Faces on Faith: Grace, money and the waters of Israel
This month my congregation engages in our annual stewardship campaign. The members and friends of the church are asked to consider their annual financial pledge to our work here in Sanibel and around the world.
To the best of my knowledge similar campaigns are conducted by all the congregations on the islands. The language and approach may vary, but in the end folks are being asked to give.
Some people are very uncomfortable talking about money in general, and especially in the context of church or synagogue. It is essential to the work of almost any congregation. Utility bills need to be paid, staff compensated and the ever pressing needs of the poor need to be addressed.
There is a very practical reason for giving! But, I would suggest there are also less tangible reasons as well.
Some wise soul once observed that there are two major bodies of water in the Holy Land. To the south is the Dead Sea. Located at the southernmost end of Israel, the Dead Sea is about 10 miles wide by 50 miles long. Water flows into the Dead Sea from the Jordan and Yarmuk Rivers, but it has no outflow. Water comes in, but it doesn’t go out.
The Dead Sea takes and takes, but never gives. As a result, the still water sits in the desert heat and evaporates from the Dead Sea leaving behind heavy minerals and salts. In fact, the level of salt concentration is about 33 percent – 10 times that of the world’s oceans. There is virtually no life in the Dead Sea. It is a liquid wasteland.
The other major body lies to the north, the so-called Sea of Galilee. It is actually a lake, about eight miles wide by 12 miles long. Water flows into Galilee from underground springs and small brooks and it flows out via the Jordan River.
The Sea of Galilee is a rich and lively body of water, full of fish which support many who ply its waters. The Jordan River which flows from it gives life to the desert areas through which it passes. It creates a literal swath of green down the center of the land.
Water only flows into the Dead Sea, not out. It is, as its name suggests, dead. On the other hand, water flows in and out of the Sea of Galilee. It is teeming with life.
Like a body of water we can take and take. We can be filled over and over again. Like the Dead Sea we can hold it all in and keep it to ourselves. But we know where that leads: nowhere. Or, like the Sea of Galilee, we can allow God’s grace to flow through us, bringing life not only to ourselves, but to those whose lives we touch.
Those pledges, those monies we put in offering plates or mail in to the treasurer can be seen as interruptions – or as symbols of the flow of life at its best, grace flowing in, and grace flowing out. It is your choice, of course, even as it is mine.