Proverbs (starting again…)

Yesterday (yes that’s right, I am writing this on Monday! hehe! — so yesterday!) we gathered round the table. It was a bit chilly outside but fortunately we started warming up inside together! We opened in prayer before being reminded of our homework assignment(s) from the week prior:

  • to define/describe (yes again) what Sabbath is (for us)
  • to DAILY be reading Proverbs …and then sharing what the Holy Spirit is highlighting

The reminder was useful — and in fashion unlike us — there was a beginning of (mildly awkward) silence…no worries, and especially after the question of do folks answer one or both questions (yes) the sharing began.

While of note, we did not speak much to Sabbath definitions (though I do think we continue thinking about it & letting God speak to us even — or perhaps especially — in those spaces where we don’t have/know “all” the answers) but there was much to say about Proverbs. After an opening noting how wisdom is personified as a woman (shared with a bit of a grin) there was desire to jump forward to other chapters where the feminine is personified differently — but we held back, seeking to hold our engagement to where we had already read — chapters 1-5 (or even 6). A quick mention named how fools don’t follow wisdom; there was conversation on what wisdom is (is it the same as knowledge — most said, no) — holding God’s wisdom also as something different than humanity’s knowledge; there was some holding too of how to hear God’s promises — perhaps in general? — because it doesn’t seem that at least with health that our faithfulness guarantees it… Too there was some felt “poking” from the Holy Spirit in wondering if some of the descriptions (not the good ones) include us (likely), and simultaneously encouragement in thinking that perhaps we’re not “that” bad with some of the things God hates (see Proverbs 6:16-19).

And where much of our conversation arched was in how wisdom cries (or calls) out — in the street — in the shared public space (see Proverbs 1:20-33). This conversation was rich. Questions of is wisdom crying out? If (she) is — can we hear her; can we hear her above or piercing through the noise that surrounds us; are we even trying to hear? While there was mention of modern-day prophets & how, not dissimilar to the prophets of old, they are not typically well received (even by those of faith) — we did not even engage the idea of false prophets — and especially this realizing that it is not only wisdom who cries aloud in the street (listen carefully as we continue).

So how do we hear? How to be those who are open to learning, open to reproof, open to saying “sorry” after we’ve gotten it wrong? Open to turning from wickedness when God shows us a better — a more loving & God-honoring way? While there is much I (and ahem…honestly, “we” don’t know — because, well GOD) one way we turn our ears to hearing wisdom — from knowing the voice of our Shepherd — is in taking ourselves (again & again & again) to the Word of God that has been gifted to us — this is what we are doing collectively of course with this October (and prayerfully all the time, but also all Octobers while we get to journey together) — so let us continue this practice, this rhythm & this “home/life-work assignment”

  • daily be reading 1 chapter of Proverbs a day. If you forget where you are — check the date — the number will be the same. So this week we’ll be on Proverbs 7 and reading through 12 and then spending some time with chapter 13 read together as we gather next. Be encouraged as you read y’all & be listening to where God might be CHALLENGING you & also to where God might be ENCOURAGING you — let us all be open to the surprises that can come as we do this very thing!

In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater

Finishing Sabbath & jumping into Proverbs!

Last Sunday we gathered around the table. And after hellos, grabbing a seat & of course some laughter we opened in prayer.

Slightly different than usual we did have a few public service announcements including how if you receive money from a disbursement (like retirement, etc) and donate to the church — an option is to have the amount you give the church to be given directly from the account (aka — you never “touch” the monies — but they still do what you want) — this is mentioned because of the tax benefit to you! Questions — talk with Marv Fisher! Another of the public service announcements invited people to sign cards for the folks who actively serve our community as emergency service providers (be sure to sign & say thanks!). The final public service announcement reminded us that we ALL are guests in God’s church & at God’s table & that we are invited to extend the hospitality that we have (already!) received from God — to each other & any who might come! Always a good reminder for us all!

