The Arboreal Wisdom of the Prophet Amos
“Let justice flow like an ever-rolling stream” Amos 5:24
Dear Parish Family,
Our stewardship theme this year is inspired by our vision statement and the opening words of the Common Doxology: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow.” One way that we fulfill our vision of walking together in the way of Christ’s love for all is by following the flow of God’s blessings. And one way that we can follow the flow of God’s blessings is by simply practicing gratitude. Our Holy Scriptures are replete with invitations to practice gratitude and that is what stewardship season is all about.
Our stewardship team begins each meeting by sharing blessings for which we are feeling especially grateful. In the face of COVID, destructive wildfires, and divisive politics, this simple act of counting our blessings effectively shifts my outlook and infuses me with hope. Now that the delta variant has thrown a wrench into many of our regathering plans, I feel especially hungry for that hope and thus called to deepen my discipline of gratitude and flex those spiritual muscles on a more regular basis.
It can be so easy for us to focus on all the negative, discouraging, and overwhelming “stuff” in our lives. And whenever I do, I can often grow upset, impatient, and sad. However, when I remember to focus on all the dazzling blessings that shimmer all around me, I so quickly grow full of joy and awe and wonder. Sometimes my practice of gratitude begins by taking a breath and giving thanks to God for a healthy body that can successfully inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, a gift that none of us should ever take for granted, especially when we consider the 700,000 who have died from a virus that seriously damages one’s lungs. After appreciating the gift of breath, I gaze at the redwood tree in my side yard, which absorbs the carbon dioxide I release and provides me with fresh oxygen in a relationship of mutuality and interdependence. As I continue to gaze with gratitude, the redwood tree seems to show off its branches as they dance in the sunlight and make gentle music in the wind. And then I get the sense that the tree itself is giving thanks and praise to its Creator along with me as I start to count the 10,000 little things that seem to go right every day.
I like to imagine that this same arboreal wisdom informed and inspired the Hebrew prophet Amos, who was a dresser of sycamore trees. I like to imagine that he knew God’s message to God’s people precisely because he spent so much time listening to the trees and receiving their ancient wisdom. I like to imagine God’s Spirit speaking through the fig trees to Amos and showing him that mistreatment of the poor indicates corruption and crookedness of heart just as a plumb line indicates the crookedness of a wall (Amos 7:7-15). And finally, I like to imagine that the streams of wind that flowed through the sycamore trees inspired Amos’s poetic call for justice: “Let justice flow like an ever-rolling stream” (5:24). The words of Amos, which have appeared frequently in our lectionary the last few months, invite us to express our gratitude by giving generously back to the God who gave us every gift that we now enjoy, including our very breath. And Amos specifically calls us to give generously to those in need so that God’s justice may flow.
Christ Church Eureka has been following the flow of God’s blessings and heeding the prophetic words of Amos by increasing our giving to non-profit organizations that help those in need: Food for People, The Betty Kwan Chinn Homeless Foundation, The Forgotten Initiative, Sandy in Honduras, Humboldt Domestic Violence Services, Bishop’s Fire-Relief Fund, and more. During these challenging times when it is tempting to turn inward and focus solely on maintenance, we are looking outward and upholding our mission to serve all people through the power of the Holy Spirit.
I invite you to join us in following the flow of God’s blessing and justice by prayerfully reflecting on the ways you are being called to express your gratitude this year. I invite you to prayerfully consider the following three questions:
- How am I being called to give generously to the church through my time, talent, and treasure?
- What percentage of my income am I being called by God to give to Christ Church?
- Am I being called to give more this year than I did last year?
After prayerfully considering these questions, please fill out your pledge card and bring it to church on or before Sunday November 7, 2021, when we celebrate the Feast of All Hallows and gather with the prophet Amos and all the saints to praise our God from whom all blessings flow.
With Gratitude and Love,
Fr. Daniel +
Download pledge card here
Dear Friends in Christ,
As some of you already know, Christ Church hopes to receive portraits of the twelve apostles painted by Fr. George Leonard Shultz (1896 – 1971), an Episcopal priest who served here during some summers in the 1960s and who was affectionately known as “Father Shag.” His granddaughter is Annalee Veach, a Christ Church parishioner who has generously offered to donate her grandfather’s portraits to the church. As we prepare to receive these portraits, I have been inviting us to reflect on the apostles, as their feast days approach. Most recently, we celebrated the feast day of St. Matthew the Apostle and Evangelist (September 21); and it’s hard for me to imagine a better model for stewardship than this tax-collector-turned-saint.
