Today, I watched the Mike’s Kids guy load two huge boxes of toys and other stuff into his trailer. He asked if the shopping cart full of foodstuffs was for them as well, and no, it’s for North Dallas Shared Ministries. Then I remembered I haven’t placed my Alternative Christmas order yet (which means this will be year four in a row I’m late with Christmas presents; now it’s part of my character), and then checked to see if my tithe had been taken out of my bank account. And then I thought, “Wow, there are a lot of opportunities to give at this church,” but what floors me is that you all give, give generously, and give gladly.
Of all the things that happened this year in the life of this church — and there are countless occurrences, occasions and happenings to celebrate and hold sacred, which I do — I think I am right now most impressed with Operation: Minty Fresh. Kathy Leslie had this marvelous idea — what if we brought enough toothbrushes for the approximately 400 folks we feed at Austin Street Shelter? Spit-balling with her, I suggested we go for a thousand — aim too high, right? And within one month, we brought in over 950 toothbrushes, over 300 tubes of toothpaste, and nearly 100 packages of dental floss. In addition to Thanksgiving dinner. In addition to the colleges/seminaries offering. In addition to regular giving. It shocked me not that we did, but that we hadn’t tried something like that in my tenure here. It inspired me to challenge y’all to challenge the cracks and creases in this world to see if we can’t smooth things out for the ever-coming, ever-nearer, ever-now Reign of God.
It takes a lot, as we’ve learned this year. It takes a lot of time to plan fellowship events and dinners, to set and prepare the sanctuary for worship, to attend jazz vespers or board meetings, to get articles in on time, to serve as a deacon, elder or officer. It takes a lot of talent to sing in the choir, to teach Sunday School, to sponsor youth, to work with children, to greet folks, to equip folks, to pray for and with and on behalf of folks. And it takes a lot of giving, which we have shown over and over again that we’re willing to do if it supports our mission and strengthens our spirits as we seek to do justice, honor diversity and be inclusive. Those three things are revolutionary, rebellious and counter-cultural at times — but here we are, moving forward. (At this point I should put this in: if you have not provided an estimate of giving for 2014, and you have estimated your giving or plan to pledge, please let us know as soon as possible.) And all of these lessons we’ve learned this year, all of the times we’ve succeeded grandly or just in getting together — we take that forward with us, too, into 2014.
This Sunday is a big Sunday. (I feel like I say that a lot. It doesn’t make it less true, by any means. Every Sunday is a big Sunday.) This Sunday, following worship and a brief coffee fellowship, the congregational meeting will take place. We will present and (hopefully) approve the budget for 2014. We will present and (hopefully) approve the elders, deacons, officers and trustee for 2014. I will talk briefly (seriously, briefly) about some strategic planning, and we will celebrate and thank the elders, deacons and officers who are rolling off this year after at least two years of service. (By the way, when you see Martha Johnson, Lynne Stokes and/or Elizabeth Esterchild, please offer a thanks to them. They have faithfully served as Chair, Treasurer and Secretary through all of 2012 and 2013.) All this happens Sunday, which I hope you’ll be there for. Surely, I’ll see you then.