Loaves and Fishes in Abundance
I am always surprised where I will find something about hunger and how we are called to help bring it [...]
Date posted: Tuesday 02 October 2018
This past summer, rostered ministers new to service in our church were invited to attend a stewardship retreat, "Love Let(s) Go". Recognizing that generational attitudes toward money and the church have shifted, the retreat discussed the need to re-examine existing models for stewardship. After the retreat, each participant was given $300 to steward in a way of their choosing. In a series of blogs, each participant will write about how they invested the impact of that money. Today, the Rev. Horacio Castillo shares how his $300 is helping to share the Gospel.
Generosity can take many forms and be done in many ways for the benefit of our neighbor. God is the first and ultimate generous God who has given us and preserves our bodies and souls as promised. As Martin Luther put it in his explanation to the third article of the Apostles’ Creed: “At great cost [Christ] has saved and redeemed me, a lost and condemned person. He has freed me from sin, death, and the power of the devil—not with silver or gold, but with his precious blood and innocent suffering and death.” Christ did not get anything in return for his sacrifice nor was he looking for it either. On the contrary, he gave everything away for and to us who did not deserve or gain it, nor can we.
When the synod surprised our cohort with a gift of $300 for each participant at the end of our retreat, I struggled finding a place to donate the money even when it was given to me as a gift. I asked myself, “What place can I donate the money to where I will get more bang for my buck?” A friend of mine works at Union Gospel Mission in the Christ Recovery Center in St. Paul. I thought of him and the "un-fancy" work he does there: preach Christ to those who have lost everything due to drug and/or alcohol addiction.
Two men from this program at Union Gospel Mission agreed to speak with me, thanks to my friend, and they shared with me their story. They opened up without hesitation about how sin and the devil had brought them down to losing their job, family, house, and almost to the point of death. They got to a point where there are no more pretenses of who they truly are, sinners. Their facades and lies do not work anymore, not even on themselves. Both these men agreed in one thing even though their experiences had been different: “When everything is stripped away the only true hope that is left who can actually redeem me and make me anew is Christ and his forgiveness.”
Being generous is something that is unnatural for us, even as Christians, whether we have worked for it or not, because we cannot trust in God’s promise of daily bread. Being generous is one of the hardest things we learn to be and do because we are, much of the time, thinking about “What am I getting out of being generous?” Sharing our resources is hard, especially when it does not seem that you are getting anything in return. I have heard many times people not giving in the offering plate, tithing, or pledging for the mission and upkeep of the church because, as they say, “it is not sexy,” or “I do not get any bang for my buck.” We want to see results, otherwise it does not seem that my generosity of sharing my resources does not bring me any substantial benefit.
This is the exact point of the gospel, the forgiveness of sins. It is not shiny, it does not give you “more bang for your buck,” it is not “sexy.” However, it is indeed free and benefits us beyond our imagination. What we do not realize much of the time when being generous with our resources within the church or others who are proclaiming the gospel, is that we are not paying for God’s love or benefits. On the contrary, we are being used by God so that the proclamation of the free gift of the gospel be delivered to God’s people.
Before visiting my friend at the Christ Recovery Center — CRC — I had already decided to give the $300 from the synod. I didn't expect anything in return. However, I was blown away by the work they are doing there changing lives. First, through preaching the gospel, and second, by helping people get back on their feet. I am glad I was able to give this gift to the CRC, but also that I experienced their mission firsthand because now I can remember the faces of those who welcomed me and I can hold them in prayer.
The Rev. Horacio Castillo