Abundance…we’ve got it! When I saw this cherry tree at the playground where Kora and I were spending some time last week all I could think was, “Wow! What abundance!!” Watching the birds fly in and out of the tree, the chipmunk hauling the cherries from the tree to its stash and hearing Kevin’s story of the bear feasting from the bounteous fruit earlier in the week gave me pause to appreciate the Creator’s supply of abundance for these creatures. The Gospel of Matthew reminds us to, “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” This was one of those “If, then” moments. If God provides abundant fruit for the creatures of the earth, then God also provides abundance for us. After all, are we not creatures as well?
In this pledging season we take stock of what we can financially offer the church. Last year we had 57 pledging “units.” That generally means individual households. Did you know that we have the potential for over 100 pledging units? If you were to look at this cherry tree in May, you would see beautiful flowers covering the branches and you would consider the potential for the fruit in October. The same can be said of our church. We have the potential to not just meet our budget of $180,000 next year, we have the abundant ability to top it and create a substantial endowment. An endowment that would take this church into the future on solid footing. Pledging gives our Executive Committee solid numbers to count on for our budget rather than guessing how much might show up in the “plate” on Sunday.
Some of you may wonder how much you should pledge to the church. The Bible refers to putting a tithe, or a tenth, in the storehouse. Could you imagine the potential for our church if we all pledged a tenth of our income? Imagine if each of those buds on the cherry tree in May produced a bushel of fruit for the birds, chipmunks and bears in October. I think you get the picture. How is the Spirit nudging you in your pledge this year?
Vocation and volunteering, what do they have in common? Children have one vocation in life and that is to play. Through play they learn. Adults have the opportunity to join in that same vocation and if COVID has taken one thing from us, it has been the ability to play. How do we restore that vocation as life changes the way that we interact with each other? Through the joy of volunteering! This is the time of year when we look at what we do in the church through the role of volunteering for our councils, committees, and activities. The big question before us now is, how do we do that and remain safe?
Through the wonders of technology, we are able to continue in a forward motion of play. We have the ability to Zoom, Facebook and meet on-line. We are looking at ways to safely join together with protocols in place to do our very best to reduce our risk and learn to live with what we have learned about a virus that took us by surprise. If there is one thing that we have learned from children in this time it is how to play and learn together. We cannot live in seclusion to wait this thing out, we must come together and take advantage of our technology, applying our desire to play with our call to a vocation of volunteering.
While spending the last 2 weeks with my granddaughter I have been reminded that we turn our tools into toys. Kora has reminded me of how the natural tools provided by our Creator turned into toys. Smelling flowers, pulling seeds out of hollyhocks, chasing chipmunks and counting berries are just some of the ways that Kora has turned these tools of nature into toys. How can we do the same? Look around you. You have computers and cell phones at hand. You have books, pencils and paper within reach. Combine those tools and look at what you can do. If there is one thing that Red Lodge has to offer the world it is a resource-rich community of volunteerism that is vocation-centered. Vocation involves a “strong feeling…particularly worthy…requiring great dedication.”
Kora’s determination to learn “Itsy Bitsy Spider” reminded me of the great dedication that it takes to make a commitment to master a skill. The same can be said of our learning curve for applying technology to our new way of life. It means logging on to Zoom or Facebook over and over until we have figured out how to make it work. It means writing and re-writing articles for the Shalom, Weekly Wrangler and the Carbon County News until we’ve captured the message that we want the public to see. It means putting times and dates on our calendars so that we won’t forget to show up and have our voices heard. The challenge for volunteerism in Red Lodge is in re-engaging your vocation that had been the career that you retired from. What part of that vocation will you now apply to the life of your church? What part of that vocation did you always want to develop, and you did not have the time? This is the time to take the opportunity set before you and play with it!
In March of 2020, our church was on a path to putting herself on the map. We need to get back to that map. Our ONA status in the UCC needs to be completed. Our doors being open to the public as a family rest station need to be re-opened. Our commitment to re-creating our children’s Sunday school and the creation of a youth group needs to begin now. Dedication to working with the Northern Cheyenne people needs to find a different way of support. These are just 4 of the things that were on our map in March. They all take time and effort, and can be done in small group gatherings and on-line.
What is your “strong feeling” toward these efforts? Which one do you feel is “particularly worthy” of your time? And to which one are you willing to put forth “great dedication”? Ask yourself these questions and when the nominating committee comes calling in the next few weeks you will have the answer to their questions, “Are you willing to serve in the vocation of a particular committee? And which committee will that be?”
In love in action,
Red Lodge Community Church - A place where Spirit and so much more happens!
308 S. Broadway
Red Lodge, Montana