September 15, 2017
In the past 15 years I’ve visited hundreds of people in the hospital.
Even though it happened nine years ago, I remember my visit with Ruth vividly.
Ruth had been a school teacher and she lived on her pension and Social Security. She was a long-time member of my former congregation. My church was predominately white. Ruth had been a member of a predominately African-American congregation that had closed, and she joined the church because she enjoyed our style of worship.
When I entered her room, and before I had the chance to ask her how she was recovering from her surgery, Ruth reached in the pocketbook she had been clutching in her hospital bed and pulled out two crisp checks, each in the amount of $121.50. “I missed two Sundays, Pen, and I just hate not being able to put my tithe in the offering plate.”
I scanned Ruth’s face for the look of obligation, but all I saw was joy.
Tithing was a spiritual practice – a spiritual discipline – and it was an important way that Ruth participated in the ministry and the community of the church.
Sometimes the preacher gives a sermon, and other times the preacher receives one. Ruth preached to me that afternoon.
And when it comes time for Lindsey and me to make our decision about what to give to the church, I always picture Ruth sitting up in that hospital bed and remember the feeling of tucking those two checks carefully in my pocket so that I could put them in the offering plate.
Our theme for this year’s stewardship campaign is “First.”
I hope you can experience what Ruth taught me – that when we make giving to the church our first priority, it doesn’t just brighten up the world, it brightens up our lives.
– The Reverend Pen Peery
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