Then we checked in answering the question of how we plan to Sabbath (to stop). Many shared that they don’t (really) plan. It is just something they do. Some noticed that they didn’t like the question because they started thinking more collectively about Sabbath practices, like if they choose not to make dinner but instead go out — then someone else is not longer able to enjoy Sabbath. Some noted how Sabbath practices can and often do have gendered expectations. All in all, those gathered came from contexts where Sabbath was part of life and because of years of living in this rhythm it is not something actively planned for, just enjoyed.

And following this we turned to scripture:

  • Ezekiel 20:19-20
    • 19 I am the Lord your God; follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. 20 Keep my Sabbaths holy, that they may be a sign between us. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.”
  • Isaiah 58:13-14
    • “If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please or speaking idle words, 14 then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
  • Romans 14:5
    • “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.”

Last Sunday was unique, we listened to 3 different selections of scripture. Continuing to read & discuss Sabbath. And we listened trying to hear more from God about Sabbath. Different elements of the scripture spoke to those gathered & while there did not emerge a universally accepted definition of Sabbath in the group that is the invitation of the first homework assignment question:

  • We asked this a few weeks ago and now the question comes again: Define (describe) what Sabbath is (for you). **come ready to share of course!**
  • Our 2nd homework assignment is to begin our October rhythm — reading 1 Proverb/day. Oct. began earlier this week & don’t worry…even if you forgot start reading! 1 Proverb/day & then come with whatever God has highlighted in your reading!

Y’all I’m excited to see what God is saying (through y’all!).

In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater

Sabbath still? (yes)_Deut. 5:12-15

Last week we gathered round the table & we prayed in (and folks kept on joining — praise God — come one come all!!!).

Our check-in was answering (one or both…) of the questions about what the Bible says about Sabbath and also what scripture(s) has been most formative in shaping your/our understanding about Sabbath (what it is/do we need to observe it, etc.).

(Surprise surprise….just kidding — total sarcasm — it wasn’t surprising! It was blessing!) Different scriptures were named…Luke (the Mary/Martha text); Mark 2:27; Exodus (the commandments); Matthew 12; Psalm 92; John 5:17; Acts 20:7; and 1 Corinthians 16:2. Engaging thoughts of the Sabbath is a gift for us, considering when Sabbath is to be (Fri/Sat, or Sun?), even muddying the understanding of if we can ignore the Sabbath because Jesus seemed to do so…but then too coming back to the example that God gave, creating and then resting (and we all seemed to think that God doesn’t really need rest…as God). Brought up in this conversation too was how in the example of the commandments there are different reasons as to why to remember/observe the Sabbath because God created & then rested — and/or — because God is the deliverer out of slavery (Egypt — us all now from sin)!

AND this all (as thanks be to the Holy Spirit & grace!) led into the Scripture we held together, Deuteronomy 5:12-15:

12 “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy, as the Lord your God has commanded you. 13 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 14 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your ox, your donkey or any of your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns, so that your male and female servants may rest, as you do. 15 Remember that you were slaves in Egypt and that the Lord your God brought you out of there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm. Therefore the Lord your God has commanded you to observe the Sabbath day.

New International Version

Now….we did see what the Holy Spirit was making bubble up….BUT today (as promised) I am sharing an excerpt from an article I was reading last week which I think speaks DIRECTLY to the conversation we are holding…

“… It may help to be reminded that Sabbath keeping was not only about a day of the week. It was a principle in the ordering of time itself, extending outward to the seventh year, when debts were to be forgiven and the land allowed to rest. It extended even further to the jubilee, or 50th, year, when all people were to be freed and ancestral land holdings were to be restored.
Perhaps most importantly, the Scriptures teach us that Sabbath keeping is a community practice and not simply a matter of personal piety. The cultural forces of our time would have us believe that our happiness lies in a lifestyle of constant work and “productivity,” punctuated by frequent binges of shopping. The Bible says otherwise: that our true happiness comes only from God and with God. Therefore let us as faith communities pledge to support one another in our commitment to “remember the Sabbath” and to rest in our Savior who is himself the Lord of the Sabbath. …”

Original article in Mar/Apr 2016 of Presbyterians Today: posted on Mar. 31, 2016 by Kris Haig (LINK)

So…as we continue the conversations we have been having, what the Bible has to say, the scripture(s) which have been most formative for us (& others) & even the passage above….I wonder (AND the homework is) what y’all’s answer to the following is?

