my eyes reading the latest news. I come on Sunday feeling burdened, having fretted about my work day worries. 

But I leave Sunday service feeling refreshed, having been renewed by the spirit of love in the community that exists here. I leave Sunday service feeling whole, feeling lifted up by the words of righteous challenge. I leave Sunday service feeling energized, ready to continue our fight for peace and justice.

This haven, this refuge, this place of worship and wonder exists because we make it so, with our contributions: the gifts of our time, our skills, our food, our love, our laughter, and our money.

May we reflect in gratitude the gifts we all bring to this community, and see the joyful abundance among us. In hard times and good times, in sorrow and gladness, let us give thanks for the life and love we share.

.

CANDLES OF JOY AND CONCERN

Those who are so moved are now invited to come forward to light a candle, expressing a joy or concern in their lives.  As you do, you may briefly share what it is.  We ask that people coming forward speak for no more than a sentence or two, and speak from the heart about issues in their lives, rather than political issues, which we can take up at coffee hour or in the parking lot.

 

Sermon

"Money, Anxiety and Abundance"
By Rev. Roger Jones

Ongoing political controversies about homosexuality and abortion rights could give you the impression that the Bible is bursting with guidance about same-sex relationships and family planning, but actually it says less about sexual morality than it does about financial morality.

According to Rev. Stephen C. Gray (in an address to UU ministers): Of the 38 parables or stories told by Jesus in the Christian Scriptures, 16 deal with the relationship between what you say you believe and how you use your money and possessions. By Gray’s calculation, in both testaments of the Bible one out of eight verses talks about the relationship between faith and the use of our wealth. Of the Ten Commandments, three provide instructions on how we relate to money and possessions.

Here are some other examples: Hebrew prophets in several books condemn the oppression of the poor by the powerful, and Jewish Scripture prohibits lending money at high rates of interest, the way credit card companies and payday lenders do today. It speaks of the jubilee year—a celebration every 50 years in which land was to lie fallow, all property was returned to its original owners or their heirs, all debts were forgiven and indentured servants released. (Contrast this with debtor prisons that existed in Europe and the U.S. until the mid-19th century.) In one New Testament scene, Jesus of Nazareth praises the poor widow for her generous offering to the temple while scolding the rich donors for their pride and their lack of equal sacrifice.

Stephen Gray writes: “If you wonder why money and possessions are referred to so often in the Bible, I would simply remind you of the number one reason for family conflict, which is, of course, money.” Money was a major source of domestic disagreements long ago, and it still is. This is why premarital counseling and couples workshops help engaged couples to talk about financial priorities and habits, as well as the messages they received about money while growing up.

I, certainly, am someone who grew up with mixed messages about money. Instead of learning clear lessons about financial security, frugality or generosity, I learned to be anxious and ambivalent about money. My relationship to money was shaped in part by the habits, attitudes, complaints and worries I heard from parents and close relatives. We were secure financially as a family, but it didn’t feel that way. By contrast, I’ve heard other people say, “I grew up in a poor family, but we didn’t realize we were poor. We had enough to eat, fun ways to spend time, and lots of love.”

A newspaper column entitled “Yoder & Sons” featured the Wall Street Journal’s San Francisco Bureau Chief, Stephen Yoder, co-writing with his older son Isaac, who’s now in college. A few years ago the team added the younger son, Levi, then a high school freshman. The father and one or both of his boys wrote their thoughts on topics like allowances, savings, spending, cell phones, summer vacations, summer internships, selecting a college and paying for it, volunteer work, giving to charity, and balancing work and family life. They didn’t always see eye-to-eye, but they stayed in conversation, and all of them learned from one another.

One January 14-year-old Eli made a New Year’s resolution to give away 10% of the money he made from writing the column. He said he would divide it between the family’s church and another not-for-profit organization. A month later he was still putting it off, and he reflected on that. He said his church youth group was collecting money to support a clinic in Indonesia, one “that provides health care in local villages in return for the villagers’ pledging not to cut down trees there, and to restore part of the rainforest by planting seedlings.”

Eli wrote: “For the fund-raiser, we’re going to ask the adults to pitch in, and I figure I should lead by example.” He noted, however, that the fundraiser was only a temporary event. He wanted to start making donations regularly, and he struggled to figure out which not-for-profit agency will benefit from his tithe. He committed to visiting the bank on the upcoming Saturday to withdraw 10% of his earnings to give away.

Like many people with the last name of Yoder, this is a family of the Mennonite Church. Related historically to the Amish, Brethren, and Quaker traditions, the Mennonites are a peace church. They stand against war and capital punishment, and are involved in ministries of health care, economic development and emergency relief in poor countries. Steve Yoder, the father, wrote that he learned the practice of tithing from his own parents: 10% of his allowance and earnings went into the church offering plate.

