…to the congregation. No. It’s not a misprint, a scam or a shell game. It wasn’t given because we have an excess of resources (in fact we are behind $50K on our current budget). It wasn’t given recklessly (though I’m sure some will see it that way).
Yesterday our church gave each member and regular attender a check for $500. It felt crazy. Scary. Stupid. Bold. And faithful. It felt faithful.
It was pretty crazy how our scanty congregation ever got to this moment. Back in the mid-70’s our church played a role in establishing a housing development that had plenty of set-asides for people of color and others of limited means. Called Atrium Village, it was the first mixed race/ mixed economic development built with private/public/church resources in the nation. Last year, the restrictive covenants expired, and the developer wanted to sell. The involved churches sold their interest too, but not before negotiating new restrictions on the future development resulting in even more affordable housing units on that site.
Earlier this summer, LaSalle Street Church received a check for our share of the sale: $1.6 million dollars. More money than we have ever had at one time and in one place.
Our first act was to give 10% of the money away. But where? To what? An Ebola clinic in Sierra Leone? A fistula center in Niger? An art project in our own inner-city neighborhood?
We decided to take the boldest leap of faith any one of us could imagine: We were going to give it to the people and let them determine what to do with the money. Each of us would get a portion of the 10% and then… it would go wherever they wanted.
Freely. Without any strings attached.
Gulp. Holy $*% were we “wasting” $160,000 dollars? Maybe.
How do we know it won’t be “squandered”? We don’t.
But we know this: that every day we wake to gifts we never sought, expected or earned. That this morning we were greeted with an astonishing blue sky and a houseful of people who love us far better than we deserve. That we’ve had ‘unforgivable’ actions forgiven,and that at every moment we’ve had the freedom to do with these gifts whatsoever we chose to do.
This is the essence of faith I think, Not just that we believe in God but that God believes in us. And trusts us to do great things with his gifts. Are they wasted on us? Definitely.
Sometimes the forgiven forget that it was grace that forgave and the wealthy forget that before we worked, we were given the tools to work with.
But then there are those other times…those times when we remember. That all grace comes from a Giver who asks only that we respond by doing what he does, acting as he acts, giving as he gives.
This time we remembered. And we gave. #loveletgo
That’s just the beginning…