Dear Partners in Ministry,
The propaganda never ends! Daily, we are bombarded through our junk mail, email, TV commercials, newspaper, magazine advertisements, and even telephone solicitations, with those “free” gift offers. We are tantalized with free magazines, food, appliances, furniture, electronics, credit cards, and even trips to Florida as part of these freebie offers; and, how many times are we tempted, and in fact, succumb to the inducement of the offers? On our computers, each time we’re tempted to open one of those “stranger” emails, we receive a caution prompt that asks us, “DO YOU KNOW WHO SENT YOU THIS EMAIL?” Some of our telephones are even registered with both the state and the federal “Do Not Call Lists” to curtail the amount of solicitations we receive, but now scammers use “caller ID spoofing” to disguise their numbers.
For most of us, we abhor “junk mail” and the minutes each of these distractions steals from our day-to-day living. With all that being said, and our familiarity with the old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!” there are still times when we are mesmerized into checking out one of those enticements. Now, we may think this is all new 21st century garble, but it isn’t. If you were one of the children back in the 50’s and 60’s, such as me, how many boxes of cereal did we have to eat so we would have the necessary box tops to send away for some free plastic trinket? To be sure, there was always a hitch back then, and there’s always a hitch, now. All you have to do with any of these “free” offers is “pay for shipping and handling,” “buy one to get one free,” “sit through a sales promotion,” or “sign a contract to receive thus and so for a year at such and such a price.” But just think, in return you’ll get your “free gift.” Is it any wonder why, when people come to church, they are skeptical when they hear about the “free gift of salvation” that is ours through the Easter resurrection of our Lord Jesus?
As we continue our journey through this Lenten season, may we be mindful of how we church people can also muddy the waters. How many of our attempts to proclaim “saved by the grace of God” are followed with the “yes but(s)” of the law or requests to serve the organization of the church and its many needs? Stewardship is a response to the free gift; not a requirement, in order to receive it. Stewardship begins with our humble and thankful acknowledgment that our salvation is free - as are the other free gifts we receive from our God that include: our time, our talents, and our resources, including our possessions and our finances. Stewardship is simply sharing freely what we have received for free.
In a world so caught up in the bait and switch tactics of “yes, buts” and “free, with strings attached,” may we diligently work to end the confusion for ourselves and for those God places in our field of mission. Let us fervently work together as God’s people this coming year - not because we must, but to fulfill the “Great Commission” from our Lord:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:19-20
Who among us does not want to hear the words spoken to us that Jesus, on Good Friday, spoke to the thief on the cross next to him? When the thief asked to be remembered, once Jesus comes into his kingdom, Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43). No dishes, no service, no sacrifice, no boring sermons, no suffering - just the free gift of salvation.
It is the 3rd Sunday in Lent. Easter is four weeks away. With whom will you share the “free gifts” God has given you?
A Glorious and Hope-filled Easter to All!
Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries (PLUM), 405 Kennedy Avenue, Duquesne, PA 15110 412-466-7773