Tuesday, July 28, 2015

An Offertory Prayer

Oh God, our help in ages past and our hope for years to come, I voice today the gratitude of this congregation, which has been blessed by Your presence, challenged by Your Great Commission, and supported by Your daily guidance in good times and in bad.

While we often struggle and are anxious about today and tomorrow, we know in our hearts that You are with us, blessing us with bounty that most people in our world cannot begin to envision, yet always comforting us by Your presence in good times and in bad.

We ask again today the question raised by the hymn writer, “What can I give to Jesus who gave His life for me?” While we are about to give our tithes and our offerings, we are reminded by the hymn writer that these tithes and offerings are but symbols of greater gifts of ourselves: our hearts, our minds, our time—each and all are aspects of offerings. May we not just put coins and bills in the offering plate, but may we offer our hearts, our minds, and our time to You in deep devotion, because without these, our monetary contributions are more like a payoff than a sincere and dedicated gift. But the vision of our gifts is not just between You, our God, and each of us. It represents a vision of a sinful and needy world that needs Your presence and Your hope. May our gifts become a channel of hope for all who stand in need  of You and of the abundant life You offer all.

In Jesus’ names we pray. Amen.

Saturday, July 25, 2015


We had a busy day, unloading a third truck of furnishing from our two previous households into the new home where we are now residing with our youngest daughter and her family. We decided to eat out for supper; and on the way back to the house, we thought we would drive through our new neighborhood. One of our concerns in the move has been to find some neighborhood children with whom our two grandchildren might connect.

As we drove by a home around the corner from our house, we saw a strange phenomenon—a young boy, who appeared to be about our grandson’s age, was scrunched up in an animal cage right between the road and the sidewalk. Although this looked strange and we thought we heard a soft cry coming from the boy, we thought, “Here’s a neighbor who appears to be about our grandson’s age, and he probably is just playing around. Maybe he will be our grandson’s first neighborhood friend.” We drove home, parked the car, and set out to walk to the caged boy and perhaps meet our grandson’s first neighbor about his age.

When we got to the caged boy, we discovered that he was indeed caged. Our grandson, Clay, undid the latch and set the boy free. Climbing out of the cage awkwardly, the boy under questioning told his story. He actually lived across the street from where he was caged. His older brother, who obviously was fed up with him (or perhaps is a regular bully) had forced him into the cage and latched it. No mention was made of parents to intervene in the brothers’ dispute. The homeowner on whose property the boy had been caged had not appeared on the scene to set him free. Other cars driving by had ignored the caged boy, probably thinking like we did that the cage was not locked and the boy could crawl out whenever he wanted to.

I don’t know how long the boy had been in the cage. I don’t know whether he had been crying out for help and no one had responded. Maybe he was embarrassed and didn’t want to call attention to his situation. Maybe he was hopeless from the regular absence of parents and the bullying of an older brother. He wasn’t very forthcoming with information, even under questioning. We did discover that the boy is a year older than our grandson and that he goes to an elite private school nearby. In his embarrassment, he didn’t reveal much more information—nothing about the abuse of his older brother, nothing about his absent parents, nothing about any stability in his life.

We set the boy free physically from the cage, but we don’t know what other “cages” imprison him. In my subsequent reflections I thought of the phrase of the old Gospel song about “a soul set free,” and I realized that it is a lot easier to set a body free than it is to set a soul free. Now the question is, “How do we become a neighbor in Jesus’ sense of neighbor?"