Proper 28A, November 19, 2017
Judges 4: 1-7, Psalm 123
1 Thessalonians 5: 1-11
Matthew 25: 14-30
St Thomas the Apostle
The Rev’d Joy A. Daley
There are many ways that members of the church go about spreading the love of God rather than holding on to it for ourselves. This morning I’d like to tell you about how one group has done this in a particular area over the past couple of years. Several years ago someone made a gift to the church in the amount of $42,000 and it was designated for outreach. That’s a big chunk of money that you don’t want to be careless about. So there’s a group in our parish known as the outreach committee and what they do is to discern carefully about such things. First they take the risk of stepping up to be on the committee, using their knowledge and wisdom by becoming a member of the committee. Next, they work together to decide what is the best way of using such a gift in a way that will spread the loves of God. They read agency descriptions and proposals . They make site visits and then they make recommendations to the vestry. They ultimately decided on projects that would make a significant and sustainable difference for the recipients and the communities they serve. They looked both locally and internationally. As they discerned they kept coming back to projects that addressed the basic necessities of food and water as well as early childhood development. Through their discernment they recommended to give part of the money for a water well managed through Episcopal Relief and Development. When you provide a water well in a small village in Africa you basically give clean water to the whole village It cuts down on disease decreases infant mortality. I saw that with my own eyes and heard it with my own ears when I went to Ghana in 2010 and talked with people about how life in their village changed due to a a water well in their village.
Another project funded was the one through Parkland Hospital that helps educate new parents about a normal phase of development when children cry without being consoled for what seems like endless periods. Research has connected this period with Shaken Baby Syndrome and in other areas of the country where this educational program is in place reductions in child mortality result due to these types of programs.
Another part of the funding was given to build a playground at Exodus House that helps formerly incarcerated mothers and their children as the mothers learn new skills so that they may be successful.
Finally there was also another project a very worthy one that the committee sought to fund but because they were not careless in giving these grants the committee was able to discern that this particular beneficiary did not have the infrastructure to carry out what was intended. So the committee had to come back to the table and discern once again what was the best way to use this financial gift that had been entrusted to the church. Now what they could have done was say “Oh well, we did what we could let’s just put it back into the pot and not take any chances” Or, “We’ve worked hard enough on this, Let someone else decide.” But if they did that money would have sat there and not have been used for spreading God’s love. It would have grown in interest perhaps, but not have met the needs for which it was intended. So the committee went to the table again and out into the field again and tried to figure out how can we make a difference that will last. You may have seen the results of their work in Thursdays Doubter in the photo of two of our committee members presenting a check to Vogel Alcove. For those of you who don’t know what Vogel Alcove is. It is an agency started in 1985 after the Social Action Committee of an area Jewish congregation formed the Dallas Jewish Coalition for the Homeless after they visited what was then Austin street Shelter and realized the great unmet need of children who are homeless. Behavior problems and delayed development are four times more likely in children affected by homelessness. It is truly a traumatic experience for an adult to lose their home, imagine the effects on little children and Dallas unfortunately leads the nation in cities its size in child poverty. Even now 3,000 children and families are affected by homelessness. What Vogel Alcove provides is an oasis for 200 children everyday. They are given 3 meals a day, programs to address the trauma of homelessness while their parents go to school, work or look for work to prepare for their future. Part of that programing will now be a therapeutic garden due to the careful discernment of your Outreach committee. Therapeutic gardening teaches children cooperation and responsibility. It helps them manage their stress. This never would have happened if the committee just hid the money away and gave up in fear when the one project fell through, if they let that money stay in a bank account far away from doing what it was intended for, miles away from touching anyone’s life. When we are entrusted with something of value, we are meant to use it for the greater good, to be in careful discernment about how to use it to spread the good news of Christ. Discernment means that we proceed with caution, that we are careful but not fearful. Sharing God’s love involves risking. We have an example in our gospel of the servant given one talent. He takes what he is given and hides it away because his fear immobilizes him. What he has been given remains static, unused, useless. Once again as in last week’s gospel we have an example of an overly strong message that Jesus gives his disciples because Jesus knows what comes next and he wants the disciples to be ready. He knows that they will be afraid but he does not want their fear to cause them to hide themselves and as a result the message of love he wants the world to know. Sharing the message involves stepping out of the darkness, not sharing means darkness for ourselves and those who may have benefitted from our gifts. Taking risks is necessary in order for the message of hope to be proclaimed.
By investing money in a water well the thirst of a whole village is quenched, by providing a playground to families in transition their burdens are lighter, by giving support and education to vulnerable families child abuse decreases, by providing a therapeutic garden for homeless children healing begins. All because a small group from St Thomas has been willing to step out by embracing a ministry to share light in situations that can sometimes be pretty dark. This is only one example of all you do through your various ministries. We never know what God will do through us when we share what we have. So do not be afraid let us step into the light and bless the world with God’s love.