  • Think about ….How do you plan to keep Sabbath? (aka — what (exactly?) do you do you prepare to stop?)

As ALWAYS — looking forward to the wisdom that will gather when we next gather round the table.

In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater

Sabbath Rest? For us…? (Gen 1:27-2:3)

Y’all….after a couple weeks with no homework (and thus no weekly blog) I find I’m rusty! And yet, last week we gathered round the table. It was the first time at the “new” during the fall/school year time (10AM). As we gathered, sharing good mornings and laughter as usual, we opened in prayer.

After prayer I named that two weeks prior when last all gathered (and I was missing) there had been conversation about who Sabbath is for, and whether we — like Jesus — can break God’s Law if needed! I also had heard that while a passionate conversation had been enjoyed by all, there had been no real agreement on what Sabbath was/is (a definition at least – that all agreed on!). SO, since the last homework questions had not been really answered we began with a check-in that answered essentially, if you observe (your understanding/definition of) Sabbath and if yes, how — or if not why not.

There were different answers and experiences. Some, really many said yes. Sabbath was desired or needed. Sabbath included a type of separation of time, for one it might mean the ceasing of work that must be done, for one it meant time in the garden — but no lawn mowing, for another it meant time where their brain was turned off of their normal work as they take care of grandkids, for another it required a reflective moment of some sort. Many wondered as to how to keep the Sabbath “holy.” Also many found not liking having to “miss” Sabbath when work deadlines required the loss of Sunday Sabbath, though one found they were also at times able to challenge in their work whether taking the time from Sunday Sabbath was necessary. Worth mentioning was how some had formative memories of what Sabbath could include from how they were raised and experienced Sabbath as a family.

After gathering, reminding ourselves of the flow of our time together (pray, check-in, listen to scripture read w/silence — “lectio devina” style, sharing, homework & praying out) and checking in we turned to the scripture selection for the day, Genesis 1:27-2:3

And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. (Gen. 2:2-3, English Standard Version)

We sat with this text. We sought to still ourselves and listen to what the Holy Spirit was inviting us to notice…like how God rested, after finishing God’s work. Like how it was God who blessed the day & made it holy. Or even considering perhaps that creation wasn’t finished until God included rest…how how God worked first & then rested (though we don’t really think that God needs the rest) — however humanity was created and began with rest (humanity also always did have work to tend too — the creation that God had already made!). So we went back to the beginning, a beginning that was very good, and noticed that rest came after creation was alive and running — rest came as God seemed to be entrusting said creation to our stewardship of it! And as we could have stayed her MUCH longer the homework time came asking this…..

  • What does the Bible say about Sabbath?
  • What scripture (specific scripture) most shapes your understanding of Sabbath?

The blog might be later than usual, but there’s still time to consider this & come to the table with what God has given you as your answer right now & though life! Looking forward to continuing this conversation y’all.

In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater

Back after a break & thinking…Sabbath! (Luke 13:10-16(17))

So we gathered last Sunday. And it was a delightful gift (as always) but also because it had been a couple of weeks since we had gathered around the table. There was a Sunday off (and praise God I do believe it was needed!) And then we had our all area (ecumenical) church picnic! Such a gift getting to worship with believers who we don’t always get to see on Sunday mornings & to be outside — on a BEAUTIFUL day & with SO much food after?! Gift gift gift….and did anyone notice how we got to enjoy it before there was that storm! (Continued prayers for our neighbors in Candor as they deal with the aftermath).