Yet he added: “Talking to my sons about their money decisions sometimes means admitting my own failures…. I must confess one here: We should be giving more money away.” He explained that he and his wife, Karen, do give away both time and money, but they have fallen behind their own standard of tithing, and it’s become less of a priority.

Recalling the Jewish Biblical tradition of giving away the first fruits of one’s harvest, Yoder commented that if any of us waits until we think of all the other things we want or need to do with our money, we will find reasons to give away less than we can—or give almost nothing. He recounted the story of a Mennonite cattle-farming family that every year would donate the first calf born for the benefit of the Mennonite Central Committee, a service agency that is their “rough equivalent of the Peace Corps.” The so-called “MCC Calf” would “be fatted and nurtured just like the rest of the herd. At year’s end, no matter how thin the family finances were, the full-grown cow would be sold, and the proceeds sent to the (service agency).”

“Giving first—before spending on yourself” said Yoder, “has got to be a lifestyle choice, like investing in the 401(K) before buying a new car.” Now he and his wife are talking about downsizing their home and becoming more frugal in order to “leave more money upfront to give away, while still allowing us to do the things we value, such as travel.” Inspired by his son’s thoughtfulness and good intentions, Yoder granted that “Levi is on the right track. Now if Karen and I can just get ourselves on that track, too.”

Even in a family like this, with strong traditions and common commitments, managing money is a challenge. It’s a topic for ongoing dialogue, and a reason for support and encouragement. I can’t imagine it’s any easier for other families than it is for the Yoders. Stresses about money and possessions are a real part of real life and it’s important to acknowledge that our personal reactions to such stress often bring up strong feelings. It can help to be clear about what gives us joy, and clear about what our hopes are, as well as our dilemmas, doubts and fears. It’s especially useful to explore anxiety about money. This is important whether we are a family of one person, two, three, seven or more. Anxiety is a sign that something deep is going on in us.

Anxiety is a challenge to look internally. It’s not a feeling to run from, avoid or conquer, as much as we’d like to get rid of it. It’s a feeling to look in the face. If we know our own values well and keep to them, if we stick to our personal priorities, we can let anxiety be what it is, without allowing it to drive our decisions and run our lives. We can respect our anxiety without letting it chase us around.

I know adults who learned to tithe as children, but I didn’t. My parents were somewhat generous to the church and larger community, but there was a sense of duty about it, even a sense of caution: Make sure you don’t give away too much! What I missed then was a sense of joy in giving. We didn’t experience the joy that comes from living with an attitude of abundance and gratitude.

When I think of the spirit of abundance and gratitude, I see the image of gardeners passing some of their vegetables over the fence to neighbors, or bringing extra produce to church to give away. I remember a house I saw last year in a Sacramento neighborhood where I was apartment-hunting. It had a sign in the front yard: “Help yourself to fruit from the tree.” I said, “I want to live near them!” Alas, the apartment I found was 12 blocks away.

But a few weeks after I moved into my new place, a neighbor from a family in the next building knocked on my door to introduce herself. I’d already met her spouse when he brought me a piece of mail that had ended up in their box. As a housewarming gesture, she brought me two cupcakes, freshly baked and frosted. I was delighted—and I obliged by eating them at once. Who knows if the joy was greater for her or for me? But it seems clear that joy increases in all directions by the act of giving and receiving—giving away without expectation, and receiving graciously.

It can be challenging to feel a sense of abundance or gratitude when we are beset by misfortune, loss, illness or money problems. Yet often we meet or hear about people who get by on little money but show gratitude for life and for what they have, and who give to others with joy. We see on television or read in the paper about a sick child or an adult with a life-threatening illness, and we’re amazed that they show gratitude for special moments in life. Perhaps abundance—rather than a certain quantity of money— is a measure of “enough.”

Perhaps gratitude is a practice, a way of looking, a point of view, a lens. Through the lens of gratitude we can see our lives anew, and remember our connections to the world around us, to all of life, to all the gifts of life.

The abundance of life flows around us and through us. We don’t own it; we are merely its keepers. We’re the stewards of the gifts of this world. The word “steward” comes from Old English, meaning “keeper of the hall.” We are the keepers, the temporary keepers. Stewardship is about giving thanks for our gifts, tending them, sharing them, and—eventually—letting go of them. Stewardship is about gratitude and relationship.

When money flows through our hands, it represents the abundance of life. It represents the gifts of hard work and wise choices and good luck. It represents the gifts of all the other lives that are connected to our lives, all the other beings that make your life possible. Money reflects our interconnection and interdependence in telling ways.

Money is a gift that passes through us. But the very first gift that passes through us—through each one of you and through me—is life itself. Our very existence is a gift, of which we are temporary keepers. As much as possible, let us be joyful receivers and grateful givers of our gifts, and of ourselves.

 

HYMN #326Let All the Beauty We Have Known

 

BENEDICTION by Sydney K Wilde

In this community we give and we receive.
May we go forth, now,
to share the bounty of our love.