Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Season and a Time

Ecclesiastes 3: 1 (NRSV) “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven …”
Ecclesiastes 3: 7b (NRSV) “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak …”
Sometime during a misspent moment in my youth, I was humming and singing along with a vinyl version of the Byrds to their hit “Turn, Turn, Turn” when somebody disarmed me by noting “you know that is from the Bible.”  I was in that moment of life where the Bible held no truths.  I was convinced she didn’t know what she was talking about.  I was – of course - wrrrrrrong, utterly wrong. I might even have been mistaken! 
At times this has been a scripture with tremendous centering power for me.  At times this divine insight pierces my soul.  It is at one and the same time, brilliant and true. 
There is a season and a time for everything and even as we enter the season of Advent and Christmas, we are still in the season of stewardship and budget development. I confess when it comes to talking about money, I am inclined to follow the injunction to “keep silence” and forget that the counter weight to that silence is “to speak.”   Even though we are in the spiritual, soul-healing business, we cannot ignore and neglect the everyday “business” of the church. To support your spiritual journey and your witness to the power of creator God, we have to address the funding side of life.  Every time we turn from the challenging, we run head long into divine insight that invites us to turn and has an impact on our soul.  My soul is pierced, again. 
Over the last twelve months (November, 2015 to October, 2016) we have had the highest level of congregational giving in the last five years - $372,000.  Our previous high was a little over $368,000 in January, 2012.  I am going to use this time to speak the voice of gratitude for your trust in the leaders of your church.  Thank you.  Thank you very much. 
You have made much possible through the generous sharing of your treasure.  We are making a difference in Sandy, in Utah, and in the World. With humility, paraphrasing Luke 4: 18-19, the Spirit of the Lord is upon us because we are bringing good news to the poor and we are setting captives free, we are helping with the recovery of sight, and we are proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor.  I love the message of God’s unconditional Grace, slathered out on each of us.  To be a follower of this radical Jesus requires us to think and act radically. 
One of my goals for 2017 is to get your staff to a higher level of compensation, Jim Collins writes in Good to Great, “Great vision without great people is irrelevant.” I pray you agree with me that we are blessed with exceptional staff. We want them to be fairly paid for their talents and contributions to the health and growth of Hilltop, but we still have much uncertainty over what our income will be for 2017.
Now is the time for those who fully intend to eventually turn in a pledge form to do so. Now is a time to speak with your trust and commitment 
For those of you who do not intend to turn in a pledge form, might I invite a conversation with your church leadership so we might understand why you cannot speak with your trust and commitment. 
For those who have turned in a pledge form, we are praying for a ten percent increase in congregational giving in 2017.  I am mindful that at a time when we are at our highest level in nearly five years, we are praying for a new highest level. Our goal is to support your staff.
Candidly, your church leadership assessment is now is the season, now is the time.
Know that I am spiritually, emotionally, and financially invested in Hilltop.
Many others are as well. 
Are you? 
If not you, who? 
If not now, when?
Now is the season.
Now is the time. 
As a community, let’s make 2017 a year when we proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor to all who have ears. 
The year of the Lord’s favor starts now. 
The year of the Lord’s favor starts with you. 

Selah, Pastor Dennis