Our Stewardship team has chosen this hymn as the theme of our pledge drive this year. I find it an inspiring message.

Love will guide us, peace has tried us,

hope inside us will lead the way

on the road from greed to giving.

Love will guide us through the hard night.

Love will guide us on the road from greed to giving.

This has been a hard lesson for me, this road from greed to giving. My mother, who grew up on a poor subsistence farm where they didn’t always have meat for dinner, was a penny-pincher to the max. She was always complaining about the cost of things and I was aware she would have liked weekly hair appointments and fresh flowers in the house—things she didn’t feel the family could afford. Yet I felt a disconnect—it seemed to me she often said we don’t have the money for the things I wanted, yet she often found the money for the things she wanted. And she had good taste and liked nice things. She didn’t give money away easily for things like charitable contributions.
I have become aware that I am more like my mother in this regard than I wish. I have had to work at being more generous. It’s not easy; my mother’s attitudes toward money are hard-wired in me, apparently. I was made aware when I was in St. Croix just last month that I still have a ways to go. As I was justifying to myself buying some of the jewelry that is so beautiful and unique on the island, I was aware that I was at the same time begrudging leaving a generous amount for the maids in the lodging we were in.

That’s not the kind of person I want to be. The people I admire are the ones who have enough for their basic needs but think of others first before indulging in luxuries. I want to be more like the people I admire.

One thing that’s occurred to me is that I tip better when I’m in a place, like a restaurant, where I have interacted directly with the server. Especially if it’s a place I return to often. Hotel tips are harder for me because I never see the people who clean the room, and I don’t expect to be back there either. I wonder if that’s just me, or if others find that to be the case, too.

Our early experiences help shape our values about money. Money operates metaphorically in our lives, representing many other things such as security, nurturance, opportunity, trust, and and independence.

What’s your relationship to money?

I’m aware that another factor in my struggle to be as generous as I wish to be is a fear that there isn’t enough. Or if there is enough now, will I have enough in retirement? How much is enough?

If only I knew how long I will live, it would be much easier to calculate how much I’ll need for retirement. My parents thought they had plenty, but when my dad needed expensive nursing care for his last four years and then my mother went on to live to age 94, the money ran out. How do we know how much is enough? Is there ever enough? Enough to calm the fear that comes from childhood issues and family stories? Enough to quell the anxiety that might not go away no matter how much we have?

Can we let Love guide us from a fear of there perhaps not being enough— to a trust that if we give from deep within us, the universe will provide?

As a young man with no job and a baby on the way, actor Danny Thomas gave away all his money to the church. He was thrilled and yet a little spooked on getting a call the next morning that promised an income of ten times what he had given. Was love guiding him in his generosity? Was there some force at play besides coincidence? Karma, perhaps, or something like it?

Love will guide us. I believe it’s hard to let go, but I believe we can trust it. If we can let go of our fear, our anxiety, our clinging to things, our money—we can be rewarded tenfold.

If you cannot sing like angels,

if you cannot speak before thousands,

you can give from deep within you.

You can change the world with your love.

If you can sing like angels, you should be in our choir with the rest of the angels! If you can speak before thousands, you should take a turn in our pulpit, where you only have to speak before about a hundred. For those who can’t do those things (or think they can’t), and even for those who can—you can give from deep within you. And in doing so, you can indeed change the world.

As I said earlier to the children: It doesn’t matter how much talent you have, how much skill you have, how much physical ability you have, or how much money you have. The important thing is that we give the best we have to give. When we sing, we can sing our best. When we help out around the church by straightening up chairs or picking up trash, we can do our best. When we learn in religious education classes, we can learn the best that we can learn. And when we give an offering or a pledge, we can give the best that we have to give.

Give from the heart

The point is that if it comes from the heart, if it comes from Love—it is enough. If two cents is all we can give because we are homeless, and we give it to someone who we think needs it more than we do, that is Love. If we think we have nothing to give, but we are able to help straighten the chairs in the sanctuary, that is Love. If you’re in a Covenant group and you share from your feelings and your experience with vulnerability, that is Love.

And we can change the world with our Love. Every little gesture of generosity, every smile, every dollar in the offering basket—it all changes the world in its own way, if it comes from love. Every act has an effect, no matter how small. I’m sure you’ve heard of the Butterfly Effect, a concept from chaos theory which has been popularized to suggest that a butterfly flapping its wings in China can cause a hurricane in Mexico. However true that may or may not be, there is something to it. Positivity begets positivity in others; when you smile at someone on the street, it can turn their day around.

We can be inspired by the spirit of the Ukrainian people, who are displaying exemplary courage and resilience in spite of losing everything—their homes, their possessions, their country perhaps.

An online article from a few days ago says, “The Russian invasion of Ukraine is entering its fourth day, and the Ukrainian spirit is as strong as ever, according to Taras Byk, a citizen located in the western outskirts of Kyiv. ‘We have a saying now that, ‘What’s your level of stress resilience?’ And the highest level is, ‘I’m Ukrainian,'” said Byk.”

We can be inspired by them and their amazing president, and we can also be moved to help them, even as we reflect on how much we can give to the church. Love can guide us through this too. The hope inside us will lead the way.

When you give to your church home, you make so much possible. Here at UUCNH, we are about transforming lives. We nurture and inspire each other so that we can be equipped to create more justice, more kindness, more love in the world. Through our financial contributions, and the work of our hands and hearts, together we do so much more than any of us could do alone.

This year, we’re doing a face-to-face canvass to raise the money needed to fund the coming year’s operations and programs. It’s been so long since we’ve seen each other’s faces! When you’re contacted by your visiting steward, you’ll be invited to get together and talk about what is important to you about your church home. These meetings are an opportunity to have the kind of connection we’ve been longing for these long two years.

And when you’re asked what you can pledge to give for the coming year’s budget, remember that you can give from deep within you. You can change the world with your love.

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Congregational Meeting  Sunday, June 9, 2024