Beloved St. John’s community,
Sunday, we celebrated the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, our patron saint. St. John was deeply steeped in his own tradition but was also an innovator who asked people to live consistently with their values and God’s dream for this world. To honor St. John, Sunday we did something really, really different. To learn more background about it you can watch or read my sermon.
When it was time for the offering, I asked all of you not to put money in the offering plate, but instead to take money out of it.
The offering plate was filled with twenty-dollar bills. I asked every family to take one $20 and put it on their dining room table. Then, over a meal, to begin to talk about ways you could use this to be “generative.” Being generative is something that takes on a life of its own and keeps going. It’s not a product but a fruit with the seeds of future life in it. There are two ways your offering could be generative, if it:
- Supports someone else’s giftedness, not their need
- Helps that person connect in some way with other people
For example, Pastor Michael Mather who authored the book Having Nothing, Possessing Everything, had cultivated a culture of supporting giftedness in his congregation. When someone came to the church asking for money to help with a need such as rent, the church usually declined. Instead, they would ask if the person would have a conversation with them. And then they would ask: what do you love to do? What are you good enough at doing that you could teach it to someone else? And what do you want to learn? Once they found out what people were good at, they worked really hard at finding ways to help them get paid for doing those things. One woman, when asked what she was good at, said she could cook really well. Pastor Mike said, “prove it,” and invited her to cook lunch for him and his staff (and paid her to do so). When it turned out she was indeed a brilliant cook, he hired her to cater other events, and he paid $20 for her to get business cards. A few years later she opened her own restaurant. This came about because he expected unique giftedness from her, and he was willing to be a backstage hand at a play in which she was the lead character. This came about because he began with listening.
I am inviting St. John’s to do something along these lines. (Incidentally, there are still $20 bills in the church office for those of you who weren’t there last Sunday—you can come get one if you want to be part of this experiment. Contact me if you’d like to do this). I’m asking you to:
- Look for someone you normally think of as being “in need”
- Find ways to listen deeply to them and find out what they are good at or what they know how to do well enough to teach someone how to do it, or just what they really love to do. Don’t go with what you think they should do; listen to what they love to do.
- Use the $20 to support that giftedness in some small way, a way that is relational.
- Then tell me about it in an email or phone call.
It might be tempting to think that the church’s primary ministry is the programs that we put on, whether that’s the worship services or the youth ministry or our service at First Nations Kitchen or Haiti or Guatemala. But these are only supports to our main ministry which is …. drumroll here ….
you embodying Jesus’ love in your daily lives and relationships
This $20 project is an effort to help you practice Jesus’ Way of Love in your everyday life.
It’s a way to help all of us begin to transcend the “White Savior” paradigm and instead take a back seat to the brilliant giftedness of people we are habituated to think of as being “in need.”
It’s a small experiment that will allow lots of decentralized creativity, openness to the Holy Spirit, and intentional connection with the world around us.
It honors all of our five values: sacredness (giftedness), belonging, spiritual nourishment, creativity, and transformation.
And it is all operating in our primary ministry area: your Monday-Saturday life.
Sunday, I also asked you all to write down and provide us information about what you are good at. (Unfortunately I didn’t ask you to put your names down!) If you are willing, I’d love for you to fill out this brief survey, even if you already wrote your gifts down on a piece of paper, to tell us what you are good at, and what you are interested in learning—and also, if you are willing, to tell us who you are (this is optional). This won’t commit you to doing anything. It will just be information we can use to begin to understand where our congregation’s gifts are.
We are experimenting, my friends. And I hope this will help us find and participate in what the Spirit is already doing all around us all the time.
With love and creativity,