They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share, thus storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of the life that really is life. 1 Tim 6: 18-19
This week holds a lot of potential to grow your spirit. On October 6, we’re gathering in worship to celebrate God’s presence and grace in the holy act of communion. As we usually make available, there will be an opportunity for you to respond to the promptings of the Spirit moving through all of us as we partake in that special gift by making available gifts of you own. While those baskets at the sides of the communion chancel usually are there to receive gifts toward a particular ministry supported by our church’s apportionment, this coming Sunday they will also be depositories for your “foundation for the future” of ministry in this congregation. As you will see on the attached pledge slip, that invitation is to make particular pledges in prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness—your membership vows. These pledges in hand help the leadership of this church make plans for the allotment of resources toward ministry goals. If we were building a building, these pledges would be the supplies that we plan to use. Our building can only be as tall and intricate and inspiring as the supplies afford us to build. We can have an architect with a grand vision, artisans with tremendous skills, laborers with cheerful spirit and tremendous work ethic—but they must all have some supplies to work with. Someone may show up at the work site after work has already begun with a bunch of unexpected supplies (and we can almost be sure that someone will—someone always does) but these supplies are hard to count on when creating the design for the edifice. That’s why the design sometimes changes.
This reminds me of a story from within our own heritage. I’ve often marveled at the original architectural design for University Church. The church had been gathering for seven years when the design was presented for a structure that would gloriously proclaim God’s greatness to the community. Surely, it must have been an inspiring meeting when the design (pictured) was presented. The proposal featured an intricate tower, cut masonry to mirror the design of the campus across the street, a large, tall, nave with a glorious stained glass window that harkened to our mother church, First United Methodist. No doubt the congregation was inspired! After taking in the soaring heights of the architecture, my eye usually drifts down to the date in the lower right corner of the picture—1929.
At the end of October in 1929, the stock market crashed and much of those resources that had no doubt been pledged toward that vision evaporated. But the vision did not die—it adapted, as God’s Spirit inspired plans always do! And when people are inspired by a vision, they often times overcome challenges to be sure that the essence of the vision is realized. We were indeed able to re-evaluate what supplies might be used to build a house of worship, and 4 years later broke ground on the temple we worship in 80 years later! I think it is no accident that the plans changed from the use of cut stone to the use of rubble stone for masonry. In fact, the printed service for the ground-breaking from June 4, 1933 mentions specifically that “The construction of University Methodist Church will be of rubble masonry. No cut or ornamental stone will be used.” (emphasis mine) Rubble masonry speaks to the fact that “you take what God gives you, and you build with that!” This witness echoes across those 80 years to speak to the challenges and opportunities we face today.
Those original members of University Church were “rich in good works, generous, and ready to share” as the young apostle Timothy is instructed to guide the church in our thematic verse for this campaign. In so doing, they “stored up for themselves the riches of a good foundation for the future.” Their future is our present, and we have a similar task before us to continue the legacy of our heritage. Though we don’t need a physical building, we are faced with the challenge of maintaining the existing one as a resource of hope, goodness, and love for the community. And the task of “building the church”—building up the people in love is a task that is ever before us. Like those original members, we have the opportunity in so doing to “take hold of the life that really is life.”