Three Simple Rules, Part II
Last week I introduced Bishop Rueben Job's update of Wesley's rules for the Methodist Societies in England in the 18th century: 1. Do no harm; 2. Do good; 3. Stay in love with God.
When I think about applying Rule #2 to our celebration of Advent and Christmas, I think about the rule that we were all taught to observe as children during the holiday season. It wasn't "Do good," but "Be good." We call that the Santa Claus rule. Most of us had never seen a lump of coal, but we sure didn't want one in our stocking. So we all tried to be good in order to get good stuff. Parents got a brief respite from sibling squabbles and retailers got a reason to "Ho Ho Ho" all the way to the bank. But that unseemly alliance between parents and toy producers can easily sow in children the assumption that Christmas is all about getting, instead of giving.
Rule #2 says "Do good," not because we want to get but because we need to give. I challenge us to think about our family traditions around Christmas time and examine whether or not they are about getting or giving. We make a big deal about opening presents with our children and grandchildren to see what they got. What would it look like if we made a similarly big deal about getting together to give? What can we do to make our gift-giving to others more visible to our children and grandchildren? How can we make the reason for the season more real for them?
Here's a story about what one church that "done good" at Christmas. Mike Slaughter, the author of Christmas Is Not Your Birthday, is also senior pastor of Ginghamsburg Church (UMC), in Tipp City, Ohio, a congregation of 4500 people. During Advent in 2004, Rev. Slaughter asked the members of his church to spend half of what they normally spend on Christmas and give half to the church's Miracle Offering for Sudan. That Christmas, they collected $317,000 that they used to begin a sustainable agricultural project in Darfur. That money enabled 5200 families to return to farming. It brought 900 children back from indentured servitude. Since 2004, $6.1 million has been raised by Ginghamsburg and its partner churches and corporate sponsors. Their agricultural programs have reached 90,000 people. Their child protection and development program has reached 24,000 kids. They have provided safe water and sanitation for 100,000 people. They have started primary health care clinics and are planning to begin new United Methodist churches in the Sudan. You can read all about it at http://ginghamsburg.org/serve/places-to-serve/the-sudan.
Ginghamsburg's success in following Rule #2 raises a lot of questions for us at Willow Glen. How did they do it? How did they convince people to give up and give out so much? How did they support each other in standing against consumer culture? Not many churches have 4500 members, but is this an Advent "conspiracy" that we can replicate here? For 2013, the Ginghamsburg Church's Miracle Offering will go to Imagine No Malaria, a project of the United Methodist Church, the United Nations, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, among others. The goal is to eradicate malaria, a disease which currently kills someone every 60 seconds (most of them in Africa). The California-Nevada Annual Conference has committed to raising $2 million towards the effort. How could our church participate?
This just in:
The California-Nevada Annual Conference announces #Giving Tuesday. In the tradition of Black Friday, Local Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday, #Giving Tuesday, on December 3rd, is an opportunity to start off the holiday season by giving rather than getting. All gifts given online Tuesday to selected projects through the Advance will be matched at 100%. To learn more about the projects, including Imagine No Malaria, go to http://www.cnumc.org/news/65295.
Join us this Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m. to discuss more ways of doing good for God this Advent season.