As I make my way through the New Testament, I continue to be amazed. Yes.
I am new at this. Perhaps I am easily amazed? Perhaps, when I've been truly studying for a significant length of time, the amazement will cease and I will find more 'serious' messages. Today, though, I am joyously amazed.
Closing my eyes and returning to the church of my youth, I remember offering baskets lined with softly faded green velvet on long poles held by the ushers, men dressed in fashionable leisure suits. Our hands never touching - our eyes never meeting - as we placed our offerings in the baskets, cash and checks hidden within neat preprinted and numbered envelopes, from the boxes of envelopes provided each year to adults and to children. A tidy organized system. A familiar and effective routine.
Fast forward to the decade I was without a church, the Sunday I found myself visiting a community called Valleybrook. As baskets were passed hand-to-hand through the congregation, the pastor welcomed guests and encouraged us to simply be guests, gave us permission to abstain from giving. It was unexpected, odd enough to make me rethink giving and the collection of offerings. Suddenly,
I saw things differently, witnessed a leader's faith that provision will come; discovered the abundant God, our God who is able, in the eyes of the person passing a basket to me. NASB
Fellowship. When I first arrive, I am perplexed.
Where are the velvet-lined baskets on poles? Earthy cane baskets passed hand-to-hand?
The 'bulletin' in my hand expresses appreciation for giving, "Offerings are not collected, but placed in the Joy Box! as we enter and leave worship." Just as Jesus healed the man with the shriveled arm, Christ opens my gnarled heart like an outstretched hand. Mark 3
God loves it when the giver delights in the giving. MSG
Fellowship is a place where delight is embraced.
A few weeks ago, our pastor at Fellowship re-christened it Hilarious Giving.
Tomorrow we're adding a third box, not at worship but at the place where Man Club and Freestyle and Prayer-n-Coffee Ladies gather, where married couples meet with engaged couples preparing for marriage, where we all are welcome to share meals and sorrows and dreams and prayers, in the place where Fellowship really happens.
As my precious friend and son-of-my-heart Patrick Writz once said in our Sunday afternoon small group, "If you're only at Fellowship on Sunday mornings, you're missing the best part."