We prepare to enter into another Season of Faith which, of course, is about stewardship, but under Bob Kendall’s guiding hand, our SOF is always about far more than money. (The designers of every commercial campaign will tell you that it is really about faith rather than money, but in how Our Season has been conceived over the years, that is true.) Anyway, my angst this year is that OSOF, coming as it is after the hoopla of the Sesquicentennial Celebration, will get no more than a cursory glance. Let’s all slow down enough to let Our Season speak to us.
This year, we are being challenged to reflect upon our personal Founders – those men and women who helped give us the gift of faith. I encourage you to have a seat, to take an hour, and to think about your journey . . . to evaluate the ones that helped show you the way.
Parents will be on many of our lists – they are on mine. Grandparents perhaps. Aunts or uncles or such. Youth sponsors. Ministers are apt to make the list, I suppose, and my list would include Myron Willard, Edwin Kirtley, and David Matthews – preachers from my childhood, youth, and college years. Al Pennybacker, my mentor, is way up the list. And because I love words, I can quote portions of sermons I have read or heard from the mouths of Carlyle Marney, Frederick Buechner and Fred Craddock. All of these, and many more, are due some credit (or blame, depending on your perspective) for who I have become.
In recent days, I have been thinking about some words spoken by one of those others – a fellow by the name of Gilbert Davis who was a minister, but whose ministry was mostly devoted to raising money for Texas Christian University and Brite Divinity School. Gilbert and Hilda were members of University Christian Church where I worked during and after seminary, and I got to know them during those years. But it was much later that Gilbert spoke the words that have bounced around in my head and heart since. He was preaching at one of our General Assemblies, and the closing words to his sermon went something like this:
When we die and our will is read, our boys may be in for a big surprise. Oh, there will be something in there for them, but it may not be as much as they were anticipating. I hope they won’t be shocked and I hope they won’t be hurt. But of all things, God forbid that in that moment what they learn is that their old man preached one Gospel and lived another.
Now let me be clear – I am not quoting Gilbert to anchor this year’s OSOF. We are not talking about money, because he wasn’t talking about money either. Not really. What Gilbert was saying was that the easiest thing in the world is to announce what matters to us, but the world will see what we hold dear by the way we live.
And I don’t offer up the words to suggest that I am the best example of stewardship or that my life should be the model for how all Christians should live. No, I suppose the reason I have remembered Gilbert’s words all these years is not because they validate my life but rather because they press me to constantly question my living. What I mean to say is that I can declare for all the world to know that I love Jesus, but would anyone know that if I did not shout it? I can wear t-shirts with holy slogans and I can put bumper stickers on my car; I can even put it all out on Facebook, but that is not nearly enough. I can say I care about the poor, but do I act like I care: do I support local hunger and housing programs . . . do I lobby for legislation that is compassionate and vote accordingly? Saying I believe in prayer and praying are two distinctly different things. Promoting the virtues of forgiving while not speaking to a half-dozen people rather leaves your conviction about forgiveness out in the cold.
I trust you get me, or more accurately, I trust you get Gilbert. So, I hope that you will spend a little time to consider and name your personal Founders. My strong suspicion is that when you have your list and you review your names, you will discover that the chief reason those people made your list is because they have lived the same Gospel they spent their lives preaching.
Blessings and Peace,
These thoughts and reflections come from our Senior Minister, Minister of Music and Board Chair. We hope that they provide both challenge and inspiration for your spiritual life.