December 12, 2013 @ 05:01 pm by Jacqui Lewis
The World Wide Web. The Internet. Twenty years ago, my friend Jim told me it was coming. An encyclopedia of information from around the globe. Search engines that could find anyone and anything. A network of resources beyond my imagination at my fingertips. And, a thing called email. Wow!
Jim set up an account for me at AOL that I used every now and then to communicate with my church team. Today, I am in a meeting for an hour, and 85 emails await me. The Internet helps me write sermons, blogs, and my book. I am learning how to use Twitter to get in the fast lane of conversations. And I have recently learned another amazing gift the Internet has to offer: online shopping!
Oh what fun it is to ride through the web to GetYourShopOn.com and find gifts. No crowds, no lines, and great coupons to boot. Boots? DSW. A dress? Bloomingdales. Coats for Mom and Dad? Macy's-can't beat that price! Who knew shopping could be like this? I can't say I hate shopping. I love when John and I do our find-the-sales shopping as the seasons change, and he helps me pick out a few things that fit. I loved finding the Prada-look-alike Jones New York shopper - a briefcase-like purse for a woman who hates purses - in on-trend red, AND on sale for $39.95 at J.C. Penney. Woot! And I loved finding warm coats for my parents while in my pajamas. What a thrill to get great things for a great price! I can't wait to see the joy my gifts will cause.
It is the time of year when many of us are looking for a bargain. New Yorkers, we live in a crazy-expensive place! Money is tight and the economy has not quite bounced back. We question how we might balance our budgets, our suspicions of a consumerist culture, and our desire to gift those we love at the same time.
For me, a budget helps, and my family story shapes it. I am guided by the generosity my parents encouraged. No matter how much they were struggling, they used holidays as a time to give presents that would grow our imaginations. They were smart about bargains and coupons.
I am also guided by the ethic of tithing they taught us. When we earned a dollar, we were taught to save a dime and share a dime. Sharing what we had with children around the globe through UNICEF or giving to our church so that we could do ministry and mission-these were the most important gifts to give.
Part of the reason I get so excited about bargains is they enable me to keep my commitment to tithe. I still give one-tenth of my income to charity. It is part of who I am. Middle Church has been my most significant charitable donation for ten years. I give a little to cancer research, a little to my alma maters, a little to support the Children's Defense Fund. But to support my passion for economic, racial, and LGBTI justice, I give to Middle Church. To support our multicultural, multiracial community, and my love of worship that restores my soul, I write my check to Middle like a bill. I love Middle Church! Working here is not enough; I support her with my tithe. For 2014, I am planning to enter the twenty-first century and use the Internet to give to Middle Church online.
My gift to Middle Church each month helps our children grow, and makes dance happen. It helps make the voices of the Middle Church Choir rock my soul, and for the Gospel Choir to get me on my feet. It feeds the people in the park, and will put food and fuel in the Soul Food Truck. It teaches classes and offers retreats. It offers conferences and is creating a new community at Art & Soul with music like we are offering this Sunday, a Whitney Houston Christmas. It is also helping to offset the cost of getting an accessible facility so that everyone can get in all of our doors.
I taught a seminary class this autumn. This Sunday is Gift to Bring Sunday. I will give one-tenth of the teaching fee to Middle Church, along with some extra John and I saved because of the way we managed our budget this year. I can't wait to see the joy on the faces of my Middle family because of the gift I give. I consider my gift to Middle Church a great bargain: I get a priceless experience for a fantastic price!
In this season of Light, please join me in making Middle Church a place of love, art, and soul. Give the old fashioned way: bring a check or cash this Sunday or mail a check before December 31. Of course, you can use the wonderful Internet to give at middlechurch.org. Plan to attend the one-day Advent New Member Gathering on December 22 and join our movement for love. Thank you so much for all of the gifts you give to make us who we are.
About This Blog
Preparing ethical leaders for a just society. Posts by Jacqui Lewis, Senior Minister.