So we had been on a bit of our own little mini-vacation, which meant when we gathered together last Sunday morning, after praying there was not preassigned homework to “check-in” with. And so the opening invitation was if anyone had something heavy – light – or otherwise that was in their spirit to share — the floor (or table) was open to listen. And we did. People shared some things on their hearts — things that were more or less weighty. And a thing happened….we were able to hear people’s hearts and then it delved into some tangents of deeper theological questions, insights, other questions — we were having a good old fashioned conversation — which could engage on multiple levels & layers & which also could uncover different opinions, thoughts, even theological leanings & understandings. These conversations (TRUE CONVERSATIONS, where we are vulnerable enough to listen and also vulnerable enough to be honest — even if what we have to say is not what someone else thinks!) are HARD. It was beautiful to be able to share this table with us all as we engaged in conversation…I look forward to more & always to honest sharing that is received humbly and with grace! This is one way I think the church in it’s best sense helps God to continue working on us as individuals (it is one way God helps us to grow in knowledge & grace….a theme we discussed in the all church picnic actually!) So the conversation was rich, and had it’s origins last Sunday in that space of when death surprises us (does it ever not, in some way at lease?) and thinking of the final things — especially for those who are not ourselves (because let’s be honest, we don’t even necessarily know our own hearts, much less the heart of anyone else!)

And then….after even some passionate conversation! — we were silent together before turning to the scripture selection for the morning, Luke 13:-16(17). We read three times, with silence in between & in the final reading we heard verse 17 as well.

And we started sharing what popped up with the Holy Spirit’s guiding. We noticed this woman was bent over. That she had been crippled for 18 years. That Jesus spoke to her — but that the healing came with the laying on of hands. We noticed that Jesus saw her — she didn’t ask for anything — AND when she was healed she worshiped! Of course we also noticed that the healing was not fully welcomed, that Jesus caught some flack for healing on the Sabbath — I mean, what were the last 6 days for, right? And in talking a bit about missing out on the healing that was offered — in focusing on what was “wrong” (dare we think it was sinful to set someone free on the Sabbath?) there was insight of the need to consider the “spirit” as compared to the “letter” of the law….and about how Christ is the fulfillment of torah (the law, instructions from God)…and this OF COURSE led us to a most important (delightful perhaps even?) homework assignment for the week:

Answer (honestly of course 🙂 ) these questions:

  • What is Sabbath?
  • Do you observe it (Sabbath)?
    • If no, why not?
    • If yes, how?

Y’all…I don’t think that this conversation, this theme of Sabbath is going to be answered in 1 or 2 Adult Study sessions. I mean, could any topic really be fully answered in such a short time? But the invitation is to consider the questions and to have the honest conversation with humility, praying that the Holy Spirit will continue to speaking to us as we submit ourselves to God.

In Christ y’all ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater

Freedom check & sharing our stories (Galatians 5:1,6,13-26)

Just yesterday we gathered round the table as we do. With windows open, lights on and fans spinning we opened in prayer. Then we began checking-in with the homework (which many had said was hard!). The sharing started slowly but then we got into it.

In general the theme seemed to be that “Yes” we (I) are(am) set free, that God has set us free from sin. Most folks were able to say this — some with more strength and quickness than others, but in general this was named as yes indeed set free from the sin! However, there were questions as to what exactly does it mean to be free as well as a mention of set free from (what) & for (what)? And here was where much of the conversation stayed. Folks were set free by God — BUT, found they themselves got a bit in the way of living free. Also, there was the insight and offering that this was a freedom to choose God — but that’s not necessarily a freedom to do whatever they wanted (just a freedom to choose God’s way instead of sin’s way) — naming though that one is either “enslaved” to sin or “enslaved” to God…but that there’s not that “open freedom” to choose whatever one might want. (There was a mention that hey y’all — sin looks sexy — if it didn’t we likely wouldn’t want to choose it!) And while we’ve been set free from sin & to choose God’s way, there also was the mention of how Paul names that what he wants to do he doesn’t and what he doesn’t want to do he does (in other words, I want to do good but I don’t always seem to do what I want….).

