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"I wanna give an offering!"

It was probably 30 years ago when we experienced an outburst in worship that has always remained with me. During the offering, as the mellow music was providing background, a young voice announced quietly, but audibly, and persistently, “I wanna give an offering!” As you can imagine, as the offering plates were passed throughout the congregation, the small voice became larger, the persistence became an insistence, until the child was taken out of the sanctuary, presumably for behavior unfit for worship.

I have since then always heard that voice echoing in my head during the passing of the collection plates. It is the faithful crying out that can be mined from the spiritual depths of each of us. I am convinced that generosity and participation and the expression of gratitude and faith reside within each of us, healthy impulses that help to define us as children of God, and members of a community that is the body of Christ.

This is a powerful characteristic throughout our lives. I recall my grandmother, in her late 90’s, aging with class and a strong spirit even though she had known loss, with her greatest lament being that she no longer had resources to make even a meager offering to her church, and in her theology, to her God. “I wanna give an offering” is the faithful refrain we do well to heed throughout out lives.


I mention this because, after 2 Covid-influenced years, we are returning to a physical, in person offering as a part of our worship. The gold-colored plates are again being passed, and the opportunity to act on our “I wanna give an offering” returns.

Bethany is doing so not as a fundraising gimmick, nor are we doing so in the hope that this will require the pastor to cut the sermon short because of the extra element in worship. We aren’t passing the plates so as to satisfy the loose offering line in the budget, nor to shame people into giving in a public way (nor to “show off”). We give an offering, or “return to God” an offering, because that is an essential part of our worship! It is rooted in acknowledging God’s goodness, and responding in gratitude… the stuff of worship and praise.

We at Bethany can with great honesty say this. Last year, in the heart of the pandemic, when we suspended “in person” offering, our giving exceeded projections, the generosity was astounding given that people needed to find ways (mail, direct deposit, stopping by the office) to give their offering. And 2022 seems more of the same. Thank you!

And now we are properly, in our duty and delight, restoring this practice where it belongs…in WORSHIP. Yes, we still encourage regular and faithful and generous financial giving in all forms, not just Saturday and Sunday worship. But in worship we will incorporate this giving, responding to the crying out within each of us: “I wanna give an offering!”

In gratitude,

Pastor Paul

Posted by Pastor Paul Stumme-Diers with

Belting Out Alleluia!

When our daughter, Maren, studied in Chile during a semester in college, Laurie and I traveled to Chile along with some friends to visit her there. We arrived during Holy Week, and so I walked to the local Lutheran Church to attend worship on Easter Sunday. It was a historic church there in Valparaiso, obvious by its architecture that it has a strong German influence. Indeed, German script adorned the inside walls of the sanctuary, most likely including the words “Ein Feste Burg” (A Mighty Fortress).

When the worship began, I had little comprehension of what was being said, other than guessing at familiar liturgical calls and responses. It sounded foreign to me because, being in Chili, the worship was of course conducted in Spanish. And then we got to the great Easter hymns, again familiar in their tunes, but difficult for me to shape the words…until we arrived at the “ALLALUIAS”. It was then that I belted out with all the gusto I could muster, “Alleluia!” That is the universal language of Easter. In the midst of things that seem so foreign, “ALLELUIA!”

That memory returned to me as I consider this Holy Week into Easter. Although we reside in our familiar country, mostly surrounded by a familiar language, when not delightfully enriched by the beauty and diversity of other languages, it can feel like a foreign time to many of us: The unsettledness of “coming out of” the pandemic is very real; the political rhetoric that is so raw and often-times mean-spirited puts us on edge; the war in Ukraine makes us off-balance, to say the least. Such language is foreign, and we wait for the hopeful, the true, the loving.

And so may we belt out this Easter, as though it comes in the midst of injustice, as though it also involves betrayal, as though it comes to us in the midst of fear, as though it it a direct response to death…let us, with gusto, sing out with our voices, and indeed our very being, “Alleluia! Christ is Risen!”

And then, let us incline our ears to hear the voice of Jesus, as he speaks to his followers in the locked room: “Be not afraid. Peace be with you.”

Posted by Pastor Paul Stumme-Diers with

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