Forward Together: Hand in Hand

Sunday, November 19, 2017

During our Stewardship emphasis we have had wonderful mission moments regarding the significance and impact of CUCC in the hearts and lives of those who attend. Think of the beauty of children learning that hate is a four letter word, not to be spoken and the sense of family created and experienced here. Consider the influence our shared values have on shaping the lives and futures of children as they grow into young adulthood having benefitted from our progressive Christian education and numerous opportunities to put faith into action. We are amazed at the many ways that the talents, knowledge, skills and abilities represented in your lives blend in creative ways to minister to our world, our community and this family of faith.

The Psalmist declares that the earth belongs to God as do all who dwell herein and we are called to be good stewards of that which God has entrusted to humanity. Let’s consider how we are doing as managers of God’s creation. This year in the USA more than 4.7 million people have been forced to register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, more than ten times the number who registered last year. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria devastated the south and US territories. The fires in Napa and Sonoma did more than make us nervous regarding favorite wineries. More than 7000 homes were destroyed by raging fires and most of these homes were in communities that were not believed to be at risk of out of control fires. While I am not a climatologist, the impacts of climate change are growing exponentially according to many. The Department of Defense is in long range planning regarding the impact of rising ocean levels on naval bases around the world. And we have in power those who deny any human impact on climate change.

How are we doing with managing differences in faith beliefs, in races and ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses, politics, and other areas that separate us from one another? On election night in 2008, I cried like a baby at the prospects of moving toward a post racial America that had just elected a biracial African American as President. Sadly, I was greatly mistaken. The presence of a Black man in the White House brought out the latent racism that exists across the south and the north, east and west as well. Could we have ever imagined after the defeat of Nazism in World War II, that we would see hundreds marching in Charlottesville, screaming “blood and soil,” and carrying Nazi flags in protest of decisions to relocate Confederate memorials?

Although a nation of immigrants, many seek to ban some immigrants based on their religion or the war torn nations from which they seek to immigrate. Since the early 1980s, middle class and lower incomes have essentially stagnated while the wealthiest 2% have seen their incomes rise dramatically. Budgets and tax plans become moral documents and expressions of values upon which they are based. In the federal tax plans released this week, individual tax cuts expire by 2027, significant corporate tax cuts are permanent and estate taxes on the small percentage of estates large enough to qualify, are eliminated. In order to keep the deficit spending to a presumed $1.5 trillion, over the next 10 years, $1 trillion will be cut from Medicaid and $500 billion from Medicare, something I am paying much more attention to these days. So Congress is considering plans and budgets which take support from the poor in order to give in tax breaks to the rich.

And how are we managing the power differentials of male-female relationships. We’ve known of the President’s confession of sexual assault, explained away as just locker room talk, and the dozen women who have shared their stories of having been victimized by his actions. Nine women have shared their stories regarding US Senate candidate Roy More’s actions toward them when many were teenagers. US Senator Al Franken has apologized for his own inappropriate actions toward women. In state legislatures across the country including Colorado, accusations of similar improprieties impact both sides of the political aisle. Movie and media moguls as well have been exposed for their abuse of power with employees and potential employees.

This week, self-described feminist and author of a book on rape culture Kate Harding describes accurately the current reality. “I recognize that men’s harassment of and violence against women is a systemic issue, not a Democrat or Republican problem, not a Hollywood problem, a sports problem, nor a media problem. Its roots lie in a patriarchal culture that trains men to believe they are entitled to control women’s bodies for sex, for sport, for childbearing, for comedy.” What can we do to address such societal ills as a family of faith?

Our gospel reading this morning is from Matthew 25: 14-30, the parable of the talents. A wealthy landowner goes away and gives his servants part of his wealth for which he holds each responsible. One gets $5,000, puts it to work and doubles the value. Another receives $3000 and he too, doubles it. The one who received $1000 buries it in an effort to protect it because he knows of the landowner high expectations. The landowner is thrilled by the efforts of the two who grew his investments, but he is furious with the one who did not and had him thrown out into the darkness (we don’t like this part). So where do we choose to invest that with which we have been blessed by God?

In Boulder County, there are over 1600 nonprofit organizations, most of which do remarkable work for our community and world. As a nonprofit fundraiser, I understand the competition for corporate and personal funds that are the lifeblood of these organizations. And this morning I offer to you that one of the ways we can counter the ills in society spoken of today is through investing in the work and ministries of CUCC. Through CUCC we impact the world for good through the ways we speak to that which destroys our earth and environment. This week CUCCers are in Guatemala, building in-home ovens for families to use for cooking and heating their homes without contributing to health problems caused by the ovens commonly used by Guatemalans. BCAP food drives, CROP walks, gleaning and harvesting of seeds, Share a Gift, and support of the ministries of the larger United Church of Christ allow our investments in this congregation to change our world.

As shared in today’s Mission moment, CUCC represents values and beliefs that are important to all of us, Caring and compassion, accepting of those who differ, a faith that welcomes questions and doubt, a congregation which embraces diversity, teaches respect for others, promotes equality, and advances God’s love for each person – these are all part of the light in the world that CUCC seeks to be. We teach these values to our children, embody them in our social action, demonstrate them to our community, and encourage one another with them as we go through shared life experiences. When you invest your time, talent, resources, knowledge, skills and abilities in CUCC your gifts unite with others and the collective impact is far greater than the sum of the individual parts.

When you invest in CUCC you grow the sense of family that sustains, supports and encourages one another through the challenges of illness, loss, financial hardships, and tragedy. You grow this family of faith in sharing the joys of life - new marriages, new children and grandchildren, graduations, business growth and success, the shared joys of living in Colorado, you name the joy – here at CUCC when burdens are shared, the load is made lighter and when joys are shared, the joys are multiplied. Yesterday, I attended two funerals of faithful individuals who had led  lives well lived. In Jamestown, June Hill lived always happy even through the personal loss of a home to fire in 2003 and the devastation of her beloved community in the 2013 flood. Her husband Leon said she was infuriatingly happy at times and that community turned out to support him in his and their loss. And yesterday, we also had Russ MacCachran’s Memorial service here and CUCC and friends filled this place to celebrate Russ’s life and the gift he continues to be. We are a family of faith that seeks to be like Jesus, even with our faults, our doubts and our struggles in life.

Investing in CUCC produces a return on investment for the kingdom of God for which we can all be thankful!

 

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