It felt as though there was some frustration here. Being set free — to live as God wants (and still failing). Being called to perfection, and knowing that we don’t quite always get it right. And a beautiful honesty of trying to get there, of allowing the Holy Spirit to prompt us and us wanting to give the Holy Spirit the authority to help us out! And as so often is the case — the scripture we would turn too was even named earlier as something that helps us see the fruit of living in this freedom.

We didn’t read the whole chapter (or book) but we turned to Galations 5:1,6,13-26. It continued the theme of freedom, and begins by stating as those who have been set free to not become burdened again (by/to sin). Now, time (as it always happens) becomes a bit short in our time together (a blessed problem if you ask me!) — but I wonder if we could consider these verses a bit more: it seems that the idea of freedom includes limitations. Verse 13 talks of staying free but not using it to indulge the flesh/sinful nature; verse 14/15 engage how being free seems to include care for (love of!) neighbor — and a warning not to harm/bite each other; and verses 19-26 seem to offer a bit of a framework as to what the freedom of choosing God versus the decision to choose sin will include. What strikes me though is how a free life seems a disciplined life, a structured life, a life that has goodness (love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control) flowing out of it (by the grace of God). There’s a bounded nature to freedom that I don’t think we often consider. The converse is also true, there is a bounded nature to the decision to choose sin as well. And perhaps bluntly stated one bounded nature promotes and leads to an abundant life and thriving, and the other heads toward death and destruction (even though — both of these may or may not be readily seen or observed).

So where do we go from here in considering our freedom? Well — especially in the body of Christ — we have a freedom to be known (and loved) and to get to know others. AND as Gal. 5:14 mentions, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” it seems (to me at least) that one way that we can grow in loving our neighbors — (and yes, that does include your neighbor sitting at the table too!) — is to get to know more about our neighbors. So — for July (& likely August too) we will be getting to know more about each other through sharing our faith stories. The homework is thus praying and thinking about what you will share as we gather round the table.

Y’all — while I will miss some of the stories — I am VERY much looking forward to hearing about the movement of God in everyone’s lives. I know that it will be encouraging & eye opening & an invitation to trust God more!

In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater

Are you living FREE? (Luke 4:18-19)

Last Sunday we gathered round the table. We started a little small and with guests (my family!) joining. As is our custom we opened in prayer. Then we began to check in….we began to talk about the homework assignment & question. We tried to talk about if we would live or think any differently if we truly believed/considered that we have more than enough resources to do what God has called us to do/make/be.

Turned out the question was challenging. And also many (if not most or all) shared that actually there is not enough! There’s (never?) enough to meet all the needs. The conversation was full and there was discussion of the needs (individual, communal, global) — there was talk about having more than enough does not only include finances (being able to be hospitable in different ways) — there was discussion of both how if there was more money that someone (we) might have it sure would make it easier to be a great philanthropist. AND there was also the question though about — if there is not “enough” for the things we want and desire to do or if there is not “enough” for that which God calls us to do? Some would say – not enough for any of it. I wonder if we find ourselves to be under-resourced more often when it is a good idea as compared to a God idea that we are trying to accomplish? Not to say that we will find all the resources needed to be “enough” for what God guides us to do, however — when working within God’s will/desire/plans there are often ways where what is needed becomes provided (even if not in the way desired or expected). Also, when doing exactly what God has directed and we hit a wall, how often might it be God inviting and guiding us to someone who has also been called in a similar way and the even larger design is to partner with others to bring about God’s will? That seems rather God-like, that doing God’s will would require working together with others (who might be VERY different parts of the body of Christ!).