Matthew is often associated with the symbol of a purse, which represents his former tax-collecting life. Fr. Shag imagined Matthew as a wealthy man since tax collectors would often benefit personally by charging taxpayers more than the empire demanded in order to line their pockets or purses. In Fr. Shultz’s portrait of the apostle (see image on page 4), we see a taxpayer at a Roman tollbooth raising his arm in disgust at the tax collector’s exorbitant rate. It is important to note that this event occurs in the distant background of the portrait thus demonstrating that such behavior is in Matthew’s past. In contrast, the foreground depicts the apostle holding an empty purse upside down, indicating that he has now let go of selfish pursuit for monetary gain.
The artist describes Matthew as “happy,” but his smile is subtle and slightly seditious, having left his career as an imperial officer (a servant of the empire) to follow someone whose ministry would threaten and ultimately topple the empire. Matthew’s happiness runs deeper still as he learns to let go of wealth’s false security and embrace his true identity as a royal priest. British author Herbert Lockyer (whose writings informed Fr. Shultz) suggests that Matthew was from the Jewish priestly tribe of Levi since the Gospels of Mark and Luke both refer to him as “Levi” (Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27). When Jesus calls Matthew to “Follow me,” he instantly leaves his exploitative career because he hears, in Jesus’s voice, the voice of his ancestors calling him to let go of his greed and to invest in the treasury of wisdom offered by his Jewish tradition and rabbi. In following Jesus, Matthew discovers the true gold of Christ’s teachings, which he then shares with the world through his compelling Gospel. In this way, he lives up to his name “Matthew,” which means “Gift of God.”
In Fr. Shultz’s clever portrayal of St. Matthew, I see an invitation for us to ask ourselves: “Where do we hear the voices of our ancestors calling? Of what are we being called to let go? What purses in our lives need to be emptied?” I remember an Episcopal priest playfully saying to his congregation, “When the offering plate comes to you, please empty out the contents of your purse.” This is exactly what St. Matthew is doing in Fr. Shultz’s painting.
And in that ever so subtle and mischievous smile of Fr. Shag’s Saint Matthew, I see a call for us all to play our part in subverting systems of injustice, investing in treasuries of wisdom, and discovering our true identity as a ‘Gift of God’ for the world. Pope Francis (named after another great saint) said, “Rivers do not drink their own water; trees do not eat their own fruit; the sun does not shine on itself and flowers do not spread their fragrance for themselves. Living for others is a rule of nature.” We discover our true selves by giving to others; and so I invite you to discover your true self by giving to Christ Church.
If your income has been negatively affected during this time, please let us know how we can help you. Also, please prayerfully consider this question: How can I give generously to the church through my time and talent?
If your income has remained consistent during this time, I invite you to prayerfully consider these two questions: What percentage of my income am I being called by to God to give to Christ Church? And am I being called to give more this year than I did last year?
As your priest, I urge you to consider these questions not because the church needs to pay its bills but because stewardship is an ancient spiritual discipline that is crucial for the soul’s health and growth. In fact, the discipline of tithing (giving a tenth of one’s income to God) dates all the way back to Abraham in Genesis 14! And so I urge us all to work towards tithing, if we are not already. A priest’s job is to care for souls and I am convinced that giving to the church (and especially tithing!) is good medicine for the soul. St. Matthew knew this so well that he emptied his entire purse in order to further the mission of God’s kingdom on earth. He found his true self and deepest joy and so much more in giving generously to God and thus he embodied the divine wisdom that is inscribed in the Gospel that bears his name: “Strive first for the kingdom of God and everything you need will be provided for you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
With Gratitude and Love,
Fr. Daniel +
P.S. After prayerfully considering the questions above, please fill out your pledge card and mail it (or drop it off) to the church before All Saints Day (November 1, 2020), when we will gather with St. Matthew and all the saints to celebrate God’s great faithfulness by offering our generous pledges to the church. We will celebrate communion on All Saints Day and you will be invited to pick up pre-consecrated wafers at the church on All Hallow’s Eve to consume on Sunday morning.
Stewardship Campaign 2019 – 2020: Steadfast and Growing Since 1870
Dear Parish Family,
I have been eagerly awaiting to celebrate this 150th year with you from the moment I arrived. We have been planning for this year’s many celebrations since January 2019, when Belinda Zander convened the first meeting of the sesquicentennial planning committee in the Heritage Room. At that time, I invited the members of the committee to dream big and we did indeed!
Our overall theme for the year is “Steadfast and Growing Since 1870.” We know that by rooting ourselves deeply in our Christian and Anglican traditions, we remain steadfast; and by branching out to new partners, new generations, and new ways to fulfill our mission, we can continue growing as we have been since 1870. Appropriately, our logo for the year is an image of a redwood tree branch growing out of the ancient symbol of the Holy Cross, which is being held by an even more ancient religious symbol: the Lamb of God. We know that it is by being rooted in our rich past that we can grow most faithfully into our thrilling future.
