E-pistle August 28

Changed for Good
First a disclaimer.  There’s a cartoon in the current edition of Christianity Today that I think was created for pastors, or maybe just for me. 
Two friends are sitting and enjoying coffee:

Friend One: So what are you reading?
Friend Two: It’s titled “How to Over-spiritualize everything.”
Friend One: Hmm, sounds interesting.
Friend Two: Oh, it definitely is! It’s as if the Lord is whispering his will in my ear.
Friend One: Mmm, this is great coffee!
Friend Two: This coffee is like the Holy Spirit warming my soul.
Friend One: What is mean is that it tastes great…
Friend Two: It’s amazing how we were so lovingly created with the miraculous ability to taste.
Friend One: Ok, stop talking like that before I kill you.
Friend Two: Oh, to suffer a martyr’s death would bless my life!

Now, may I over-spiritualize?
Just a month ago we began a little project, really just a very little exercise.  You may remember the children’s story.  Pennies, nickel, dimes and quarters had been scattered on the chancel steps, and as the kids came forward they noticed them immediately and I asked them to gather them together and drop them into an empty five-gallon water jug there on the chancel steps. 
We talked about how people hardly even notice a penny on the ground, maybe a dime, and how you can’t buy anything with a penny, maybe not a dime.  And then we introduced our little project, our very little exercise, for the month of August.
Pennies, nickels and Dimes was to be more a way to raise awareness than money.  We were to notice lost coins – insignificant and hardly worth picking up.  And in picking them up we were asked to remember the mission work of the church, specifically Guatemalan children enabled to attend school because of our support.  Of course, we were asked to bring our found coins to the five-gallon water jug on the chancel steps, and were told that whatever we found would go the kids in Guatemala. We said we’d continue our little project, our very little exercise, for one month, the five Sundays of August.
After worship the second Sunday in August, our found coins rose to about the one-inch line of our five-gallon water jug.  We may have hit the four-inch line by the third week, close to a gallon of pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters and a few green bills.  But now our little project, our very little exercise, seems to have taken on a life of its own.  I have a feeling that we’ve gone from found coins to remembered coins.  “I have this jar on my dresser where I put the coins from my pockets and they weren’t doing me any good…”
As of yesterday, I’d guess that we’d passed the three gallon mark and we still have this coming Sunday to go…
When the five-gallon water jug is emptied next week and all the pennies, nickel, dimes and quarters (plus a few green bills) are counted, the total will help Guatemalan kids go to school in bright new classrooms with loving Christian teachers.  It costs about $100 per year per child for Promised Land Ministries to provide this life-changing experience to the kids of San Lucas Toliman. I wonder how many lives five gallons of change might change?
Jesus uses the image of the once lost and now found to describe the work of God’s grace in our lives.  Whatever the details of the story of grace in our lives, it is a story of once being lost and now found – by the good shepherd who seeks the lost sheep, the check-under-the-cushions-on-the-couch woman who seeks the lost coin, the joyful father who tells the older brother, “this this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”
Through the words of the Prophet Isaiah, God reassures us that we will not be forgotten.
I don’t know how many of the pennies, nickels and dimes in the five-gallon water jug were dropped on a sidewalk or in the parking lot; lost, and then found.  I don’t know how many were dumped in that jar on the dresser; forgotten, and then remembered. I do know that those coins, found and remembered, remind us the work we are doing in the world that the finding and remembering God loves so much that he send his only Son, so that whoever believes in him will not perish, but have eternal life.
I know that in a world of $1.6 trillion deficits, a single penny, nickel or dime is laughingly insignificant.  Yet those are exactly the kind of odds God seems to like. 
I know that the coins I found and remembered aren’t enough to make much of a difference in our world, but I also know that several – I wonder how many – children in Guatemala are going to go to school in bright, sunny classrooms with loving Christian teachers because of the coins so many of us dropped into that five-gallon jug.  Amazing what we can do together. 
Sorry to have over-spiritualized it, but that five-gallon water jug  and our little project, our very little exercise, has taught me a lot this past month.
See you Sunday (and bring along those found and remember pennies, nickels and dimes!)