"We're gonna make it."
Those four words are dangerous to read, hear, or say out loud, aren't they?
If the statement is true, it changes everything. If it is false, it also changes everything.
- The subject "we're" implies togetherness... which means that what is happening is greater than one person - that there is a powerful combination of people involved in something cooperative and communal.
- The predicate "gonna make it" implies hope... and hope is a dangerous thing when you've been let down before, or a miraculous healing when you believe it just can't happen.
It reminds me of a story you may have heard before called "Stone Soup."
A kind stranger was walking through the land when he came upon a village. As he entered, the villagers moved towards their homes locking doors and windows.
The stranger smiled and asked, "Why are you all so frightened? I am a simple traveler, looking for a soft place to stay for the night and a warm place for a meal."
Someone shouted out from their house, "There's not a bite to eat in the whole province. We are weak and our children are starving. Better keep moving on."
"Oh, I have everything I need," he said. "In fact, I was thinking of making some Stone Soup to share with all of you." He pulled an iron cauldron from his cloak, filled it with water, and began to build a fire under it. Then, with great ceremony, he drew an ordinary-looking stone from a silken bag and dropped it into the water.
By now, hearing the rumor of food, most of the villagers had come out of their homes or watched from their windows. As the stranger sniffed the "broth" and licked his lips in anticipation, hunger began to overcome their fear.
"Ahh," the stranger said to himself rather loudly, "I do like a tasty Stone Soup. Of course, stone soup with cabbage -- that's hard to beat. I'll bet as we all ate we'd appreciate the extra energy something as small as cabbage could add."
One townsperson crept from of one of the houses, and said "I have a small cabbage. If I add it to the soup, will you share with me?"
"Certainly!" said the stranger.
The villager left for a few moments, then returned with a cabbage he protectively guarded under his arms. "Here," he said, dropping it into the pot.
"Wonderful!" cried the stranger. "Thank you!" The two of them stood close to the kettle, smelling the soup as it began to boil. "You know," said the stranger, "Stone Soup with cabbage is a delight, but Stone Soup with cabbage and carrots! - now there is a REALLY wonderful meal".
A young woman perked up, "I know where there are some carrots!" And likewise, she also left and returned with a handful of carrots. "Might as well make this soup as tasty as we can."
"You are so right!" said the stranger. He stirred the pot and sniffed it all in, almost falling over in delight. "This is smelling absolutely amazing," he proclaimed. "I wonder, though, what else would make this Stone Soup the best it could be. I've seen batches before better than this, especially when they had a little bit of salt or beef thrown in."
The village butcher spoke up, saying, "I may have some scraps of beef I can spare." An older woman also chimed in, "And I certainly have some extra salt I can pitch in."
And so it went, through potatoes, onions, carrots, mushrooms, and so on, until there was indeed a delicious meal for everyone to share. Musicians appeared and there was dancing in the street. The townsfolk and the stranger had a grand time cooking and eating the soup, dancing and celebrating. Everyone ate like a king that day, and there was an obvious surplus.
The villager elder offered the stranger a great deal of money for the stone, remarking that it was indeed magical to create such a feast out of nothing.
And the stranger smiled, but refused to sell it. Instead, he snagged it out of the pot and traveled on the next day. As he left, the stranger came upon a group of village children standing near the road. He gave the silken bag containing the stone to the youngest child, whispering that it the people's faith - not the stone- that had performed the magic... and may they remember that lesson as they grew.
"We're gonna make it."
I've been reminded of this "magic" as the people in our church have started to step forth and drop various ingredients into the "pot."
- One man has felt the conviction of helping others achieve "financial peace" in their household as he is endeavoring to in his, and so starting in October a new learning community will form to help foster this.
- There's a woman who recently prayed that God would specifically help her get out of debt "so my finances can be better used for the church."
- We all watched people of all ages and economic backgrounds bring backpacks and school supplies in for Back To School Fest so that others in our region would know the practical care of Jesus Christ through His church.
- Another family has looked at the surplus a side business has brought them over the past several months and resolved to give a sacrificial offering to God via the church out of it, both in the present and into the future.
