Week 4: Generosity for light years
Let Your Light Shine
- tissue paper
- piece of paper
Take a flashlight and point directly at each material. Study the light to see if the light shines through each object/material. If light shines through the object clearly, that material is considered transparent. If only some of the light shines through, it is considered translucent. If none of the light shines through, it is considered to be opaque. Test each material and others around the house for fun!
Read as a family Matthew 5:16 from your Bible. What do you think it means to let your light shine before others?
From our experiment, we see that different materials allow different amounts of light to travel through them. How much light do you think God wants to shine through each of His children to the world?
Discuss as a family different ways that you can use the gift of money to help shine a bright light into the world in God’s name.
Some more science: Look up into the night sky. We can see so many stars (especially on a dark, clear night) even though they might be thousands of light years away. A light year is not a length of time, it’s a measurement of distance. It is the distance that light can travel in one year. And light can travel pretty fast (approximately 186,200 miles per second). A light year is 5,878,625,373,183.6 miles. The closest star (other than the sun) to earth is roughly 4.22 light years away. The farthest that we can see without a pair of binoculars is probably the Andromeda galaxy which is 2.6 MILLION light years away. That’s 5,878,625,373,183.6 x 2.6 million miles away. WE CAN SEE FAR.
Now, for even more science. The stars that we can see are so far away, that their light, even as fast as it goes, takes a long time to reach us. The light we see from the nearest star takes 4 years to reach us. So, if that star were to suddenly disappear, or were to burn out, we wouldn’t know it for 4 years because its light would still be visible to us. So the light from stars actually outlasts the stars themselves.
Ok, done with science.
When we think about our giving, it’s important for us to do it, and it’s important for the things we give to. But it’s also important to consider the long-term impact of our giving. Will the impact of our giving actually outlast our giving? Actually outlast us?
An article discussing the historical preservation of homes built by settlers in the early 1890s makes an important point about the struggles of preserving the simple wooden structures: “Things not meant to be monuments tend to fall down.” The homes were built to serve a certain purpose for a set time. They were built for the specific needs and uses of the people who built them, not for anything more. The settlers certainly could never have imagined that over 120 years later their barns, houses, sheds, and even outhouses would still be standing for future generations to appreciate. So the challenge facing architectural conservators is to try to salvage, shore up, and protect the original structures as carefully as possible so they can stay standing as long as possible. And that is hard when things tend towards decay, destruction, and deterioration. The point is that if the buildings had been intended to last, they would have been built more strategically in the beginning.
When we give, we are helping to build something. The question is, are we helping to build something in a way that will last as a monument to the power of God in our world, or are we building with only our own needs and uses in mind? Last week we talked about how we should give with a purpose. Our giving should be intentional and planned so that it can have a big impact. To have the maximum impact, we need to give not just based on present needs and visions, but for the sake of future needs as well. It can be hard to look ahead and always know if what we give to today will last for future generations. But if we don’t try, if we don’t give with at least considering that sort of legacy, then we are missing out on being a part of something that really is bigger than ourselves.
Highland Park United Methodist Church is currently debt-free. That means that every penny given to the church goes towards active ministries and needs, and not one penny goes to service debt payments. This is incredible. What is even more incredible is that the church has not had debt since the 1940s, for over 70 years. During the Great Depression, the church was almost forced to close due to debt. Barely scraping by, the church continued to see growth throughout the 30s. But by the early 1940s, the total church debt was more than the yearly operating budget. Dr. Marshall Steel, the senior minister at the time, realized that if the church was going to continue to grow and fulfill its mission, it would need to take care of its debt. He called on the church members to give sacrificially, and instead of letting the church’s debt prevent the church from doing ministry, the members raised enough money to completely pay off the debt. The generosity of those members has not been taken for granted, and the church has never again taken on debt. If God was calling the church to do something, then the church members would have to be ready to commit their money to it, or else it wouldn’t happen. Time and time again, past church members showed their willingness to give to things God called HPUMC to do: start other churches, fund new ministries, create spaces for a growing congregation, support life-giving missions and outreach, care for the congregation in times of need, and raise up the next generation of faithful followers of Jesus Christ.
Because people were faithful in their giving, looking beyond their own circumstances and the needs of the church at that time; because members decided to build something that outlasted themselves for the sake of the kingdom of God, their light has lasted beyond their own lives and we are where we are today. We have the same opportunity as they had to give in ways that go beyond ourselves, that allow our light to outlast our own time, that reveal the power of God beyond this one place, this one age.
The prophet Isaiah says,
“If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to live in.” (Isaiah 58:9b-12)
We must give in ways that last, in order that the things to which we give are as monuments to God’s active presence in our world for years and years and years to come. Because ultimately, this is not about us, or what we have. It’s about God and what God is doing through us, through our gifts, today, tomorrow, and until the kingdom of God is fully recognized on earth as in heaven.
Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi: “O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
What are the missions and ministries in the church have impacted your life the most? In what way?
What mission or ministry of the church are you the most proud of? Why?
What sort of process do you think HPUMC undertook in order to create those missions and/or ministries?
Do you think those ministries or missions could be self-sustaining with the costs solely covered by the beneficiaries of the ministries?
Are you familiar with HPUMC’s budget? (For more information, go to: hpumc.org/give)
What does one’s awareness of the church budget indicate (if anything) about commitment to the ministry of the church?
Have you experienced debt?
Have you experienced the freedom that comes with paying off debt? If so, what did that freedom from debt allow you to do with your resources?
How does your current giving support the missions and ministries that mean the most to you?
What does it mean to give sacrificially?
What are you willing to sacrifice in order to ensure the ministry of the church continues for future generations?