Gratitude & Giving

We've just kicked off our Fall pledge campaign. We're crossing that three year threshold where more churches than not never make. We're so grateful for what has happened these past few years. We have a baseline amount of financial support to sustain our church community as it stands. But we know we have God-sized dreams and know our friends and church family outside of Portland might be able to help us achieve those dreams. Recently, our pastor Adam Phillips shared his thoughts on giving and made a very direct Sunday appeal outlining our vision and hope for the next season ahead. We thought you might like to read it. And if you can, will you join in with a monthly financial commitment today?

Are we captured by negative thoughts, memories or or vibes? Or do we breathe in deeply with thanks the good along our journey?

“The mind is like Velcro for negative experiences,” psychologist Rick Hanson is fond of saying, “and Teflon for positive ones.”

It takes 15 seconds to rewire our brains for gratitude. We can do it.

Image via Unsplash || @simonmaage

Image via Unsplash || @simonmaage

Let’s practice right now. You might be on the bus or in a coffee shop or on your couch at home - no worries! Those are all great spots to practice this life changing habit.

For 15 seconds breathe in deep and out and focus on something you are grateful for this very moment. Maybe it was something that happened this morning over breakfast, maybe it was something that happened this week. If something great has been awhile, then just reach back to that closest memory and zero in on it for the next 15 seconds. 

Ok, now try it again. Lean into another gratitude moment or event - what was it? Let’s find another 15 seconds and breath deep and out. Maybe open your palms in a posture of openness - open for what God might be breathing into this memory and open to letting it just fly free, back into the universe.

Good work. One more time - you have 15 more seconds to spare. Maybe lean into the gratitude in the very room you find yourself in in this moment, or with the people or somewhere in a moment about our community in and around Christ Church - what are you grateful for?

We’re journeying with the Apostle Paul going back to the roots of his teachings - some quite radical. And I think this practice of gratitude is quite radical in our own time, as it seems like it may have been in his as well. He writes this:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

We're talking about money this Fall season - because it’s something we do. 

And we need your help. Will you make a new monthly financial commitment today?

We had been talking about our stewardship and giving campaign for a few weeks before and someone pulled me aside and said: yeah, but really, why do you want us to give money to church?

And I realized something: I’m a bit afraid to talk about money for some reason in church. And I confess I don’t think I’ve done a very good job talking about it.

But since we talk about politics and sex in this church then we can talk about money, right?

So let’s do it. Let's talk about money. Because we must talk about investing in the things that truly matter - and our church truly matters.

But first, I want to talk to you about tithing and giving ten per cent.

Abraham gave who a Tithe?

Where does the concept of tithe come from? It’s basically an agrarian concept - giving ten percent of your harvest for the greater good. It expanded into concepts of religious obligation and taxes and what not.

And somewhere along the way they told us that we owed ten percent back to God. 

Yet, if you look at the Hebrew Bible you’re gonna find that it was ten percent maybe two or three times a year that folks were required to give - so are you ready to give 30 percent back to God?

Because, Jesus once told a rich young leader in the community to give 100% back to God.

Now, before we get carried away with Jesus, let’s talk about this 10% business.

It started when Abraham met a curious priest named Melchizedek.

Ancient mosaic of Abraham meeting Melchizedek (As depcited in Genesis 14)

Ancient mosaic of Abraham meeting Melchizedek (As depcited in Genesis 14)

In the book of Genesis Abraham is on his quest, leaving his family of origin and traveling to distant lands. He’s told by God that he will be blessed to be a blessing for others - in fact for all the nations of the earth.

There’s a story with Abraham where his nephew Lot gets into some trouble with some warring kings and Abraham is able to do what no other super power in his time could do - quell and defeat these kings. And rescue his nephew Lot in the process. 

Everyone is feeling great about this victory and a curious Mister Melchizedek shows up with some bread and some wine - some say this King Melchizedek came from Jerusalem when it was just getting started as a city. Some say Melchizedek might have been one of Noah’s lost sons named Shem. Others look back at that weird moment with the bread and the wine and say it was Jesus doing some incredible time traveling ministry. Because, you know, this was thousands of years before Jesus walked the earth.

It’s fun to speculate - but we got to talk about brass tacks and that’s that idea of tithe or ten percent. 

Melchizedek blesses Abraham which gets Abraham to realize he’s in the presence of a foreign king and he decides to give back ten percent of everything he had with him that day (that's what you did in those type of moments back then). After Abraham gives him a tithe, Melchizedek then basically wants to make a deal with him and asks for all the people Abraham had with him - the fighting men et cetera. Melchizedek promised to give him the spoils of victory all around him.

Abraham looks at Melchizedek and says, essentially: I don’t make deals with powerful people, because I have a covenant with God. We have a different kind of deal going on - we are called out to be a blessing for the universe. Thanks for the meal, we’ll be on our way.

I love this because we’ve gotten this very strange bassackwards way of talking about giving money to the church through an inspiring sort of realpolitik conversation in a battle field between a mysterious powerful man and a wandering pilgrim who talks to God.

So - one tenth of everything is that what we’re supposed to give?

