A Message from the North Yarmouth Congregational Church
A sermon offered by Jeanne Chadbourne in the public worship of the North Yarmouth Congregational Church, UCC of North Yarmouth, Maine on Sunday, October 29, 2017.
“ Don’t Forget to Save Your Receipts” or “Shoulda, Coulda, Wanna”
I’ve had a lot of time to think and prepare for this little chat and I did my homework, only to read just a couple of weeks ago about a saying that reads like this. In ME they have a saying that there’s no point in speaking unless you can improve on the silence.
Getting up in front of folks I know and talking about money is out of my comfort zone. but I have a story ( and so do you ) and I am willing to share this story which could be given the title simply “ My Stewardship Journey” especially my church stewardship. This stewardship business is not a one size fits all concept and more often than not is a very private matter, usually shared with close family if at all. And hopefully with God.
A brief look back at my giving pattern shows that the 1st 30 years of my life were not geared to church stewardship, in fact they weren’t very churchy years especially from my mid 20s to mid 30. My youth years were very churchy .In my mid 30s I met and married a minister. After listening to 2or 3 stewardship drives and what he was preaching, I realized that we were not practicing what he was preaching………and this did not feel right to me. I don’t remember exactly how I resolved this situation, but I think I suggested that he take care of his giving and I would take care of mine. This was not an ideal solution but I felt better. And then I started coming to this church in the early 90s. It was about 5 years later that Gil Healy asked me if I would head off the stewardship drive. I said yes and I did with some excellent help. It was at this time that I knew I could not by any stretch, ask folks to do something that I was not willing to try. So I ramped my giving up some more.
What I failed to realize was that I was stretching to the point where the man who does my taxes said as I was walking out the door of his office one March day
“ don’t forget to save your receipts” . I very slowly shut the door , walked back to my chair, and said what in the world do you mean. It sounded a bit ominous. Taxman Chris is a man of few words….he’s all about the math . He said Your return may be red flagged for an audit. I sat down. Just the thought of an audit by the IRS gave me the willies. Chris. just tell me what I need to know. He said my charitable giving was out of line with my income. He brushed my concerns away. I think he just wanted to get to his next client. And he ended our session with “Just don’t throw away your receipts.
It was at this point…….after processing the conversation, that I began to brush up against the possibility that maybe I was getting this giving thing right. For me. I do know that it finally felt right, not good, not prideful, no elation……just right.
I did not get here because someone said I should, nor because someone said I could, but the best news is it put me where I wanted to be…….wanted is the operative word.
So what is keeping this good thing going? Let me share the ways or reasons. We’ve heard or read about God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit for as long as we have been affiliated with a church. I still do not pretend to understand very much about God. But we’ve all heard the God stories. We know considerably more about Jesus. He was a human being who walked and talked and taught, and held children on His lap, he cried, he got angry. His humanness is easier to relate to. And then there is the HOLY SPIRIT. I have tried so hard to connect with this and to understand how the HS is, if at all, in my life.
It took a long time for me to get even a bit of a hint and I will share with you a few incidences or events where I think the HS touched my soul. And this is so connected with my stewardship.
( Below are the times or events about which I spoke when I delivered this to our congregation on October 29, 2017. To write them out would be way too long, but I will talk about them one on one if more explanation is needed. I will give a brief explanation for this publication. I spoke directly to these folks if they were in church on the 29th )
David….choir director/and accompanists –sometimes your music is gentle and soft and the HS gently and softly touches my soul. Sometimes my feet are tapping and my knees are bouncing and so is the HS as it pokes my soul.
Janine….When she has her SS kids do something in church, I usually feel a constriction in my throat and I am aware the HS is present. ( an aside) I think kids hold a special place with the HS.
Heifer……when I walked by the Heifer Project Poster and saw the top blown off the thermometer because they had raised way more than they planned, the HS poked my soul.
Food Pantry…..when unloading my car with goods our church has collected and someone says, “ WOW! Where did you get that?” , I get that prickly feeling and my soul smiles.
Missions…..NYCC’s support for our mission projects this year has been incredibly generous. From our usual support for local missions, our outreach really hit an all time high when natural disasters affected so many people. Sometimes when I am processing our pledges etc. on Monday morning , I find myself so humbled by your extra giving.
Birthday gifts…..an 8 year old asked her friends to bring a pet pantry gift instead of a typical present to her party. When her mother opened the back door of the family car to unload, I was so moved by the giving spirit expressed by a young child, yes, the HS was there.
Rev. Nancy at GSM….NYCC is so supportive of Rev. White and her participation in the Grace Street Ministry. She goes off on her duty day with clean socks, underwear, coats, T-shirts, Dunkin Donut and Subway gift cards etc. given by you. When I picture her sharing communion on a street corner with a litter- catching chain link fence as an alter, I know the HS is there with her and some of the neediest people in Portland.
Sara’s Ordination…..you had to be there to experience the intense presence of the HS at her ordination. The music, (David, Allie, and Linda performing Amazing Grace ), the spirited hymns, the humor, her children’s participation…..just so many components that were a part of the ceremony had the HS really swirling around our sanctuary. It was so Present.
Biggest one of all… Last Spring’s Lenten Study, followed by Holy Week services that were so powerful, never mind inspiring, has left a forever impression on my spirit. This event caught me by surprise! I did not know that sitting around our Fellowship Hall sharing thoughts, being led through Lenten/Easter material, soft lighting, participating in simple, almost child-like activities would evoke the HS as intensely as it did …..for me. The HS was indeed palpable and it stayed with me a long time
These are the reasons I WANT, in capital letters, to continue to support this church just as much as I want to, not as much as I should, or could, but want. And of those 3 pockets the “want to” pocket is far the most giving. This seems to be my way of saying thank you for this church and how it lives or acts out the love of God. How it serves God and sends His goodness out of the church into a world in need. I have a little trouble humanizing God, but if He has human like qualities, I suspect very much that He is frequently smiling down on our church.
So … what I have said so far, could, maybe even does, apply to any of you. Some of the items I have mentioned could even be a part of your story. I am not foolish enough to think that that swirly, ill-defined presence is singling me out. I am just so thankful I am letting it in.
Thank you for hearing me out and now I will close with 2 thoughts ‘I will always save my receipts and I will share this tender reminder ( I go through this, silently of course) when ever I feel like I am stretching my gifts. Quaker event.