- Then there's another individual who feels the limit of stretching a dollar... and rather than throwing in the towel that "that's that" has brainstormed a fundraiser to generate greater resources than their own household can offer.
- Recently, another family in the church helped foot the bill for a sign we'll place on Rt 18 to generate a greater presence as people drive by. Maybe that will be just the invite someone has been waiting for as they head to work each day thinking, "God, if you're out there, show me a sign of where I can connect with You."
- Did I mention the fundraiser we're doing in less than a week? It's a cultural festival... and we're doing some simple Hispanic food via a "walking taco." Yesterday the Lord arranged for us to receive 400 bags of corn chips... FREE.
Why would people do this? After all, these are crazy economic times. Some businesses are losing money while others can't stop selling iPhones, iPods, and video game systems. President Obama and his key leaders have their hands full attempting to solve huge and complicated financial issues that affect nearly every U.S. citizen, while the local church is trying to do its best work on the most limited of incomes.
And people like you and I - ordinary Christ-followers - are deciding to either pull into our individuals households or live in community as the people of God. On fearful days, we put up shields... but on days where we choose faith we recognize the power of coming together. Maybe we are beginning to understand that we are not in control of our money be it a good day or a bad day, so maybe it's time to trust God!
We're starting to smell what a redeemed people could look like... what might happen in our region if we share it with our friends... what church *can* look like and feel like when we drop the masks and let ourselves be real.
"We're gonna make it."
This is a phrase I've heard God speak into my heart, and it has humbled me. I've not known how it's going to happen, what role He'll play into things, and what responsibility we have to each grab onto. But I know that it's going to happen... and that alone is a place to begin and end our faith.
Side note: I've heard a little bit of conversation that we shouldn't talk about financial matters out loud in the church. Why is that? I mean, honestly... why is that? Have you ever thought about the absurdity of that thought? If we can talk about every kind of sin the Bible mentions except "that one" - where is that motivation to be quiet coming from? From God... or His enemy?
I know in recent weeks we've had the responsibility to point out "where we're at" due to the way low summer giving may affect the future of Connection Church. I apologize if that's done anything other than help you recognize our situation and the role we each play. But I won't apologize if God has used it to stir up a better conviction in our hearts. How you and I respond to that is a big deal.
- Giving at all is great... take that step if you haven't.
- Tithing is an awesome set of training wheels... it's the start.
- But generous Christianity? That's the goal.
Because God doesn't want you to just put money into the offering box each week...
He wants you to put yourself in.
"We're gonna make it."
What is the future of Connection Church? That depends...
- Will we become people who commit to God and His Church?
- Will we become people who pray for and invite our friends to Jesus?
- Will we become people who see what is in our hands as "ours" or "God's?"
- We can stay at our current level of faith, or we can grow.
- We can stay at our current church size, or we can grow.
- We can stay at our current resource state, or we can grow.
Actually, that church doesn't exist on this side of heaven.
And yet, actually, we have found that church.
Can you see it? It's the stone that Jesus has dropped and invited us to start contributing toward.
Oh... and in case you're wondering, it's a real soup. And it tastes great. And yes, He is cooking up something.
How do I know?
- Life change - it's happening.
- Marital investment - it's happening.
- Relational purity - it's happening.
Like the other night - when I wrote the email that said "We're gonna make it." I didn't know how He would move, but that He would.
And as soon as I hit send, I noticed a new email in my inbox.
From our landlord.
Who gave us a "pass" on this month's rent.
Hello? Is this thing on?
We're behind financially... but the Lord has given the us window to catch up if we pull together.
So... what beef, vegetable, or salt can you be counted on to contribute to the soup God is cooking up?
Because something tells me this unique community called Connection Church is supposed to be feeding our entire region what God is cooking up.
Because with God... we're gonna make it.
"Return to me, and I will return to you," says the LORD Almighty.
"But you ask, 'How are we to return?'
"Will a man rob God? Yet you rob me.
"But you ask, 'How do we rob you?'
"In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse—the whole nation of you—because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this," says the LORD Almighty, "and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it." (Malachi 3:7-10)