As a committee, we decided that one or two celebrations of our 150th year would not be enough. We wanted to celebrate all year long, with a special guest and theme for each month. So our celebrations are also “steadfast and growing” as we build towards a climax in the month of May when Bishop Megan will come to help us commemorate the first worship service of Christ Church Eureka (May 17th). Throughout the entire month of May, we will be worshipping from the old Anglican prayer books, beginning with the 1549 prayer book, then the 1662, and then the 1789, which the first Episcopalians of Christ Church Eureka used. In this way, we will immerse ourselves in the very same prayers that our Anglican ancestors prayed.
Along the way to May, we will show off our historic campus as part of the Eureka Heritage Society Home Tour, learn about the liturgical year from Suzanne Guthrie, sing songs of Thanksgiving with our brothers and sisters from other faith traditions, explore the mystery of the Incarnation with Richard Rohr and Dan Price, celebrate the past clergy of Christ Church Eureka, renew wedding vows, and discover new ways to reach out to those in need, especially the hungry, the homeless and the forgotten. And so much more!
I invite you to join us in our steadfast growth by participating in the many events and programs we have planned throughout the year and by considering ways that you can share your gifts of time, talent, and treasure with us. Make sure you have a copy of our 150th celebration brochure (which can be accessed here) and share it with others as well.
Thank you for prayerfully considering how you can best express your gratitude through generous giving “for such a time as this”!
With Gratitude for 150 years,
Daniel London +
P. S. For those who might be new to pledging and stewardship, we ask that you prayerfully discern how much you can give this year so that we can create a realistic budget to continue our church’s myriad ministries along with our sesquicentennial celebrations. We ask that you fill out a pledge card and let us know if you plan to give weekly, monthly, or annually. Pledge cards are available at church if you haven’t already received one in the mail. Our pledge ingathering will be Sunday November 3rd.
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Dear Parish Family,
As I have been researching our church’s history, I have particularly enjoyed reading the words of our founder Thomas Walsh. In a time when Anglican churches were often renting church pews to parishioners, Walsh explained that he did not want to put a price on participation in Sunday worship. He wanted all the seats and pews in church to be free. He then quoted the words of Jesus, who said, “Freely you have received, so freely give” (Matthew 10:8). Walsh did not want parishioners giving to the church out of compulsion or guilt, but rather out of gratitude.
We remind ourselves of this gratitude every Sunday when we say, “All things come of thee, O Lord. And of thine own have we given thee.” We understand that everything we have is a gift and we express our gratitude by giving a portion of our gifts back to God. We understand that stewardship is not about “guilt tripping” ourselves into pledging or tithing. Stewardship is aboutgratitude and moving deeper into the ever-giving flow of divine munificence by expressing that gratitude through generosity.
Ashley and I have had many important conversations about stewardship as we continue to navigate student loan debt and other significant limitations on our budget. However, we both understand the importance of gratitude and of expressing that gratitude through generous giving. And we both feel good about currently giving 9.2% of our income back to the church, with the intent to eventually start giving 10%.
Thomas Walsh would also often use the Latin phrase “Deo Volente” which means “God Willing.” He understood that our plans only come to fruition when they are aligned with God’s will. The theme for this year’s stewardship campaign is “New Rector New Era.” In my research, I have learned that I am the church’s 33rd rector. However, there have only been 8 long-term rectors, who have served for more than 5 years. I want you all to know that I don’t see this job as a “stepping stone” in my career but rather as an opportunity to plant long-lasting roots that will bear rich spiritual fruits. I look forward to discovering with all of you the value of what Eugene Peterson calls a “Long Obedience in the Same Direction.” So I personally hope to be this church’s 9th long-term rector, Deo Volente!
Our stewardship campaign is not just about a “new rector” but also about a “new era.” I believe God has many wonderful things in store for Christ Church Eureka in our many years together as we continue to embody the love of Christ in Humboldt county and beyond. It has been seven months since my first Sunday and I’m feeling deeply proud and thankful for all the wonderful work we have already accomplished together. It’s difficult for me to count the myriad ways that we, as a community, have continued to fulfill Thomas Walsh’s 150-year-old mission of proclaiming Christ as the evermore-welcoming and open “Door to Heaven.” In addition to the beautiful worship we offer every Sunday, we serve over 500 people a month through ministries of service, hospitality, support, and care. We also have begun a third service on Tuesday nights in which we pray the Anglican end-of-the-day prayer called Compline in our chapel; and a number of discipleship groups are meeting regularly throughout the week. All of this is just a “warm up” for our next program year and for a whole new era in the long life of Christ Church.
I invite you to participate in this new era of Christ Church by expressing your gratitude through generous giving and entering more deeply into the ever-giving flow of divine munificence! Mark your calendars and make sure to join us for our Pledge Ingathering on Sunday October 21st.
With Much Gratitude,
Fr. Daniel +