Last weekend, Americans spent over $27 million for the chance to watch a movie called Ender’s Game. Ender’s Game was, predictably these days, a popular novel, before it was a movie franchise.
The book is one that I’ve often seen set aside in bookstores for student’s summer reading. I’m not sure if kids actually read it, but I suspect it was at least assigned.
I came down with a whopper of a cold this week and in between sneezes and coughs I re-read this little story. I last read it during college, which is getting to be over 10 years ago now.
Briefly, the story is about a society that needs to combat an alien menace and they decide to use the brilliance of childhood imaginations in that effort. The book comes from a pre-Hunger Games time, when the children enter mock combat, which only occasionally ends in physical violence.
Why am I telling you this?
Our society today, collectively, has a very, very bleak imagination. I take the popular science fiction and fantasy stories of the day to be sort of a thermometer to gauge that place where our collective dreams and visions come from.
Today that place is very dark, populated by the walking dead, vampires, ghosts in the machine, children killing children, fallen empires, forgotten places, and broken dreams.
This morning, we will look at what it takes to keep the faith in such a world.
This morning we will discuss stewardship. This means we will be talking about two things your mother probably told you never to discuss in polite company: God and Money.
It’s no secret that our organization needs money to survive, money to pay salaries, to help keep the lights on, oil in the tanks, and host of other exciting and not so exciting needs for our organization.
It’s also no secret that our organization is one that is a struggling organization. We were hit hard by the Great Recession in 2009, and have yet to really bounce back financially.
I recently read an article that came into my news feed, which explained that this is a national problem. Giving to churches is now down to levels, society wide, last seen in the Great Depression.
So, things are tough.
However, there is good news and reason to be excited about the work we are about in places such as this, because in many ways the work we do here has never been more important. There are few places in life that offer hope, and hope, that comes not shaped like some consumable good.
To our credit, we here in this church have recognized the realities outside our door and are working to adapt to the changing needs and changing face of life in the world today.
While you are waiting, consider what it might be like to suddenly find yourself unburdened by these financial burdens we all carry? What would that look like?
This morning we will pause in our usual look at the problems of today to instead focus on some of our history. This Sunday is known in our church calendar as Reformation Sunday, meaning on this Sunday we honor, consider, and explore some of what it has historically meant to be a Protestant.
In this truth is always relative world, it often is a great risk to consider our history, or what might be called our traditional understandings of the world, because to do so implies there might be such a thing as truth in the world. By speaking about history, and claiming it as our own, we are collectively drawing a line in the sand saying these things happened and they matter.
Given the risk, it makes sense to consider this history together, in a space that speaks mightily to the notions that gave birth to the Reformation 500 years ago.
The poster child for the Reformation is probably Martin Luther. Luther was a German monk, a theology professor, Catholic, who famously nailed 95 theses of protest against certain doctrines and practices (such as the sale of indulgences) of the Roman Church to the door of the Wittenberg cathedral.
The printing press spread Luther’s words all across Europe and changed forever changed the face of Christianity.
So, while you are waiting, consider what truth is so important in your life that is worth defending? What truth is worth dying for? What truth might be worth living for?
I wonder if you have ever heard the expression, “elevator speech.” The notion is you might find yourself with only an elevator ride, 30 seconds or so, to sell your idea, or project or even get your foot in the door to a new job.
Career service workers often encourage those looking to find a new job to think about how they might best pull one of these little pitches off. People are encouraged to note their skills, or their abilities, or to highlight their vision.
As some of you know, I am now taking a night class at the local community college, which deals with nonprofit management. This week our class was asked to offer up our best elevator pitch for our respective organizations.
I’m not the best at this sort of thing, but this morning we will meet a couple characters in our readings that really must have had it down. We’ll first meet Jacob who convinced his whole family to head out into the desert. We’ll then meet a widow who against all odds finds justice at the hands of an unjust judge.
So, in the moments before we begin, I’d ask you to consider your own elevator speech, the one you might offer if asked to speak about your faith.
I wonder would words come easily or would it be difficult?
What words would you use to speak about, ask for, or defend the impulse that brought you here this morning?