Beyond Your Giving
Beyond Your Giving
“For where your treasure is, your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21
The Rev. Dr. Christopher D. Girata, Rector
The Sermon on the Mount is arguably the greatest teaching passage in the entire Bible. When Jesus gathered his followers together, he taught them the profound truth of God’s hope for us, beginning with the beatitudes. Jesus explained God’s blessings, how we are to pray, and how we are to prioritize the opportunities of our lives. As Jesus’s followers learned on that day, so we also strive to remember every day of our lives: we are God’s blessings in the world.
Most of us miss this critical idea. Most of us believe that God’s blessings are separate from us, and we simply receive those blessings or not. But in truth, our faithfulness, our life with Christ, transforms us into the vessels of God’s blessing in the world. Whenever we love others, give to others, or pray for others without any reason or expectation of reciprocation, we become God’s blessing. It is that opportunity, the opportunity of Christ, that calls on us all once again.
In the middle of his great sermon, Jesus says, “store up for yourselves treasures in heaven… For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Mt 6:20-21).” Jesus certainly knows us and knows how we set our priorities. We put a lot of value on our money, and whenever we invest our money into anything, we will care more for it. In the most fundamental way, I want each of us to care more about Saint Michael every year. And if Jesus is right (and I always think he is) then putting our treasure into this church will transform our hearts and minds for good.
Last year, we began a multi-year shift to reprioritize particular areas of our life together. The vestry and staff leadership of the parish joined me in emphasizing the growth of our formation as disciples, the way we worship God, and how we invite others to join us. Although we did not reach our ambitious goal last year, our increased budget allowed us to invest in certain ministries that are beginning to bear good fruit.
Our formation ministries, focusing on disciples of all ages, have grown. Sunday school attendance increased, youth group participation increased, and adult classes throughout the week jumped. We have welcomed new staff and plan to continue that growth.
How we worship has been refined over the past year, providing a higher level of excellence in every service, along with a higher level of consistency. A more consistently excellent experience of worship has proven to resonate with those inside and outside our parish, with an increased worship attendance of more than 20% since the beginning of 2017.
This means that we have an expanding opportunity to invite others to join us. I firmly believe that the vast majority of people we know want a healthy spiritual life, but they simply haven’t found a community in which to express a thoughtful, loving way of living. Saint Michael is more and more a place where we embrace the timeless mystery of God’s truth while embracing the future with courage and enthusiasm. Now is the time to invite our friends, and now is the time for us to be ready to receive and connect them.
We have great momentum and we want that momentum to grow. Join me, your friends, and your Saint Michael family in investing even more generously and faithfully this year. Together we can build the church we hope for, and in doing so, transform our world!
Squeaky Connolly, Committee Chair
Generosity. It feeds the spirit, strengthens our commitment to what we believe and always finds a way to bring us together in fellowship. Since Saint Michael was founded more than 70 years ago, a generous spirit has embodied our actions for our parish and for our community. It is with this generous spirit in mind, that I accepted the call to become your Stewardship Chair for the 2018-2019 giving year.
As many of you know, I have been involved at Saint Michael in a variety of roles. The most important and compelling part of each opportunity has been the chance to meet and grow in friendships and relationships with hundreds of parishioners. Fellowship and friendship are at the heart of my commitment to SMAA. These friendships have forged bonds that will last a lifetime for me and my family. Coming to church and to the hundreds of events that are planned for us each year, not only brings us closer to our faith, but equally as important strengthens our relationships with the friends that we have made over the years. Saint Michael is our church home and home is where the heart is!
I am proud to be a member of Saint Michael and All Angels and our family fulfills our Stewardship pledge each year. Support for our church comes from pledges, gifts, and plate contributions. In order for our church to open our doors for a worship service or offer any of the hundreds of programs, support groups, Bible studies and mission and outreach programs we provide each year, we rely on stewardship pledges to develop our budget. Therefore, it is vitally important to make a pledge so that our church can plan for our future and be there to support us.
