We Cherish…

Sunday, October 23, 2016

A sermon preached by Rev. Ginger E. Gaines-Cirelli at Foundry UMC October 23, 2016.

Text: Luke 16:19-31                                                              

We cherish God’s gifts. God blesses us with time, talent, money, opportunity and the Earth we now call home. We strive to be responsible stewards of God’s great bounty.


On the way home from ballet class one day, she started talking about a big idea from the backseat:  “I want to help the homeless and I want to help Foundry.”  She kept talking about it over several weeks until her parents realized she was determined and that the emerging plan needed to happen.  Fliers got made and passed around the neighborhood, posters were crafted, and then a video was filmed to share on social media.  That is where I first encountered this big idea.  Her sweet face popped up on my FaceBook feed and I clicked on the video arrow:  “Hi, my name is Josie, and I’m gonna have a hot cocoa stand tomorrow on Saturday.  And I’m doing it for Foundry ID ministry that helps the homeless and you can buy it from 10 in the morning ‘til 12 noon.  It’s 50 cents, I hope you can come by.”


Josie is a part of our Foundry family.  She is growing up here, being shaped and influenced by each of you and by our life together.  She knows that here at Foundry we are committed to care for our poor and unhoused neighbors in a variety of ways, including the ID ministry.  And one of our core values is that “We cherish God’s gifts…and strive to be responsible stewards of God’s great bounty.”  Josie must have soaked that up as well because she shows us how it’s done: she gives of her time and service with the ID ministry.  She saw a need, figured out what resources she had—her time, her cocoa, her parents’ support, her enthusiasm, determination, and great communications skills—and went about making a difference.  “I want to help the homeless and I want to help Foundry,” she said.  And the result is that her community rallied to the cause in beautiful ways—and today Josie is making an offering of more than $262 to help the homeless through Foundry Church!


Contrast this story with the one we heard in today’s Gospel.  Josie sees suffering and need and chooses to find a way to provide support.  The rich man in the parable sees Lazarus suffering and does nothing.  And the rich man really was rich!  He wore the equivalent of Armani suits, he had daily all-you-can-eat buffets at his own home, he lived in a gated community.  This guy didn’t need to set up a cocoa stand to have something to share—even his scraps could have made a difference if he’d used them!  Like Josie, the rich man knew something of his religious tradition—he knows Father Abraham by name.  But, unlike her, he didn’t pay attention.


It’s not the riches in and of themselves that were the problem for the man in this story—Abraham was rich and he’s right there with poor Lazarus.  Rather the problem is that even though he knew the tradition, the constant and consistent prophetic call to care for the poor, to do justice, to feed the hungry and welcome the alien and suffering went unheeded.  In life, the man lived a life of privilege and, while we have no sign that he did anything intentionally bad (other than what appears to be selfish hoarding), we do see that he didn’t do anything intentionally good.  Think for a moment about what could have been different if the rich man had chosen to do something good.  Think about what might have changed in his own life and in the life of Lazarus—and even in the lives of those in the larger community. 


Here at Foundry, we cherish God’s gifts.  We do that not by hoarding or making idols of the gifts, but by choosing to do something good with the gifts that we have.  Our belief is that money and the other resources and bounty of earth are to be honored and used as tools to make justice, create meaningful community, care for the poor and suffering, and to bring more love and beauty into the world.  Over these past weeks, we have thought about our core values and the ways that Foundry’s practices and life together reflect those values in concrete ways. In some ways, we have been engaging an extended reflection on “the state of the church” as we have lifted up who we are, what we care about, and how we witness to the world.  Today, we affirm that all we are and the good things we do are made possible because you choose to do something good with the gifts that you have—because you share your resources with Foundry.  Today we celebrate Josie’s gift and the gifts that you bring as well.


In line with our guiding theme of “witness,” today we’re going to hear from a variety of members of Foundry their thoughts about the state of our church.  Pastor Dawn has invited some folks to engage in some conversation with her. We will receive this gift now…


[When I arrived at Foundry just over two years ago, much work had been done to develop clarity around our mission and core values.  The strategic work of Foundry’s leadership over the past couple of years has been focused on doing things to ensure that we fully and concretely live out our mission and values, to address the “gaps” in our ministries, and to organize both lay and paid staff strategically.  We have made significant progress and the work continues.  Our witness has been powerful over the course of the past year.  Foundry Church has led on issues of justice in  our city, nation, and denomination—from ending chronic homelessness to LGBTQ inclusion to racial reconciliation and justice.  Foundry is at the table for critical conversations around the future of our denomination and around the potential for more meaningful engagement of faith and politics in this capital city.  And we have an ambitious plan for the year ahead—many of the goals are listed in this year’s stewardship booklet.] 


All the good things that we do in and through Foundry are possible because you choose to do something good with the gifts that YOU have.  Josie’s beautiful example reminds us that each of us can contribute no matter our age or income (or lack thereof).  Individual financial gifts are the primary source of funding for our shared life and witness and I want to thank you for your generosity.  The trends over the past couple of years are very healthy.  Last year, I pointed out the “Revealing Breakdown of Foundry’s Giving Patterns” in the stewardship booklet.  This year, that information can be found on page 15.  While there is still a large number of folks for whom we have no record of giving, that number is significantly improved from the prior year—by 60 people!  During that same period, the number of Foundry folks giving over $6000 rose more than 60% and almost every single “step” on the chart showed an increase.  You are literally “stepping up!”  Thank you.  I know that this year we are all distracted with the presidential election and some have surely been giving resources to political campaigns.  In this city, there is always uncertainty and anxiety on the eve of a change in administration.  But no matter the outcome of the election, Foundry will continue stand as a beacon of love, reconciliation, justice, radical hospitality, meaning and beauty.  We will continue to speak truth to power.  We will continue to faithfully use and stretch our resources to do good.  For me, it is a joy and privilege to financially support this congregation.  After all, my gifts support the spiritual formation of Josie and encourage her generosity and care—my gifts support the lives, formation, and experiences of all those we have heard from today.

I give more than a tithe (10%) of my net income to Foundry and am increasing the amount each year to work toward a tithe of the gross income.  I never have to worry that this commitment is going to waste since I have a front-row seat for all the good that is being done and the lives being touched and transformed through our witness. I can’t wait to see what we will accomplish together through our giving this year.   We cherish God’s gifts…and we do that through how we choose to share them.  If you ever need help remembering that, just ask Josie.