Maybe. Maybe not.

But I like the radical madness of it all, nonetheless.

AJ Jacobs is an atheist Jew - he says, I’m Jewish like Olive Garden is Italian - and he is an editor at Esquire magazine of all places. And he wrote a really funny, powerful book about trying to “live Biblically” in one year. He grew out a beard and lived out the thousands of rules in the Bible we have handed down to us.

He loved it. And even if he didn’t believe in much of it he began to really believe in the radical idea of giving 10% of everything.

… a pain mixed with pleasure. When the confirmation e-mails pinged in, I felt good. There’s a haunting line from the movie Chariots of Fire. It’s spoken by Ian Charleston, who plays a deeply religious sprinter in the 1924 Olympics. He says: “When I run, I feel His pleasure.” And as I gave away money, I think I might have felt God’s pleasure. Which is odd. Because I’m agnostic. I don’t know if there’s a God or not, but still I felt some higher sense of purpose. It was like a cozy ember that started at the back of my neck and slowly spread its warmth through my skull. I felt like I was doing something I should have done all my life. 
— AJ Jacobs, The Year of Living Biblically

What would it look like for us to just off the top give ten percent of our earnings? Pre tax, post tax, however you want to think of it. We’re not going to be legalistic here.

It would be hard. It would be sacrificial. It would be radical.

When Sarah and I do it, we notice what we don’t buy. But we also sleep better at night. We also realize we’re doing something with greater intention.

I know it is hard to Instagram giving away a tithe - but there is a deeper satisfaction when you give gratefully out of your abundance.

A couple things about churches and giving 10%.

Hardly anyone does it. Over half of people that attend church regularly give zero. Zero. That’s fine - I don't think God gets mad about that. There are a lot of good reasons why someone might not be able to give anything financially to a faith community. But this isn’t the goal. We should all find ways to invest in our common life, in our work in building for the kingdom because this is about all of us carrying each other and setting some intention in the world.

So, if half the church gives zero. The other half give sometimes 2%. And then you have a host of folks that give 5, 6 or 7%. And some give 10. You’ll hear of others - really rich and really poor -  giving 25% or 50%. I know of someone who gives 90% of their earnings. But they can do that - they have a big house in southern California.

But what could we do if we all gave 10% across the board.

Some sociologists think that we could do a heck of a lot of amazing things. (read this book).

We’d raise $133 billion easy.

Think of people of faith and good will raising $133b annually. What could we do with it?

We could feed the hungry, care for the sick, clothe the naked, house the houseless, restore those imprisoned, provide education and equity --- we could even care for our hurting planet.

Our Christ Church story: growth, call & resilience:

‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others.
— Matthew 23:23

Here's some basic facts you may or may not know:

  • We started off in our living room on N. Sumner & Williams. Sarah made amazing hummus and we talked about the Sermon on the Mount and being Salt & Light.
  • We were promised three years of financial support to get fully started.
  • You know our story probably by now - 9 months in right as we were getting started our denomination pulled the plug because they didn’t want us including all people - and when we mean all we mean all all all. We have clarity on this - everyone is not only affirmed, but included and will be equipped and be able to work and journey with us because we think that’s what God is in the business of doing in our world.
  • We were able to raise back half our support through crowdfunding. It was amazing. The people, as our friend Elsa likes to say, showed us the way.

COMMIT: How will you partner?

This is about investment and community. I would love it if you joined in right now with a monthly giving commitment.

Indeed, if we raise funds for the creation of a community of love, we are helping God build the kingdom. We are doing exactly what we are supposed to do as Christians. Paul is clear about this: “Make love your aim.” (1 Corinthians 14:1)
— Henri Nouwen

Here's why I am asking you to give today:

  • We have an incredible, growing children and youth ministry. We'd like to build our staff team to meet those needs. 
  • We're also fervently leaning into our call to dismantle white supremacy - and we'd like to ensure our staff team reflects God's beautiful racial and ethnic diversity. We have a bold vision to both build our staff, and develop new leaders through both a lay leadership and internship program.
  • Care for  marginalized and hurting friends: wether it is our friends coming out of abusive LGBTQ home or church circumstances, or the friends we meet who live outside, we know with extra financial support we can better meet the needs God has given us to lean into here in Portland.
  • Our small groups and Sunday service continues to grow - we believe we have an opportunity to add 3-5 more small groups in the coming 9 months and start a second Sunday worship gathering, too.
  • Location / Building: extra, outside commitment added to our growing base of sustainable support can get us on track to be in the building we know God has out there waiting for us.

And we also want to start more churches. We have folks driving in an hour or more east, west, north and south of Portland - it's true, we aren't making this stuff up. They drive that far because there is nothing like Christ Church and our open, active & inclusive commitment to community in their local towns. Imagine what we could do, together in the next few years, if we were able to plant new faith communities an hour or so in every direction?

Things would change. For the better.

There's so much more to do and say - but with immense gratitude and an abundant heart will you join in and commit to a new monthly financial gift to Christ Church: Portland? 

With all of us doing our part, we will be able to build the kind of community we dream out loud, together with God.

It's so easy - give today.