God walks with us every day. Of course, he is present at weddings, baptisms and other holy events. But, God is also with us when we ask a special prayer to watch over our children as they head off to school, or cross our fingers just before our team kicks a winning field goal. Many of us text the hands in prayer emoji when we get news that someone is in distress or ailing. Or, just say Thank You God when we find a parking place at church on a rainy Sunday morning. God is always walking with us. He is generous with his love, so shouldn’t we consider being generous with our treasure? “For where your treasure is, your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21
I love Saint Michael and All Angels - our people and our mission - I know that many of you feel the same way that I do about this Parish. We need your help and commitment to continue to make our church a strong beacon of hope for ourselves and others. As you consider your commitment to our church this year, please remember all that God and Saint Michael means to you. With a commitment from everyone, the possibilities for our future become opportunities for us all. I want to thank the Stewardship Committee for the commitment and for their time, support, and guidance. This is going to be a great year for Saint Michael.
The Rev. Bob Johnston
Why tithe? I want to answer that question in three ways. The answers involve a carrot, a call, and a stick. I will start with the most difficult one first: a stick.
In saying that there is a “stick,” I want to say something of the negative consequences of not giving. Aspects of Scripture and the teaching of the church make it clear that money is morally neutral – neither good nor bad in and of itself. Jesus’ teaching, however, makes it clear that money is extremely dangerous.
In the Parable of the Sower (Mark 4:1-20), we are reminded how the seeds—the word—amongst the thorns are strangled by the cares of the world and the lure of wealth. We may also remember a passage in which Jesus encounters the so-called “Rich Young Ruler” (Mark 10:17-22). In that passage, the young man approaches Jesus and asks him what must be done for eternal life. Jesus initially answers by saying keep the commandments. The young man basically brags that he has done all that. Then Jesus says something important to him in response. Scripture says that Jesus looked at the man with love and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” The man went away dejected because he had many things. Jesus is noted as explicitly loving him and apparently seeing how he is being strangled by money. Jesus’ prescription was to sell all and then come and follow Him. Happily, the selling all is not a universal charge. Still, if we let it, money will strangle our spiritual lives as it did that young man. For this reason, Christians need to give as an aspect of keeping money in its proper place. If we don’t, it may strangle our faith or have other negative consequences. That is the “stick.”
We also give out of a sense of call. Scripture says in many places that we are to give a tithe, or 10%. See, e.g., Numbers 18. Some scholars have argued that if you look at the Old Testament commands about giving, that one can see they are cumulative. That is, actually, a much higher percentage than ten percent. Still, the majority view is that we are called to give ten percent. Sometimes people ask is that before or after taxes, I do not think that is the significant question. The significant question is, “Are you going to pray about how much you give and seek to at least tithe?” We don’t intend to be legalistic people. That we are called to give a tithe is an important reason to do so, but the call to partner with God is more important.
Concerning the latter, God has called us in a tremendous honor to partner with Him in the ongoing work of building His kingdom. Part of partnering with Him, is returning all the gifts we have – all ultimately from Him – for His work and purposes. Many reading this article have even been given a gift of making money to enable ministry at profound levels. As Christians, we believe all the beauty in the world is part of God’s goodness and points to His glory, and so we happily support the arts and other things, but we should never mistake that as being the same as giving directly for His kingdom work. He calls us into that and it is crucial to the ongoing work of ministry in this broken world. To reach people with the Good News of Christ takes money at a practical level. To serve the needy in the world in the name of Christ takes money at a practical level. God calls us to lean into that effort by giving money to the church for the ongoing work of ministry. That is the “call.”
The final reason to give is the “carrot.” Simply put, there is, in itself, a reward as we give. I am not talking about the heretical view of the prosperity doctrine, but of a blessing that is deeper. That is why Scripture says it is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35). The blessing helps us give cheerfully—something God loves (2 Corinthians 9:7). We benefit at a deep level as we give.
