Dear Hyde Park Family,
Years ago, I read a hilarious book by Esquire columnist A.J. Jacobs called The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible. Jacobs, a self-avowed agnostic, sought to spend a whole year following every command in the Bible – more than seven hundred total, by his count.
Doing so impacted every aspect of his life, often with comical results. Like when he “stoned” an adulterer in a public park with a handful of pebbles (Leviticus 20:27). Or when he carried a folding chair everywhere to avoid sitting on chairs used by women who had just had their period (Leviticus 15:20). Or when he stopped wearing T-shirts and jeans because they were made of “mixed fibers” (Leviticus 19:19). Despite the hilarity, Jacobs’ efforts were both earnest and respectful, sharing several poignant experiences throughout the book.
One such occasion was his decision to start tithing. After researching numerous charitable organizations, he went online to make the first of several contributions that would, over the course of the year, add up to ten percent of his salary. After sending money to his first agency through the internet, he wrote:
“When the confirmation e-mails ping in, I feel good. There’s a haunting line from the film Chariots of Fire. It’s spoken by Eric Liddell, the most religious runner, the one who carries a Bible with him during his sprint.” He says: ‘When I run, I feel His pleasure.’ And as I gave away money, I think I might have felt God’s pleasure. I know: I’m agnostic. But still – I feel His pleasure. It’s a warm ember that starts at the back of my neck and spreads through my skull. I feel like I am doing something I should have been doing all my life.”
To share any more of Jacobs’ story would spoil the book for those interested in reading it. Suffice it to say, it led me to think about what it would mean for us to take the Bible just as seriously, particularly in the area of financial stewardship.
This past week, you may have received your financial stewardship packet for 2019 in the mail. It contained:
- a letter from me, which includes this year’s pledge card
- an informative “annual report” brochure that celebrates all we have accomplished together this year
- a form you can fill out if you choose the convenient option of Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)
- a return envelope for you to send your pledge card by Sunday, Nov. 18.
- If you didn’t receive a packet, you can securely fill out a pledge electronically on our website.
Once again, we remind you that every pledge makes a huge difference in enabling us to make the best fiscal decisions for our church’s ministries in the upcoming year. If you have never filled out a pledge, we encourage you to do so for the first time. If you have turned in a pledge card in years past, thank you! We invite you pray about increasing your pledge for next year. And if you are not tithing 10% of your income, we encourage you to take a step in that direction.
As my friend Scott Smith, pastor of First UMC Ormond Beach, likes to tell his congregation, “You can’t have God first in your heart but not in your wallet. Everybody wants God in the heart, with their kids, in the schools, and in our nation, but the last place we want God is in our wallets.”
And if an agnostic like A.J. Jacobs could discover the joy of tithing to God, you can, too!
Grace and Peace,
We continue to offer our prayers and concern for those suffering in the wake of devastating Hurricane Michael. We are joining with United Methodists across Florida in responding to Bishop Carter’s call for financial support for the people in the panhandle. Click here to contribute to the Bishop’s Challenge. Some remarkable donors at First UMC Ormond Beach have extended a challenge to the Conference, offering to match $500,000 of our contributions. Your support will go directly to people in need along the Florida Gulf coast. Please make your check payable to Hyde Park United Methodist and designated “Hurricane Relief.”