Synod of Lincoln Trails, PC(USA)
Sunday, June 25, 2017

Abundance and Anxiety

by John Van Nuys, Pastor, Wabash Avenue Presbyterian Church, Crawfordsville, Indiana
 
Thanks to a 2006 Lilly Endowment Sabbatical Grant, I got to fulfill a childhood dream of going to the Serengeti in Kenya and Tanzania.  I think about that trip often – especially when reading all the current headlines of doom and gloom. 

Studying economics in college, I learned that the foundational truth of economics is scarcity:  There is only so much; all is determined by supply and demand.  Studying theology in seminary, I learned that the foundational truth of God is abundance:  God loves us eternally – God supplies our every need – lavishly, abundantly, until our cups runneth over. 
 
Well, which is it? 

When the news tells me one thing – Scarcity!  Anxiety!  Alarm! – and the Bible tells me another – Abundance!  Blessing!  Shalom! – I remember what I saw in Africa. There in God’s creation I saw no scarcity at all. As a farm kid and 4-Her, I know livestock. I did not see the ribs on a single animal on the Serengeti Plain.  All were sleek and well-fed.  It’s true here, too.  See if you ever find a malnourished, skinny squirrel in your yard.

God created abundance.  God is not a cheapskate – in what God creates and in how God shares.  The cross is a sign – the sign – of the lengths to which God goes to establish us all in life that is eternal and love that is abundant.

So, when I am tempted to believe headlines that shout scarcity and anxiety, I remember that I am called to believe and trust God more:  that God will provide and all my days are covered with all the grace I’ll ever need. 

I believe that is true for us as individuals and as the church.  In anxious times, we can trust, live, and share God’s abundance.

Like all congregations today, the church family I serve, Wabash Avenue in the big city of Crawfordsville, is currently economically challenged.  We still have a budget deficit to resolve, but our session is resolved to do that without gutting our mission giving. 

As a tithing church, we give to others at least 10% of the gifts we receive:  so hurting folks are helped and so ministering folks are helped, too.  Our congregation of 221 annually gives $21,250 to our presbytery, synod, and denomination in our unified giving. In addition, we give to our local Family Crisis Shelter, Habitat, and other Crawfordsville charities.
 
To retain these deep mission commitments, no staff member or I got a raise this year; church members are now beginning to clean the church sanctuary and mow the church yard; and we are cutting other costs where possible – having paperless Sundays with no bulletin and so on.

Closing our still-present budget gap is possible if and as each Wabash Avenue member chooses to give $100 more this year – $2 more per week.  Something that is pretty doable for most of us. Will Wabash Avenue choose to pull that off?  By consuming less or doing more or by digging deeper to make sure that the church is blessed? Since God abundantly provides, I know that God already has provided and will provide the means for us to do this. We’ll see if Wabash Avenue is going to believe in the abundance of God or in the anxiety of this time.

I share this because I bet your congregation is going through lean times, too.  And I share this because God might be asking you to do something about that. You may be one of the leaders of your church and your presbytery. You care and you lead.

One of Wabash Avenue’s leaders, an inactive elder, stood up in church this past Sunday and said, “My husband lost his job. My beauty shop has seen better times. Our income has gone down by 61%.  Despite all that, we are choosing to increase our pledge because what this church does is important; it is a blessing to me; and it is a way I can give back to God for all His love for me. There are pledge cards in the fellowship hall. I hope you’ll join me in giving more.”

It seems to me that her testimony might be something good for the wider church to hear – and for you to hear.  What if you surprised your pastor or your stewardship chair by saying, “I need a new pledge card.  I am revising my pledge and increasing my commitment.  Why wait until the fall campaign when God’s abundance is today?”

God’s abundance is today.  It is far more real, reliable, and permanent than any passing anxiety.  May that saving reality be reflected fully in our believing and living, in our loving and sharing today.
 
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