Published on March 16th, 2014 | by ABCUSA0
Gifting Time in the Parking Lot
The blog below was written by Rev. Dr. Leo S. Thorne, associate general secretary for Mission Resource Development, ABCUSA. Blogs written by ABCUSA Leadership Team members will be published periodically on the website. Views expressed are the sole opinion of the author. (Interested in submitting a blog for publication? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.)
I went visiting one of our churches a few Sundays ago. Snow was everywhere; a lot of it, several inches, had fallen the night before on the already-frozen earth. White and brown-colored mounds of snow were piled high. I was able, however, to easily park my car in the clearly-lined and ploughed parking lot, walk along the shoveled pavement, climb the 10 or so steps that led to the church’s vestibule, and take my seat in the warmth of a beautiful space to join the congregation in joyous worship.
Many churches have rearranged their liturgy to position the announcements at the very beginning of the service. And so it was at this church. The pastor stepped to the front at the floor level, and the first words the pastor spoke had to do with expressively thanking the unnamed person who had gifted an enormous amount of time to the church to attend to the snow to make it safe for all of us to enter the building to worship our God. And that we did as we followed the printed liturgy all the way to the end. It was indeed a glorious worship experience in the presence of the Holy. At the conclusion of the service, the words of Psalm 122:1 came to mind: “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord.”
As we gather together for weekly worship at our various churches, we each bring with us as a church family all the unique gifts we have received from God and all our lived experiences of the past week to bless and encourage one another. In the winter there are those among us who plough the fallen snow; in the spring there are those who tend the happy flowers; in the summer there are those who supply the refreshing lemonade for others who strive to maintain the always-in-need-of-constant-care church building; in the fall there are those who rake the multicolored splurge of leaves. As laborers together with God and as faithful stewards, we all share our gifts to make our worship services possible, our congregational life inside and outside the church possible, and our total life together as ABC people serving as the hands and feet of Christ possible.
As I serve as your Associate General Secretary for Mission Resource Development, I got to thinking as I left the church that morning how very thankful I am for all those Spirit-led ABC congregations all over this country who, as faithful stewards and devoted disciples of Jesus Christ, generously support our ABC family of over 5,200 congregations. I realize that you do not always hear about or see the parking lots that are being ploughed or about the transforming work God is doing among us (and we are earnestly trying to change that picture). But God is at work among us using many persons in our ABC family, a people committed to the principles of freedom, justice, and equality, to make our denomination possible and to help us respond as a people who are being transformed by the Spirit. That pastor understood, yes she did, that each one of us as we joyfully expend our God-given time, talent and treasures, we make our total life together as an ABC family in Christ possible.
A statement attributed to the famed Italian sculptor Michelangelo I hold close in mind is the one in which he remarked that it was his goal to release David from the marble block in which he found him. I like to think that God desires to release the masterpieces, big or small, in each of us and daily we strive, however imperfectly, to release our gifts back to God for God’s eternal purpose in Christ.