But we didn’t stop with the conversation — we just pivoted to scripture, specifically:

Luke 4:18-19 New International Version (NIV)

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
19     to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

As we listened and tried to listen to what the Holy Spirit highlighted for us quickly it was mentioned the scripture references Isaiah 61:1. We recalled that this was Jesus reading the scroll and that his proclamation of this didn’t go so well. We wondering aloud if this really was true — did Jesus tell the truth — (yes, but…) because there are still poor, still prisoners, still those blind, still those oppressed! And what is the year of the Lord’s favor? Is it the jubilee year? Is it just a year?

And with these questions looming, with scripture speaking to each of us in whatever way needed just then we heard the homework….to answer 2+ questions (an easy assignment!):

  • (answer) Has God set you free?
  • (answer) Are you living free?
  • + (answer) — What does that mean (living free)?

Looking forward to gather round the table and talk freedom y’all.

In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater

Would you live any differently?…(Ex. 36:1-7 & 25:1-9)

Yesterday we gathered around the table. It was the first time of the season gathering at 9AM (instead of 10) — praise God for bringing us who could make it to the table :)! We opened in prayer. And then we started checking in.

Technically the homework had remained the same for two weeks, thinking on the scripture(s), people, and life experiences which had been most formative in shaping our understanding of finances. Now while folks had been a bit excited about sharing last week, this week we had a slow beginning — but then the stories of one and others invited the rest to share. Stories of growing up on a farm, or with many siblings. Stories of growing up not really with enough & knowing there was a struggle to make it. Stories of always having enough too. Folks who never learned or were taught to tithe. Folks who married others who either did or did not tithe — and a variety of new outcomes with those partnerships — one with a spouse essentially saying, “we have more than enough — we’re giving!” — one with a spouse introducing the concept and need of tithing and both growing in faith when it didn’t make sense but God provided anyway — and one with one spouse tithing on their money while managing but not tithing their mates money. We talked about generosity in other ways — opening the home, feeding folks, clothing folks — investing in people (and sometimes being taken advantage of) — and also engaging in wisdom & discernment, with one naming that while scripture tells us to give to any who ask (yes — check it out HERE) that if they ask for a coat & they have one & you have only one…well, you might not give then — that we give, but it’s complicated (?). A note that it DOES get/feel complicated at times, and I imagine that it’s complicated for different reasons for us all. This is where I think God works to refine us and invites us to grow more and more Christlike — thought the power of the Holy Spirit. But don’t we also know that growth often has growth pains? So we learn (grace!) along the way and with God we grow in discernment as well.

And there was SO much more great conversation, like feeling convinced to tithe, convinced not to tithe, convinced & living how God blesses our obedience, and also a reflection in death how when settling accounts people have the opportunity to walk in integrity or not & the power of someone when being told what they owed — sharing no, they owed more & paying that happily! Finances are definitely one way that we can witness who God is (the provider of all, worthy to be trusted) and how we walk out our faith. (And when we don’t that says something too…)

BUT — just like as we gathered yesterday — I’ll move us to the scripture we heard briefly yesterday, first (a bit as background) Exodus 25:1-9 & then Exodus 36:1-7:

Exodus 25:1-9 New International Version (NIV)

Offerings for the Tabernacle

25 The Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give. These are the offerings you are to receive from them: gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; ram skins dyed red and another type of durable leather[a]; acacia wood; olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece.
“Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.

25 The Lord said to Moses, “Tell the Israelites to bring me an offering. You are to receive the offering for me from everyone whose heart prompts them to give. These are the offerings you are to receive from them: gold, silver and bronze; blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen; goat hair; ram skins dyed red and another type of durable leather[a]; acacia wood; olive oil for the light; spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense; and onyx stones and other gems to be mounted on the ephod and breastpiece.

“Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you.


Exodus 36:1-7 New International Version (NIV)

36 So Bezalel, Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord has given skill and ability to know how to carry out all the work of constructing the sanctuary are to do the work just as the Lord has commanded.”

