Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Giving: A Path from the Past to Future

Travelocity has published a list of cities that are good examples of benevolence. Three Georgia cities are on the list: Atlanta, Augusta and Athens.  Having lived for several years in Athens I can vouch for their inclusion.  I remember learning that the annual Relay for Life held on campus raised more donations than any other college-based relay.  That's just one example.  There are many more, UGA Heroes, Dance Marathon, all the Greeks and their service events.  Coupled with what comes out of all the community groups there's probably an opportunity for every week of the year in Athens.
I'll bet Madison would be on the list if we were the size of Augusta or Athens.  This is a very giving community.  Didn't we just raise more than $30,000 for the Boys and Girls Club at the Dancing with the Madison Stars?  How many families were fed by the Thanksgiving dinners Calvary Baptist organized?  Seems like Madison has its own constantly giving spirit.  
I've been thinking about our giving for several reasons.  First because I recall our Dickens "A Christmas Carol" movie viewings last year.  More on that in a minute.
Another trigger is my own finishing out my pledge for 2016.  I'm on track but still have more than 10% of my promise to keep.  
Another trigger is our current and closing pledge campaign. Excuse me for being so direct but it feels like we do not have the same spirit in us this year as last.  I'll take some of the hit for that difference being the one who escaped on sabbatical so abruptly this summer.  Coupled with the accident my absence caused more worry and anxiety than we've ever known together.  
There is a future we have not considered as well this year as we did last and the year before.
So . . . back to Dickens.  Scrooge is visited by three spirits or ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.  The visit to the past saddens Scrooge and the one to the future scares him.  Just remember the cold dark scene in the cemetery as Scrooge's own grave is pointed out to him.  He jumps out of his nightmare-ish slumber and is converted.
For sure there is plenty in his life to fear and plenty to have him say "hold on tight," "don't be a spendthrift," "you never know when things will get worse," and most of all "don't waste what you have on the poor."  My take on it is that the inevitability of his own dying and the likelihood of his being dismissed from loving memory because of his stinginess triggers a conversion to giving.  
I believe in the hearts of each of Advent's parishioners.  I do know that we are among the many in this community who give so well for the benefit of others.  In many ways we are the leaders.  
I also know that at present we are not as confident, not as hopeful, not as ready to embrace the future and to give to each other.  
I'm not complaining.  Instead I'm hoping to build on a truth about our anxiety, our worry, our fears and move through the present moment.  
Ironically, it's the ghost of Christmas present that looks more like we want to be; generous, exuberant, happy, hopeful.  Also, we are NOT Scrooges.  We have not denied that our lives will end and as faithful people we are already doing whatever we can for those less fortunate around us and beyond our boundaries.  
I'm here to say this: We have so much more to do so that a future Advent, and a future Madison, and a future Georgia -- think "ever widening circle" --  can give like we can give, can hope like we can hope, can celebrate like we can celebrate. Our future in God is calling us.  

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