Oct. 27, 2016
Dear Hyde Park family,
Halloween Night, 2016
It is a bustling evening in the neighborhood. Crowds of costumed children fill the street, loaded with bags of candy. At the end of a cul-de-sac is the home of a lovely couple named Tom and Alice, who have just finished giving candy to its latest batch of young visitors.
Alice: Oh, what a delightful group of children! Let’s see … a pirate, a princess, an astronaut … here you go (dropping candy in each bag). Happy Halloween!
Children: Thank you!
(Front door closes.)
Alice: Whew! I think this is the biggest group of kids we’ve ever had in this neighborhood, Tom! We’re almost out of candy!
Tom: (Looking up from his newspaper) That’s nice, dear.
(Knock on the front door.)
Alice: My goodness, this will have to be the last one.
(Alice opens the door. Standing on the front porch is either a tall child or a short man, no taller than five feet. It’s an impressive costume and makeup job. His face is filled with wrinkle lines and bags under his eyes, and a crooked, pointed nose. The hair is long and white, curled at the end like a barrister’s wig. He is wearing a long, black robe, and a starched white cravat around his neck. He is carrying what appears to be a small, leather-bound book. He is not smiling.)
Alice: Oh, my! Well, young man, I would say you win for best costume of the night! Here’s some candy!
Tom: (Walking to the door to check out the costume.) Now, Alice, you know the rules. No candy until the child says the magic words!
Visitor: I am sorry, friends, I know not of what you speak. I have no desire for sugary sweets. I am here only to share with you a message from our Lord.
Alice: (Panicking.) Whaaaaaa!?! (Jumps behind Tom) Tom!! It’s not a trick-or-treater! It’s one of those scary clown terrorists!
Visitor: No, no. I am no threat. I am a mere rider on horseback, traveling the countryside of this great land. Over there is my horse, as you can see. (Tom and Alice look over at the far end of their front lawn, noticing the horse that is now feeding on Alice’s petunias.) My name, dear friends, is Wesley. John Wesley. And I come not to receive any treats, but to give you a very good gift.
Alice: (Whispering) Call the police, Tom.
John Wesley: The police will not be necessary. You see, I am the founder of a people called Methodists, and we share in the task of spreading scriptural holiness across the land.
Tom: Oh, you’re Methodist? Why didn’t you say so? Alice, he must be collecting casserole dishes. Would you mind fetching one, dear?
John Wesley: No, my good man. I have not come to collect anything from you. I have come to give you an important word of advice. It is a simple, three-fold statement about money, which may transform your lives. I advocate it most whole-heartedly.
Alice: Tom, I told you we should have spent Halloween at my mother’s house tonight.
Tom: Whatever. Either way we spend time with a short, white-haired crank with a crooked nose. (Alice elbows him in the ribs. Tom turns to John Wesley.) So you’re a financial planner, eh? Well, as long as you’re not selling anything. I’m listening.
John Wesley: Very good. The first rule is this: Earn all you can.
Tom: No problem! You see, Alice? He’s just a harmless motivational speaker. Yes, sir. I couldn’t agree more. It’s all about earning money. Now, tell me. Are you a corporate head hunter? Are you offering me a job? You’re not with one of those pyramid schemes, are you? Because if you tell me I can earn $92 bucks an hour from working at home, let me tell you, I tried that, and – –
John Wesley: And the second rule is this: Save all you can.
Alice: Ha! There, you see, Tom? I told you I wasn’t crazy to keep all those old potholders. You were so snarky when you said, “What do you need with 17 potholders?” Well, here you go, mister. This kooky clown clergy says I was right.
John Wesley: I am afraid you are both misunderstanding me. You see, to “Earn all you can” means to not just make a living, and not just to have any job, but to see the money that you earn as a divine privilege, as among the many blessings that God has given you. And the means by which you earn that money should neither cause you harm nor be detrimental to others. Earn all you can, but through ethical, responsible means. And do so with hard work and gratitude.
Tom: Uh, huh. Say, are you almost done? Charlie Rose is almost on.
John Wesley: Further, to “Save all you can” does not mean hoarding, or living with excess. It simply means being judicious about the way you spend, and being wise about your preparedness for the unexpected. The money you earn can be sufficient to meet both your needs for today and your future, if you will manage it properly.
Alice: Well, this has all been very nice, Mister … uh, Wesley. How about if you get your horse to stop eating my petunias and be on your way, okay?
John Wesley: And the final rule is this: Give all you can.
Tom: I’m sorry, what? You’ll have to speak a little louder. Because I thought you said, “Give all you can.”
John Wesley: That is correct.
Alice and Tom stand frozen in silence, blinking in disbelief.
John Wesley: Are you both okay?
After several more seconds of silence, Tom and Alice burst into laughter.
Alice: Hahahahahahaha! Oh, man! That was a good one!
Tom: (Weeping through the laughter) I have to tell you, friend, you really had us going there!
Alice: Yeah, for a minute we thought you were an actual preacher! Who are you? And who put you up to this? Was it the Lancasters next door? Tom, I told you not to prank call them last week. You and your stupid Donald Trump impressions.
John Wesley: No, my friends. My name really is John Wesley, member of the Holy Club, brother of Charles, the songwriter, and ordained minister of the gospel. And I tell you, “Earn all you can, Save all you can, Give all you can.” That is the key to taking control of your money, so that it does not take control of you. For as Paul says to the church in Corinth, “God loves a cheerful giver.”
Tom: (Wiping back tears) Oh, man. That’s hilarious. Listen, tell Bud and Judy Lancaster this was a great joke, and that we owe them one, okay? Maybe next year I’ll dress like Martin Luther and nail my grocery list items to their door.
John Wesley: No, you don’t understa – –
Alice slams the door, shutting it in John Wesley’s face.
Alice: Well, that sure was interesting.
Tom: I’d say so. Why don’t we turn off the porch light and be done for the night? I’m going to go watch Charlie Rose.
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist
THIS SUNDAY: FREE TO GIVE (COMMITMENT SUNDAY)
This Sunday we conclude our worship series “Free” with a reminder from Paul to be a “cheerful giver.” You will have the chance to turn in your commitment card, which records your financial pledge for 2017. Extra commitment cards will be available in the sanctuary, or you can make your pledge online by clicking on this link.