Then Moses summoned Bezalel and Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the Lord had given ability and who was willing to come and do the work. They received from Moses all the offerings the Israelites had brought to carry out the work of constructing the sanctuary. And the people continued to bring freewill offerings morning after morning. So all the skilled workers who were doing all the work on the sanctuary left what they were doing and said to Moses, “The people are bringing more than enough for doing the work the Lord commanded to be done.”
Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: “No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.” And so the people were restrained from bringing more,because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work.

Now we did not take time to hear where the Holy Spirit had directed people’s attention. But I did take a moment, as this passage is formative for me — to name how AMAZING it is that there was MORE THAN ENOUGH to do all that God asked & that people were turned away from giving. God through the giving of the people provided for everything. God also provided the skilled labor needed to do ALL the work. And for me — I don’t want to miss out on giving to God — I don’t want to be told no when I want to give to God!

So the homework for the week…and yes it is a bit involved:

  • Re-Read Ex. 25:1-9 & 36:1-7 (if you like read the parts in between too — but re-read these passages.
  • Think about what God has/is calling you to do/make/be.
  • Consider that you have MORE THAN ENOUGH resources to do exactly what God is inviting/instructing/calling you to do/make/be.
    • And answer this: Would you live any differently than you are now? Would you think any differently than you are right now? (if you did have more than enough resources)
      • Now…if the answer is NO: I wonder, are you being honest? And if you are — then your question is — do you feel excited and joy-filled to be serving God in your purpose?
      • And if the answer is YES: what are you waiting for?

This is the homework y’all….I’m looking forward to hearing what God reveals in the week and to when we will gather around the table next!

In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater

Give to Caesar…(Mt. 22:15-22)

Last Sunday we gathered. As we do. Different folks arrived a bit early and others a little after them. It was good to be around the table (since indeed I had been absent the week prior!) We opened in prayer. And then we shifted our rhythm a little….not just because it was Pentecost (which is was!) but also because it was youth Sunday & because with youth Sunday we also were saying “THANK YOU” to those who nurture and teach our youth in Sunday School & nursery care!

So there was a question about who had Sunday School. And it was fun to hear the different experiences, some did not have Sunday School until an adult. Those who had been raised Catholic mentioned nuns, and classes/school but not necessarily Sunday School. Others remembered maybe one Sunday School teacher or class — but couldn’t remember the name of that teacher. Turned out — there were a variety of experiences about learning faith and the concept of a Sunday School class. (Who knew?) However, there was something that we were going to do other than just talk about our own experiences (or lack of them) with Sunday School — we took some time to write thank you notes to those who have (for decades) committed to teaching the youth of our church! And then during Worship we gave these notes along with a little gift to our teachers! THANK YOU Sally & Liz & Carol for teaching so well & often — & THANK YOU too Lauren for caring for the littlest of us all — all that ALL y’all do is done with great love & we are so appreciative! THANK YOU!

Then after almost a mini-check in (where we saw whether or not folks had done the homework, and while at least 1 had so many had not — so the homework remained for this last week!) — we went to scripture. Matthew 22:15-22:

Matthew 22:15-22 English Standard Version (ESV)

Paying Taxes to Caesar
15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. 16 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.[a] 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius.[b] 20 And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away.

a. Matthew 22:16 Greek for you do not look at people’s faces
b. Matthew 22:19 A denarius was a day’s wage for a laborer

From reading the scripture you can see…we are staying with the theme of faith and finances. After listening to the scripture and some silence, some noted how folks were always trying to trick Jesus. There was mention that perhaps the tone with which the people addressed Jesus was mocking — and/or if not mocking — that they were trying to butter him up if you will so that he would make a mistake that they could get him in trouble with. There was a question as to — what exactly makes these people who speak with Jesus hypocrites exactly? Interestingly — one mentioned how this scripture especially led them to pay their taxes, as it seems that Jesus is fairly clear on the matter. Others wonder — is it that clear, what was the tone of voice that Jesus used? Or perhaps more than tone, do we really live our lives understanding, knowing and trusting that EVERYTHING belongs to God? Do we freely give to God exactly what belongs to God? And what does that mean for us anyway? “…render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” It seems to me that we might know what belongs to Caesar/government/leadership, but does that really belong to them without God allowing it? Doesn’t all come from God? Doesn’t all belong to God? Then how exactly do we render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and render unto God that which is God’s? (Hey y’all I was reading an article the other day and there was something that struck me as so very pertinent to our conversation & thoughts we might have — I’m going to include it after I share the homework — alright?)

