Over the past weeks of our Stewardship Season, we have posed these questions:
What gifts, talents and passions do we bring into our community of faith?
How might these gifts, talents and passions feed the hunger and longing of our world?
These questions are based on the story of the loaves and fish. In this story, when the disciples see the hunger and needs of the crowd, they focus on their scarcity of resources: “we only have five loaves and two fish.” But Jesus challenges them to expand their vision. When they take the step of bringing what they have, in community with others, they are surprised by a miracle of abundance. Not only is there enough, but more than enough to feed the needs of the people around them.
It has been wonderful to see what some of you have brought as symbols of gifts and passions to put on the altar table. It is not too late—you can still bring a symbol on Sunday. Others of you have written notes about what you offer on our symbolic loaves and fish. I will read some of those aloud on Sunday.
I have been thinking about what symbol I could place on the table to symbolize my passion and gifts, beyond the usual pastoral symbols like a stole or a candle. Last Saturday, after I participated in an interfaith dialogue on the diversity in the Christian tradition, I realized that the recording of this dialogue, particularly my part in it, is the symbol I would like to offer. Not only does it represent my passion of bringing the good news of Jesus’ radical inclusion and love out the door of our church, but it is also a symbol of the great gift of the United Church of Christ and our local congregation. It took me many years to find the UCC, but, as I note during the dialogue, looking back I realize that the UCC is always where I belonged.
We are a denomination and church where living into the questions is more important than reciting creeds and where the stories of Jesus rather than church directives take precedent. This is something to celebrate—not so much to say we are better than anyone else, but to see that we do have unique good news to share!
I invite you to watch the recording using this link, with thanks to the United Religious Initiative and the Alameda All Faith Coalition:
Note: After the general intros, I am the first panelist to speak, but I encourage you to listen all the way through.
As you listen, reflect on some of gifts we bring to our wider community and our world as a local church and as the United Church of Christ. Our ability to offer this good new week after week is thanks to your generosity.
I took forward to seeing you on Sunday as we offer our Pledge Commitments for 2024.