Rev. Diane's Personal Tithing Testimony

Today, with much humility, I will share my personal giving testimony.  This is with my husband Adam’s permission, as he figures in it prominently.

I come from a long line of tithers.  My parents tithe.  My grandparents tithed.  When my grandparents died, they tithed in their will, leaving 10 percent of their estate to their church.  And then my parents tithed their portion of the inheritance to our church.

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Seaweed in a Raging Ocean (Psalm 13)

Sometimes no matter how intellectually and theologically astute we are, doubts about God can hit us like a piercing dart when we least expect it and leave us feeling helpless. Rosaria Butterfield, an atheist professor working in Syracuse and late convert to Christianity, describes her first run-in with doubt after her conversion and how she questioned the goodness of God. In an excerpt from her book, she describes a broken, unhealthy relationship with a man in her congregation who helped convert her to Christianity but emotionally manipulated her into essentially giving up her life to get married to him.

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Promises, Promises (Genesis 21-8-21)

This is the second Sunday after Pentecost, and I’m following along in the Lectionary of the Universal Church.  I selected one of the Old Testament Scriptures, a story of which I was familiar, but for some reason, it read differently than it did before.  It’s amazing how Bible stories we know so well can speak to us in such different ways.  I attribute that to the Holy Spirit who illuminates these Scriptures to give the message I need, and I would like to share one with you this morning.

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Saying Goodbye (2 Corinthians 13:11-13; Matthew 28:16-20)

It is very hard for me to believe that this day has come.  My last Sunday as the pastor at University United Methodist Church.  I think back to my first Sunday here in July of 2010 and what I remember the most was that I had been told that it was my responsibility to turn on the lights, air conditioning, and the sound.  Dan Barrett came and made the coffee and put out the Visitor Parking signs.  I dutifully arrived early and turned everything on in the whole building the way that Alice had showed me.  When she arrived, she informed me that we don’t actually use every room on Sunday mornings and so, she helped me turn the units off in the rooms we would not use!

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The Gift of Sharing (Micah 6:6-8, Proverbs 22:9)

“Those who are generous are blessed for they share their bread with the poor.”  This is the reading from Proverbs 22:9.  Simple, short, sweet.  Not so easy to understand! I have to confess this morning that at some point in my seminary career, it really started bothering me that Christian mission and service was being defined as serving the poor.  At first it sounded attractive, almost sexy, like something every good Christian should be doing.  It started bothering me when I realized that it makes it sound like you must be rich—wealthy with stuff—in order to be a good Christian. 

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The Gift of Time (Luke 2:41-52)

This past week, I had two experiences that touched my heart deeply.  I want to share them with you this morning. The first was our day of service last Sunday.  Yes, the teams who went out to serve in the community did an amazing job.  But, I felt God touch my heart in particular during the worship service we held at 10:30 when most people were out at work sites.  The kids who had packed toiletry kits earlier in the day and several adults gathered for worship.  I had planned an interactive service, knowing we would have a lot of children!

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The Gift of Being Human (Genesis 11:1-9)

¿Está lejos del centro? Our host mother asked. My friend Rosanne and I looked frantically at one another.  Do we know the word lejos?  What does that mean?  We were in Mexico for a short immersion trip while we were in high school and between the two of us, we were doing pretty well figuring out what was going on and responding. 

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Did you know that Easter is a season, not just a day?  Of course, we did celebrate Easter Sunday last week, but Easter Sunday is the beginning of several weeks of proclaiming Christ’s resurrection and pondering what Christ’s resurrection might mean for us.  The Easter season ends on Pentecost Sunday, which is June 8, of this year.

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When You Can't Find Jesus

We all know that experience of losing something that we just had. We picked up our keys, but now we can’t find them.  We just had the report in our hands, but we laid it down and can’t remember where it is.  We are sure that we put our shoes by the front door, but they aren’t there when we are ready to wear them. We know what it’s like when we can’t find something we just had. Many of us may also know what it’s like to struggle to find someone we just held close. That’s the feeling in our Easter story. 

