Thursday, June 06, 2013

A Fair Balance

Thursday, June 6, 2013 -- Week of Proper 4, Year One
Ini Kopuria, Founder of the Melanesian Brotherhood, 1945

[Go to http://www.missionstclare.com/english/ for an online version of the Daily Office including today's scripture readings.]

Today's Readings for the Daily Office

     (Book of Common Prayer, p. 968
Psalms       50 (morning)        [59, 60] or  8, 84 (evening)
Deuteronomy 16:18-20; 17:14-20
2 Corinthians 8:1-16
Luke 18:1-8

Even though there is no attempt to relate the readings of the Daily Office, I am often surprised how a certain theme will be present in the readings nonetheless.  We're reading sequentially through Deuteronomy, 2 Corinthians and Luke -- different genres from different times.  Yet today, all three readings have an exhortation to justice along with an underlying theme about stewardship.

Deuteronomy insists that judges and officials must be committed to "justice, and only justice," refusing bribes or the influence of the wealthy.  A king must be subject to the rule of law just as any other citizen.  The king must not "acquire many horses for himself; ...also silver and gold he must not acquire in great quantity for himself." 

Paul encourages the wealthy Corinthians to greater generosity by the example of the poorer churches in Macedonia.  They have contributed greatly to Paul's collection of alms for the struggling congregations in and around Jerusalem.  "It is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need.  ...As it is written, 'The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.'"

Luke writes of a poor widow who has been wronged.  She insists on justice with stubborn tenacity until even a callous and unjust judge will give her justice.

So often it comes down to money.  What is just?  What is fair?  How much is too much?  How much is not enough?

Paul observes that the poor congregations in Macedonia shamed the wealthy Corinthians with their generosity.  His observation tracks something I've also seen in my congregations.  It is often some of the households with modest income who are most likely to be most deeply committed to the stewardship of the tithe.  I especially remember a woman named Margaret from my congregation in Jackson.  She lived in an apartment that was probably less than 900 square feet.  I don't think she had a car.  Her husband, an hourly wage worker, had died many years ago.  A series of inflationary years devalued any savings or life insurance bequest he might have left her.  She lived primarily on her Social Security benefits.  Margaret tithed faithfully, because, she said, she was so thankful.  God had given her so much, she said.  She has everything she needs.  Despite her near-poverty level income, she was in the top 20% of our givers.

Winnie was the widow of a priest who had served his entire ministry in small missions being paid the diocesan minimum for priests.  "He didn't have a good head for numbers," she said of his lack of savings when he died unexpectedly and prematurely.  That's when she started coming to our church.  Winnie qualified for Food Stamps, which helped, she said.  Your income has to be pretty low to qualify for Food Stamps (now SNAP).  Winnie apologized to me when she sent in her pledge card with her tithe.  "It used to be so much more when Frank was alive and we could tithe on his income too."  I knew lawyers who pledged less than Winnie.

"It is a question of a fair balance" Paul says.  That's one reason I like a stewardship of percentage giving.  When we choose a percentage of our income to give away we more clearly balance and relate our giving to our receiving.  I remember my income when I first began to give 10% to the church.  It was $7,200 a year.  My pledge was $720 annually.  I still give the same today.  Percentage, that is.  It's a lot more money, of course.  But one day I'll be retired like Margaret and Winnie, and the amount of my pledge will go down.  But it'll be the same percentage. 

It seems fair and balanced to me.  


Lowell
_________



Audio podcast:  Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week.  Go to: http://www.stpaulsfay.org/id244.html

About Morning Reflections
"Morning Reflections" is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at http://www.missionstclare.com/english/index.html

Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

See our Web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

Our Rule of Life: 
We aspire to...
    worship weekly
    pray daily
    learn constantly
    serve joyfully 
    live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas

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