A member of my Community of Christ congregation recently asked if I would lead the Disciples’ Generous Response portion of tomorrow’s worship service (where donations and tithes are collected). I’ve done this for previous services, but more than any other way I’ve contributed to a Community of Christ service, this is the one that takes the most practice. In Latter-day Saint services, there’s never this kind of collection, and this was honestly one of the hardest things to get used to as I began regularly attending Community of Christ services. That said, much of this is due to the intense pressure for Latter-day Saints to tithe; even if Community of Christ services always include an invitation to donate, there’s none of the same pressure that there is in Latter-day Saint circles, so I’ve come to see this as an acceptable tradeoff.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time trying to think about what I wanted to say during my few minutes. There are prepared statements for every week in a Worship Resources document that I have stored on my computer, but while I don’t mind reading that, I prefer adding my own voice to my contributions to a service when I can. In particular, I’ve spent a lot of time this month thinking about how the deliverance that we hope for during all of Advent is not automatically provided on Christmas, even if that’s the day that we celebrate the arrival of that deliverance and proclaim its sure coming. There are a number of stories I could have told and texts I could have shared in trying to share that impression and relate it to giving, but here’s what I’ve ultimately prepared to read during tomorrow’s service:
One of the oddest things about Christianity is that we believe that a Messiah has come even though we do not live in what’s called a “messianic age.” The Bible scholar Amy-Jill Levine notes that Jesus’s contemporaries would have expected the coming of the Messiah to also usher in an age of peace, prosperity, and no more problems for any of God’s children. Instead, as Levine writes, “we live in a world of cancer and AIDS, war and genocide, earthquakes and hurricanes[;] the messianic age cannot be here yet.”
Our scripture readings for this week’s service illustrate this point all too well. Just one week ago, we were celebrating Christmas’s promise of deliverance, but today, we heard the story of Herod’s Massacre of the Innocents. If Jesus’s birth marks the coming of God’s Savior into the world, why couldn’t Matthew tell us a story of God saving all these infants instead of the tragedy that we get instead?
Christians have wrestled with this dilemma for thousands of years, and yet tragedies continue and people still cry out for deliverance. I doubt that we’ll ever get a satisfactory answer to this troubling question in this life, but in the meantime, members of Community of Christ and many other Christian traditions have taken upon themselves the duty to help bring about deliverance for those who do not yet feel delivered. If Christ’s birth at Christmas did not resolve all of the world’s problems, it can at least inspire us to work towards solving them.
This first Sunday of the month, we focus our Disciples’ Generous Response on our mission initiative “Abolish Poverty, End Suffering,” which includes Oblation ministry. Today, as you place money in the basket or contribute through eTithing, consider how you can contribute your time, talents, and treasure to bringing about peace, prosperity, and no more problems for any of God’s children—not only through congregational and World Church ministries, but also through other “organizations and movements which are recognizing the worth of persons” (D&C 151:9).
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