But — y’all…those questions are not the homework for this week. The homework for this week y’all already had a sneak peak at….and it is answering this question:

  • What scripture (verse/passage) &/or people and experiences have been most formative in your understanding of finances? Come ready to share y’all…I can’t wait to hear, learn & grow!

And now as promised an excerpt from the article:

I remember talking to another friend about the inherent tensions in giving freely to others. She told me that there will always be needy people and greedy people. It is not our job to decide which is which; that is up to God. We must first do what God asks us to do, then we must leave the rest to God.
Jesus makes it abundantly clear that giving to the poor is what is required of Christians. His type of giving seems outlandish to many today, especially when he said in Matthew, “Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.” Give to everyone — even if they don’t say “please” and “thank you.”
Jesus says to give — and to give forgiveness — just as freely as your material goods.
I understand there will always be greedy people who work the system and take advantage of others. We live in a fallen world. But we must have the faith and courage to know that God will use our gifts, not as we intend, but as God intends. Our only job is to release our gifts knowing that God will bless them in ways beyond our imagining, for as Romans reminds us, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”

From article, “Address our hesitancy to give freely” in Presbyterians Today — by Rebecca Lister

In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater

Faith & Finances_take 2!

Last Sunday y’all gathered round the table that has become familiar. And as you sat down (among friends & family) — you prayed. I wasn’t there but am so grateful that Gene facilitated the space & conversation while I was away.

Following prayer came check-in, the time to discuss how our faith and understanding of scripture influences and shapes how we think about, how we use & how we spend money. I think y’all checked-in and went back to the Deuteronomy 15:1-11 text again in checking in and discussing, this rich (no pun intended?) and challenging text/topic: faith & finances!

The conversation engaged questions — like, did the forgiveness of debts actually ever happen?; was (is?) God’s desire for each person to have the same exact amount of money?; what was the impact on the entire community when this happened (if this happened)? Or questions considering did this practice influence essential interest rates, or if someone would allow loaning, or would people borrow all they could — sort of an early credit card or shopping spree if the forgiveness was near? Some of the larger questions might be essentially the question that we are asking — if the Israelites (if we) took God’s invitation/plan as specified in Deuteronomy 15 seriously, how did it shape all of how they live? Did it encourage people to work at trying to take advantage of the system? Did it encourage people consider financial blessing a blessing that might be fleeting, thus inviting them to trust always and only in God (and not a nest egg, pension, 401K, investment portfolio, property investments)?

These are great questions. And there were & there are more. Questions of specifics. Questions as to the details…the how to. And it seems like there was the very real concern about people taking advantage of us, of the generosity of others. (Don’t we just hate that? Someone taking advantage? It doesn’t feel good, makes us feel foolish!) But to throw something out there for us to wrestle with….what does grace teach us? (We might not like the teaching?) Or what would it really look like & feel like to live knowing (KNOWING) God is always the giver, that the blessings we have (financial and otherwise!) we did not earn and we do not deserve (no matter how smart, wise, faithful, kind…..we are) — that all we have is God’s and God but allows us to hold these blessings & to steward them in a way that gives God all glory and honor and praise? What would that feel like for us? I wonder if this is part of what God was getting at, how God was trying help guide God’s people to create a community where God’s provision is the center?

Now….I could go on….but I’m not too sure if the homework was named yet….SO — I’m going to mention it here & realize we might need a second week with it….anyway — here it is:

  • Please think about what scripture (verses &/or passages) & life experiences &/or people — shape our understanding of finances. Come ready to share these at the table of course!

In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater