Dear St. Lukers,
November begins the month of Thanksgiving, many in our congregation who I follow on social media, each day are naming blessings for which they are grateful. I haven’t participated in this practice publically this month, but I have sought to do so in my prayer time. I’ve been seeking to contemplate on people, situations, and things, large and small which add blessing and meaning to my life. This past week, as my family commemorated the one year passing of my father, I am so grateful for the notes and texts I received offering prayers not just for me, but also for the comfort my mom and the rest of our family found this year. I was dreading the day, but it actually was a day of great beauty and peace.
This summer, I studied and preached on the Scripture from Ezra 3:1-13 about the three different types of offerings the Israelites brought before God. For me, it was a learning God placed on my heart to consider new ways to give thanks to God with my stewardship. The three offerings were:
1) Sacrifice burnt offerings which I compared to our weekly tithes and two other offerings which are above and beyond the first tithe.
2) Festival offerings which I compared to our Lenten, Christmas and holiday giving.
3) Free will offerings of thanksgiving to God for working in our individual lives. In the message, I shared the Israelites were fired up about giving in direct correlation to how much God was giving and blessing them (Click here to watch the sermon online).
I remember as a kid having offering envelope number five. Which was funny in a church as large as ours how my offering envelope number was so low, but I think it had about four zeros in front. Always included in our box of envelopes was a thanksgiving envelope in addition to the weekly Sunday envelope for the week. My parents and our pastors taught me this is a special offering to give in response to the blessing we are grateful for in our lives. It was a habit I had as a child which I never knew until I was an adult was directly connected to the Israelites discipline of giving.
I share this information for two reasons.
First, I want to be very transparent and remind everyone that this year we lost one Sunday worth of offerings due to Hurricane Irma, as well having an entire month where we shifted from five services to three. Needless to say, this has affected our budget and we are behind in our income to expenses by (Corey to provide $$). As we consider the wishes for 2018, my wish is we would ensure we also end this year strong and healthy. And while that’s a fiscal responsibility I want us to take care of from an organizational side…it’s something more.
If I stop to consider all of the ways this church has blessed me and my family over just the last year, and if I consider the incredible ways God has used this church to strengthen my family, and my friends, and to pour into my life, I want to give back. I want to help St. Luke’s end 2017 strong because it’s the only response of gratitude I can have. It’s a tangible thank you to acknowledge God has created St. Luke’s to not only bless us and the community, but for us to steward. Our family wants to ensure God’s church and God is not sold short.
This thanksgiving my family will be giving an additional offering in thanks to God for bringing us to the other side of this year of grief and in thanks for this congregation who walked with not only me, but my entire family. This additional Thanksgiving offering is also because as a family (and a pastor) we do not want the ministries of this blessed church to be caught short and held back from serving and nurturing our congregation and community. We are also going to start making this a part of our family tradition in 2018 as a way of marking special occasions and celebration in our lives by giving a tangible thanks first and foremost to God and God’s church.
Maybe you will consider an additional Thanksgiving offering over this next week. This offering will help us catch up from offerings missed and ensure a positive end to 2017. But more importantly will be a chance to give a tangible thanksgiving to a God who gave you so much through St. Luke’s family and ministries. You can bring your gift to worship on Sunday, or click here to give this free will Thanksgiving offering. Sunday we will continue to hear God wish us more with more woo-hoo’s than whoas! May this special Thanksgiving offering give us a chance to say Woo-Hoo as we move into the Advent season.
Thanks for prayerfully considering this extra mile gift.
Thanks be to God for all God has offered to our lives.
Thanks be to God for you and all you mean to St. Luke’s.