Weather Report April 2017

The Christian Church has been known to try anything when it comes to generating income. Individual communities of faith become quite innovative. Take the example of a small urban church that is considering the implementation of the indispensible incentive of indulgences.
Most know some Christian brother or sister who has failed miserably in their duty to love God and neighbor as themselves. In some instances they committed a huge blunder, thus alienating themselves from their community. Concerned, family and friends inevitably express a desire to do something to assist the wayward back on the beaten path. Where the prodigal fails or refuses to repent sincerely before God the case is all but hopeless. But in those instances of sincere repentance and sound confession, there is a second chance.
This is where the indulgence comes into play. A Christian in a state of grace (one who had truly repented, sincerely confessed) might purchase or have purchased on their behalf, a pardon. The pardon does not concern the remission of sin, something only God’s grace can do. The pardon goes to the ledger of merits. Many confess the wish for some tangible thing to be fulfilled on the way to embracing God’s unlimited grace.
The stewardship committee of the aforementioned church is recommending the selling of unconditional indulgences as a means for generating offerings and assuaging guilty consciences. Having taken into account the busy schedules of the membership, it was decided that most were pressed to serve in the church’s version of Operation Inasmuch or Room In The Inn. Although many desired to go on a mission trip to Haiti or Appalachian Outreach, work and family commitments ruled out such activities. But what if the well-meaning disciple could purchase a certificate, granting the holder the full satisfaction of having served others? The proceeds would underwrite the mission trips. These certificates would be redeemed at the great judgment when the Lord says, “When you did it to the least of these, you did it to me.”
My example is my imagination unchecked. But if it were true, the origin of such an approach to stewardship could be traced back as far as the Middle Ages. Salvation for gold, even an insignificant bit of gold, allowed the Church to build and restore churches and religious houses. This practice of selling indulgences preyed on the guilty conscience; it made church coffers ring. In time, it became the eye of the storm called the Protestant Reformation.
Next week members and friends of Immanuel Baptist Church will receive a letter from the Stewardship Committee. Instead of a list of possible indulgences to be purchased for a given sum, you will find a letter, a copy of the proposed 2017 – 2018 budget, and a pledge card. The motivation will not be to assuage a guilty conscience, but to fulfill faithful discipleship. The stewardship of the Christian is a response to the generous provisions of God. In the words of the late hymn writer, “All things are Yours: we make that true when we return our gifts to You; and so we give, and so we share, in Christ’s strong name expressing care.”1
On Sunday, April 9, we will bring our pledge cards to the altar with our gifts. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we do so cheerfully, motivated by love.    —Steven
1Leech, Bryan Jeffery. “All Things Are Yours.” Celebrating Grace Hymnal. p. 672.