Stained Glass and Gift Cards

Last month I preached a sermon on the “full armor of God” in Ephesians 6:10-18. Paul challenges Christians to take up the “sword of the spirit.” A stained-glass window in the Northside sanctuary depicts the apostle’s conversion. A panel portrays a sword with the caption “Spiritus Gladius,” or “Sword of the Spirit.”

I challenged the students in the worship service to locate the stained-glass. I promised a $10 Chick-Fil-A gift card to the first person to find the window. It seemed like a great idea . . . until fifteen children arrived at the same time to claim the prize!

Solomon threatened to cut a baby in half as a legal solution, but I suspected the restaurant might reject fifteen pieces of plastic. A few children offered to forego the prize. The rest divided into two groups of boys and girls who were willing to share the card. Thankfully, I had a reserve tucked in my pocket for a later service. Mischief managed, and crisis averted.

Lessons learned:

  • Children listen during worship
  • Never underestimate the power of a Chick-Fil-A gift card
  • Always remember the law of unintended consequences
  • Boys and girls are born with a sense of equity and fairness
  • Some in every group will sacrifice for the greater good
  • Adults are grown children with a surface veneer of maturity
  • The children will never forget the location of the stained-glass window

For some reason, I’m feeling the urge to get a chicken sandwich, waffle fries, and a chocolate shake!

Boss Day

This week our nation observes National Boss Day. The greeting card industry has designated October 17 to honor those who supervise our labors. Employees reply, “EVERY day is Boss Day!”

Patricia Bays Haroski created the annual observance in 1958. Four years later the governor of Illinois signed a proposal observing the date state-wide. The idea spread across the nation and world.

It turns out that Patricia Haroski worked for her FATHER! She appreciated his gentle, thoughtful manner with the staff. Therefore, she designated his birthday as an annual Boss Day.

The holiday leaves me in a quandary. I’m not sure WHO my boss might be. A district superintendent oversees United Methodist clergy, and a bishop supervises the superintendents; but none of these people manages my daily work.

Jesus said that leaders serve in God’s kingdom.  The congregation I serve has 5,000 plus members on roll. Maybe I work for all of them; but I cannot afford that many gift cards.

Therefore, I’ve decided to honor God on Boss Day. I aspire to love the Lord with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength. When I do a poor job, a new day dawns to try again. After all, EVERY day is Boss Day.   

Columbus Day

Columbus Day during my childhood celebrated the intrepid explorer. Each October our class recited, “In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.” We learned about Christopher Columbus discovering America while seeking a new route to India.

Columbus erroneously believed that he found an alternate route to India; and he called the native people “Indians.” The sanitized history of the 1960s taught that Chris and his crew brought the gift of Western civilization to a savage, untamed continent.

Historical “facts” morph over time. Columbus probably didn’t discover the New World first. Evidence suggests Leif Erikson among others visited the land centuries earlier.  

Then there’s the use of the word “discover.” The indigenous people occupied the land for generations. They would have been surprised to learn their home needed discovering. If an intrepid member of the Powhatan tribe sailed a dugout canoe across the North Atlantic, would historians give him credit for discovering England?

This raises another point: the history we learned dealt primarily with Western civilization. Granted, American history emerges from European history. The exploration and colonization of the Americas primarily involved Portugal, England, Spain, and France, although Russia did make inroads on the western coast.

Today’s historians take a global approach to world history. Highly developed civilizations evolved in Central and South America, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia long before Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492. Students now learn about Mayan mathematicians, Arabic philosophers, Chinese chemists, and Japanese poetry.

And what to think of Christopher Columbus? Did he bravely set forth on unknown seas to discover a New World? Or did he serve as a chauvinistic agent of the Old World who left pestilence and privation in his wake? The truth rests somewhere between the two extremes. Columbus was neither an unsullied saint nor a stained sinner but a mixture of the two.

Columbus sailed into the unknown on a 70-foot ship. He risked life and fortune on a radical notion of a round world. This week we honor his intrepid spirit of exploration, recognizing that even the best of intentions can have the worst of consequences.

Extravagant Generosity

“You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity.” (2 Corinthians 9:11)

Bishop Robert Schnase published Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations in 2007. He identified principles that growing churches embrace, including Radical Hospitality, Passionate Worship, Intentional Faith Development, Risk-Taking Mission and Service, and Extravagant Generosity.

During our October stewardship emphasis, Northside Church is exploring how to practice Extravagant Generosity as Christian disciples. Schnase wrote,

“Growing in the grace of giving is part of the Christian journey of faith, a response Christian disciples offer to God’s call to make a difference in the world.” He added, “Giving is always extravagant, life changing, and joyous.”

Most stewardship programs stress the church’s need to receive, but the Bible emphasizes the giver’s need to give. Devoted disciples practice financial faithfulness, giving generously and proportionately of their income. I’ve discovered as a pastor that freeing people to give enables them to grow in grace.

God calls us to give a tithe or tenth of our income. Both the Old and New Testament share this principle. cannot negotiate the terms, but we do choose between faithfulness or disobedience. Tithing teaches the lesson that all of our possessions belongs to God.

Jesus said where our treasure is there our hearts will be also. We often think Jesus said just the opposite; but our souls naturally follow our money. We can buy stock in a world going out of business, or we can invest in God’s kingdom that endures forever.

Join us onsite or online during October at Northside Church as we practice Extravagant Generosity.