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The Journey Continues

There are many moments in our lives that seem like endings, but are actually more like beginnings—or at the very least they give way to a journey that continues beyond that moment. For example, when you are searching for a new job, your mind is focused on that one goal and when you finally get one, it feels like a victory, success!  But, truthfully, the journey continues!

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A Fresh Start

This has been the kind of week that inspires fear within us. First, on Wednesday, there was the tragic shooting at Fort Hood, Texas that killed three people (in addition to the shooter) and injured 16 people. Severe thunderstorms, heavy winds, and tornadoes followed Wednesday afternoon and Thursday, striking several states in the Midwest, including Missouri and specifically St. Louis and University City. These are the kinds of experiences that you wish were made up and unreal—the kind that you imagine you will only ever hear about on the news on TV, until they happen to you, your family, or in your front yard. 

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Remember Where You Are

You can learn a lot about a group of people based on the jokes others tell about them; and the ways they make loving jabs at themselves. 

So, in the spirit of self-reflection, I did a google search to find out what the general impression is of United Methodists.  I found two blogs that poke fun at those of us in the good old UMC.  I want to share some of them with you all this morning.  Some of these are from a Blog Spot called “Imagine” by someone named George and others are from Milford United Methodist Church. 

Here goes: 

You might be a Methodist if…

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A Story of Three Strangers

One year, many years ago, my dad and his siblings decided to throw a surprise birthday party for my grandma.  My parent’s house ended up being the site for the party.  So in the weeks and days leading up to the party, my mom and dad put me and my sisters to work cleaning the house, making food, trimming hedge, washing the porch, and mowing the lawn.

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Is It Just About the Rules?

I have a confession to make this morning.  Lent is the season of confessions, so this is the right time!  So, here it is: I am a rule follower. I have always had a deep sense of obedience.  For better or for worse, I must have been born with this inclination to follow the rules.  When I was younger, I hated it when people cheated at board games.  I would proudly tattle on people when they talked in the hallway at school. 

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The Journey Begins at Home

On this Sunday, we begin a new journey.  This is a journey into the Lenten season, a season where we are invited to reflect inward, to take a long deep look at own souls and our own relationship with God.  Yet, at the same time, don’t be fooled into thinking that Lent doesn’t involve community.  In fact, our own spiritual journeys are intimately connected with those around us.  Just as our Lenten journey begins within the home of our own souls, so too does our journey in life begin within a home, a community, a church, a family.

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Power in Prayer

This life is fast-paced and we are demanded to multi-task all of the time.  There was a recent story that I heard on NPR about a study on happiness.  The study showed that people are most happy when they are focused on one thing.  Yet, life in modern America pushes and pulls us in a million directions at once. 

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Praying for Our Enemies

Sybil MacBeth writes that “Praying for others is an act of hospitality.”  She says that when we pray for others, “It involves opening the door of our hearts and minds and admitting people into our consciousness.  We invite them to take up residence for a time and allow them to engage our feelings and thoughts.  Like entertaining guests for a weekend, praying for others requires time and energy.”

I love this metaphor that praying for others is like entertaining guests for a weekend.  Through prayer, we are inviting those we pray for to live with us for a while.  We show hospitality to others by inviting their names, their troubles, their joys into our sacred space of prayer.

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Prayer Beads

“If we do not pray, we fail to realize that we are in the presence of God.”

This is a quote from Karl Barth that speaks to a deep truth that we know, prayer is an essential part of the Christian life.  Even though many of us struggle with prayer, we know at a deep level that it is a practice that opens our eyes to God within us and all around us.

If we are to have even a small chance to actually pray without ceasing as the apostle Paul instructs us in 1 Thessalonians, we will need some help.

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Centering Prayer

When you get a few moments of silence, what do you do? 

Truthfully, it seems that most of us tend to fill the quiet spaces of our lives with word and sound.  We turn on the radio, the tv, check facebook or email messages, we make mental grocery lists and chore lists.  We make noise, internally or externally to fill up the quietness.

In our day and age, silence is not what impresses people the most nor does it get people’s attention.

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