There are examples even outside the church. A few years ago, I went to a large, secular leadership conference where a whole portion of the presentation by the main non-Christian leader was about the importance of giving to help others in order to find true freedom and deep satisfaction in life. I believe that is true, and even more so in giving for God’s kingdom.
There are many reasons to give, and I have only mentioned a few. But as priest who loves the people who have been drawn to this congregation, I cannot say enough about how important it is to one’s spiritual life and development. We should give to avoid being strangled by possessions, because we are called to partner with God in Kingdom work, and because there is a deep blessing in it.
Sally and Chris Schupp
Sally is the 2018 Vestry Junior Warden
“Chris and I give out of deep gratitude for God’s benevolence and grace. When we prioritize where to give our time and money, Saint Michael tops the list. Everyone is called to build the Kingdom of God right now; and we delight in helping our Saint Michael family with that extraordinary and life changing work.”
Christi and Warren Houser
Warren is the 2018 Vestry Warden at Large
“Christ said we should love God and one another, and when we reflect on the thousands of lives who have received God’s grace and love by the hearts and hands of our St. Michaels family over the years it is awe inspiring. St. Michaels continues to make such a meaningful impact on our family, our community and the world, and we gratefully give so that others may receive.”
Victoria, Stuart, Annabelle and Banks Brown
“Saint Michael has provided a church home and foundation for our family. Giving to SMAA sets our intentions and our priorities about what is important. While we know it supports so many valuable community programs, supporting Saint Michael does so much more for us than we could ever do in return.” – Victoria and Stuart Brown
“As a child I was taught that we give back for the blessings we have received, plain and simple. We give to Saint Michael because I am proud of what we do around the world and within our community. Knowing that my stewardship dollars support how we raise our families and care for each other is something that we love. “– Janice Bywaters
Maria and Richard D’Antoni
“We have been blessed by a gracious and generous God. What He has given is not ours to keep. We have chosen to make Him the center of our life. We give our gifts to Saint Michaels for His glory and to support His church.” – Maria and Richard D’Antoni
Saint Michael is a wonderfully vibrant and busy Episcopal church. We fully understand that stewardship dollars are the source of support for the church's many activities. We love Saint Michael and diligently pledge each year to maintain and grow this inspiring place of joy and worship. - Kathy and Kevin Kelley
Stacey and Ken Malcolmson
“Making an annual pledge to Saint Michael is our most important philanthropic goal. God has been so generous to us, and we strongly believe that the fellowship and teaching that Saint Michael provides makes us stronger and more faithful Christians. For that we are eternally grateful.”
“Prior to my time on Vestry, I served on the Mission and Outreach Committee. Being a part of that was a gift, as it afforded me the opportunity to see some of the ways that Saint Michael gives back to our community - locally, nationally, and globally. This only comes from prayerful giving from all of us within our Saint Michael community.” – Kyle Moore
“We have been blessed to be a part of the community of worship that makes Saint Michael truly special. By continuing to share our time, talents and treasure, we offer our gratitude for all the blessings Saint Michael has bestowed upon us. We know that our contributions and those of our fellow parishioners will assure a strong future for our church.” – Gigi and Jerry Poglitsch
The mission and ministries of Saint Michael and All Angels have been built on the foresight and generosity of those who have gone before us. We have a concrete way to perpetuate their witness, their dream, and their love for our church, by making a Planned Gift to the Saint Michael and All Angels Foundation that will perpetuate their and our legacy. By including Saint Michael in your estate planning, you insure that your values, embodied in the faith and ministry of the church, will live on for future generations. For information about Planned Giving, contact Lowell Duncan, Director of Legacy Planning at [email protected]
We the Clergy, Staff, Vestry, Finance Committee, and Stewardship Committee commit ourselves to the 2019 Stewardship Campaign in the following ways:
- Praying daily for the success of our 2019 Stewardship Campaign through which God will guide and bless our parish with the resources to inspire the spreading of His Kingdom at Saint Michael and beyond
- Working daily in support of the transformational work of Christ to effect His mission and ministry in the world
- Striving for wisdom in the formation of our 2019 ministry budget