Grace and Gratitude, Issue 89
June 16, 2016 by Presbyterian Foundation
The Christian life is shaped by gratitude – gratitude for the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit. It is by God's grace that we receive the gift of our own lives, and so we are called to shape the whole of our lives by our grateful response. “The stewardship of all of life” is a common phrase, yet too often stewardship is reduced to an annual program, the annual program is reduced to the means to achieve an end, and the end is reduced to the church budget. “Gratitude for all of life” may be a way to broaden and deepen our understanding and our use of the gifts God has given us.
Taking “The Offering” is not a modern development in Christian worship. From the outset, Christians who gathered for worship shared their resources. But in the early centuries, the offering was not for salaries and buildings, not even for church programs. A fascinating description of the offering is found in Tertullian's Apology, written at the close of the second century. He contrasts Christian use of the offering with the “dues” paid in pagan cultic associations.
[The offering] is not made up of money paid in entrance-fees, as if religion were a matter of contract. Every man once a month brings some modest coin – or whatever he wishes, and only if he does wish, and if he can; for nobody is compelled; it is a voluntary offering. You might call them the trust funds of piety. For they are not spent upon banquets nor drinking-parties nor thankless eating-houses; but to feed the poor and to bury them, for boys and girls who lack property and parents, and then for slaves grown old and shipwrecked mariners; and any who may be in mines, islands, or prisons.
Such work of love (for so it is) puts a mark upon us, in the eyes of some. “Look,” they say, “how they love one another” and “how they are ready to die for each other.”
What Tertullian doesn't say is that it was common practice in the early churches to share the fruits of their offering not only with fellow-Christians but also with pagan neighbors. They provided food for the poor and burials for the indigent; they opened their homes to orphans and discarded slaves; they rescued sailors; and they provided for prisoners in Roman “gulags.” Tertullian doesn't mention that Christians typically cared for victims of Plague and other dangerous diseases. All of these were “thrown-away people” in Greco-Roman society.
We modern Presbyterians would do well to be reminded of the origin of “The Offering” as the plates are passed each Sunday . . . or as we write a monthly check, contribute online, or set up an automatic withdrawal account. We might also pay closer attention to what “The Offering” is for.
One of the hallmarks of the Presbyterian Foundation is the way our faith guides our investing practices. Our approach incorporates traditional “Socially Responsible Investing” practices like negative screens and shareholder advocacy, along with leading-edge efforts in positive screens and impact investing. These principles are at work in a variety of ways across our investment pools. Our subsidiary New Covenant Trust Company can also craft custom mission-driven portfolios to match your particular areas of passion or concern. Learn more here
Attending GA? We'd love to see you there!
If you will be in Portland for the General Assembly, please stop by the Foundation booth in the Exhibit Hall. We would love to meet you and learn about your ministry. Also consider attending one of the Foundation's events: Our Sunday morning breakfast (June 19 at 7:30 a.m.) features Philip Jenkins, author of The Next Christendom
, with a look toward the next Reformation. Then on Tuesday evening, we'll host a dessert reception looking at Faith-Based Investing. Both events take place at the Hilton. Please RSVP for either event to Penny Franklin at 502-569-5905 or firstname.lastname@example.org.