by Pastor Vera Guebert-Steward
6 “So obey the commands of the LORD your God by walking in his ways and fearing him.
7 For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land of flowing streams and pools of water, with fountains and springs that gush out in the valleys and hills. 8 It is a land of wheat and barley; of grapevines, fig trees, and pomegranates; of olive oil and honey. 9 It is a land where food is plentiful and nothing is lacking. It is a land where iron is as common as stone, and copper is abundant in the hills. 10 When you have eaten your fill, be sure to praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. ~Deuteronomy 8:6-8
All summer one song kept stirring my heart and floating from my lips… “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” I sang it as I brought up the rear of our Ecuadorian Missionary group’s hike to a village of indigenous people who lived at about 12,000 feet. I sang it during Confirmation Camp week on the trails surrounding Rainbow Trail Lutheran Camp. I sang it as I was driving home from having dinner with inmates inside the Women’s Correctional Facility in East Denver. I sang it as I was getting ready for workship Sunday on July 30. I sang it while cleaning out my office desk drawers to get my office ready for Pr. Ron Roschke who has taken my place for three months while I am away on sabbatical. “Come, Thou Fount” has become one of my all-time favorite hymns. The words express what I am feeling about my life and our life together as the Body of Christ. “Come, Thou Fount of every blessing, Tune my heart to sing Thy grace. Streams of mercy, never ceasing, Call for songs of loudest praise. Teach me some melodious sonnet, Sung by flaming tongues above. Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it, Mount of Thy unchanging love.” When I look back on this summer’s events, all I can do is give thanks for the streams of mercy and unchanging love that was bestowed upon me; upon many! And I give God thanks with songs of loudest praise.
What I expressed in terms of the ministry I experienced this summer is just a small part of what we do at Evergreen Lutheran Church. The stories of shared love are endless and the lives affected and changed by that love are more numerous than I can count. And while many of you have participated in these life changing events, some of you are still waiting to enter into the stories that the members of ELC are writing day in and day out. I would be remiss if I did not invite you into these blessed opportunities to participate in our vision and mission.
I’d like you to consider entering into the story of our shared love and faith. I’m not begging you to. I’m simply telling you that there is this amazing opportunity for you to grow in your faith and deepen your relationship with Jesus Christ. I am inviting you to invest yourself through the resources God has given you – your energy, your prayers, and your money. My invitation comes to you with clarity and confidence because I know that living into our vision and mission makes us like “trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither.” (Ps. 1:3)
May I suggest to you that what you invest in ELC and her vision and mission will be good for your own spiritual journey. It will be good for your own spiritual health and well-being. It will not make you poorer, you will become richer by giving yourself; your time, your gifts and passions and your treasure. I can confidently declare what the Apostle Paul did to the Christians in Corinth: “You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity.”
I know that loving begets love. I also know that giving begets giving. And, I also know that spiritual health can be assessed, not by a thermometer or blood pressure cuff, but by your willingness to give yourself away for the sake of the world and the church’s mission.
Fred Buechner once said that your true vocation, your baptismal calling is revealed and fulfilled when the world’s deep need and your hunger intersect. That intersection occurs in the heart of God. You see, when people with money and people in need share a mission, new life is born through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Henri Nouwen, in his book A Spirituality of Fundraising, suggests that “we belong together in our work because Jesus has brought us together, and our fruitfulness depends on staying connected with him. Jesus tells us: ‘I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.’ With him, we can do anything because we know that God surrounds us with an abundance of blessings. Therefore, those who need money and those who can give money meet on the common ground of God’s love.”
My prayer will be, in these months that I am away, that you discover a heart for those in need. May your living and loving reflect God’s mercy and may your gifts to the good work we do in this holy church be in response to the abundant and unchanging love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.