We Share: Spontaneous

Nehemiah's city and people are in disarray.  Sound familiar?  #2020.

So he must gain people’s trust during unprecedented times.  How does he do it?  

He gives of himself.

This month we are focused on one of our six core values: "We Share."  Many congregations have stayed afloat in 2020 and previous difficult years, but the fact is that many can’t also sustain ministries or partnerships outside their own walls, i.e. outreach in their communities.  But that is integral to the mission of the church.  

In Nehemiah 5:14-19, he has to call out malpractice among leadership which has grown toxic during the exile.  And he does it by example -- by improvising past the accepted narrative, which would have empowered him to take advantage of food allotted to the governor (i.e. special privilege) and instead spontaneously giving to the people in his immediate surroundings: "Jews and officials ate at my table, as well as those who came to us form the surrounding nations" (v.17).

5 things from Nehemiah that support our conviction that “we share”

1) Ask serious questions and tell the truth.
Do you have people in your life, where people have permission to ask you serious questions?  Nehemiah asked a direct question in chapter 1: “How is it REALLY going in our home town?”  So they gave an honest answer — it’s going poorly.  And he continued this pattern through ch 5, when he confronts the governors (v.15).  If someone asks you a direct, serious question, tell the truth.  Doing otherwise won’t get you anywhere.  And return the favor: honor someone by asking them a serious direct question.  Finally, ask yourself serious questions and give yourself honest answers.

So, here are some serious questions:
- What is your commitment to the Lord Jesus right now?  
- How is your generosity these days?

2) Pray and see the needs.
This whole section of Nehemiah is captured in verse 19, when Nehemiah asks God to see and respond to their actions by supplying people's needs.  This pattern of prayer is evident throughout Nehemiah.  These leaders saw the power of prayer and recognized that they were called to put "feet to their faith" and get to work helping.  Prayer and action are interdependent.  So, each of us face the choice to feel like victims and lose our way in self-pity, or to get to work praying and helping.  If you're having trouble empathizing with those in need, consider this ancient idea: consider fasting from a meal a week to identify with those in need.

3) Confess the part we’ve played in the problems we live within.
Isn’t the pandemic exacerbated by our collective independent mindset, which doesn’t want to be “controlled” by masks or restrictions?  Sure, "other people" contribute to the problem, and it's easy to cast blame.  (Heck, if we're honest, it feels good to cast blame!)  But if we're really honest, most of us must admit that we have had influence this year and has in one way or another contributed to the "culture" we so readily blame and vilify.  Casting blame does no good.  Instead, we are called to be more like Nehemiah, who is realistic about his own sin, having taken advantage of sisters and brothers for his own gain.  Then he repents for it.  

If you're tired of witnessing the toxic and useless "blame game," consider: what would happen if we each choose to recognize what we to to contribute to problems, repent, and choose to make new choices that bless our communities?

4) Connect our gifts with others in need.
Nehemiah pulled people together in the rebuilding effort SO THAT everyone could flourish.  They were able to see the bigger picture, beyond their own needs and desires and work for the common good.  We can’t afford to wait for the culture at large to turn away from its selfish combativeness before we do.  Will we follow culture, or lead it?  Will we be on the forefront of selfless practice?  Are we waiting to be told what the local needs are, or are we seeking those needs out so we can be on the forefront of giving?

5) Tithe.
As of Nov. 15, our governor has set forth new restrictions for four weeks due to Covid-19.  While these don't appear to be very different for our church than they have been for the past few months, we have some decisions to make about the next four weeks, which include our annual Commitment Sunday.  But the opportunity to commit your giving for 2021 will still be there.  2021 is a crucial year in the mission of the Church as we crystallize our identity in the community as a body of faithful people who radically make a difference in our community.  

This year, 2020, UPPC has received 97% of its pledges.  That is remarkable considering the challenges of this particular year.  November and December are the most important ministry months of the year, so it’s not time to lay back, despite “the news.”  

So let's honestly ask: What is our commitment to the collective mission of the Church?
And let's earnestly pray:

Father in heaven, you created and sustain the entire world.  You hold us all in your hands.  In your mercy, forgive us for falling short and overstepping our boundaries.  In your grace, grant the strength, healing, courage and perseverance we need to thrive in the life you've given us and represent your blessings to our neighbors.  Thank you for being Lord.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

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