OSLC Update 7-3-20
The Lord is Our Shepherd
Last week I said that Psalm 23 is a powerful, personal psalm to remind you that you are never alone. Your divine Shepherd is guiding you through all things, even when you walk through the darkest valley (or the valley of the shadow of death).
While it’s written in the first person singular – the Lord is my shepherd – I’d like us to hear it now in the first person plural:
The Lord is our shepherd, we shall not want. He makes us lie down in green pastures; he leads us beside still waters; he restores our soul. He leads us in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though we walk through the darkest valley, we fear no evil; for you are with us; your rod and your staff— they comfort us. You prepare a table before us in the presence of our enemies; you anoint our heads with oil; our cup overflows. Surelygoodness and mercyshall follow us all the days of our life, and we shall dwell in the house of the Lord our whole life long.
Our American culture tends to be highly individualistic with a lot of focus on “me”. That may be broadened a little to include “my family”, as in my small, nuclear family. But like many cultures in the world today, in the Bible there is no “me” without “we”; there’s no individual apart from the community. In the Old Testament, there is no individual identity that can be severed from one’s larger family, tribe, or even nation. The New Testament is written by and for the community of the Church – the body of Christ. Most often when the word “you” appears in the Bible – Old or New Testament – it’s not a singular “you”, it’s a plural “you”.
Because of our culture, I think it’s easy for us as Americans to over-personalize faith to the point where faith is understood to be primarily about me and my personal relationship with God. Then we run the danger of privatizing Christian faith. But there’s actually no such thing as private Christian faith. Without a doubt, our faith has a very real personal dimension. As Jim Wallis of Sojourners says, God is always personal, but never private. Genuine Christian faith always has both a personal and a social dimension. It’s always about “me” and “we”. But that’s probably even the wrong order. In the Bible, as in some other cultures in the world today, the “we” usually comes before the “me”. “I” come from community and live within and for community. “I” am not a separate entity that exists outside of human community.
We come from extended families which precede us; we come from ethnic groups which precede us; we come from the larger Church we are baptized into which precedes us; we come from a nation which precedes us. We don’t live in isolation from these communities. Yes we have an individual identity and personal life. But in many ways, life is about how we live connected to these communities.
Back to the 23rd Psalm. The Lord is our shepherd. We need this Shepherd to lead us now in all our churches as we navigate the strange waters of this coronavirus. We need our divine Shepherd to guide us now at Our Saviour’s in our call process for a new pastor. We need this Shepherd to lead us together in our families. And I believe we need our divine Shepherd to guide us as a nation.
I know that as Christians we worship a God who created the whole world and is Lord of all the nations. To worship a God who is only on America’s side, no matter what, is to worship a false god. I also know that as a nation we are a diverse people of many faiths and religions and of no faith or religion. But what we share in common is being human; being children of God (whether we believe in God or not); and being fellow citizens of this country. To me, America shines with greatness when the “we” triumphs over the “me”. To me, America shines with greatness when we seek to establish liberty and justice for all in our land…as we promise when we pledge allegiance to the flag.
So on this 4th of July, 2020, amidst this pandemic, amidst the social upheaval over racial injustice, amidst all of our country’s challenges, I want to recite the 23rd Psalm on behalf of America. In doing so, I don’t seek to impose my faith on my neighbors of other faiths or no faith. But I invite you as people of faith to join with me in praying that God will guide our nation through these turbulent times.
Hear Psalm 23 once more now and think of the divine Shepherd and our nation: The Lord is our shepherd, we shall not want. He makes us lie down in green pastures; he leads us beside still waters; he restores our soul. He leads us in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though we walk through the darkest valley, we fear no evil; for you are with us; your rod and your staff— they comfort us. You prepare a table before us in the presence of our enemies; you anoint our heads with oil; our cup overflows. Surelygoodness and mercyshall follow us all the days of our life, and we shall dwell in the house of the Lord our whole life long.
– Pastor Bruce
As we begin July, Our Saviour’s is on a good foundation financially. It has not been an easy first six months to the year after in-person worship was shut down. The generosity of our members has helped get us through the start of this most unusual time in our church.
When Minnesota shut down, the Finance Team and Church Council wondered how we would be able to continue to pay our staff and bills if giving dropped off because of no in-person worship. I am very happy to report that our members have stepped up and been very consistent givers. We did apply for and receive a PPP (Payroll Protection Program) loan. Now that we’ve used at least 75% of that money for payroll and the remainder for qualifying expenses, the loan should be entirely forgiven by the federal government. Before we received this money, we did have to dip into our reserve fund. But since then we’ve been able to repay all of that money and build an additional cushion for the summer months when giving and attendance historically drops off.
Our mortgage is held by the ELCA Mission Investment Fund. They have been lenient with us and other churches during this time. We were able to pay interest only for the months of May and June. And now for July, August and September (when our giving is historically at its lowest), they have allowed us to defer payments.
With all of the events of the past months, we enter July in a good financial position. As we continue forward with all of the unknowns of when we will be able to attend church in-person again and how our economy and members will be affected financially by Covid, we are cautiously optimistic for the rest of the year. Our Finance Team, Council, and staff have worked hard to build the best reserve we can to weather this financial storm. We are very thankful for your generous giving by mail and electronically. We have been able to build our reserves back because of all of the tools afforded to us by the federal government PPP program, the flexibility of the mortgage holder, and most importantly by your generous gifts and prayers.
Finally, as we all know, most of our bills continue even without in-person worship. We aim to finish in a secure financial position with our reserve fund intact for the coming years. We will be able to achieve this with your continued financial support. Thank you for your generous giving!
Jason Moehring, Treasurer
Our Saviour’s Finance Team
Click Connecting with You for the July 5-12 virtual schedule.