An editorial from Monte McClain – Pastor, Fruitvale Presbyterian Church
When I slow down – both calendar-wise and mentally – I’m able to pass the pictures of those people that taught me, built me up, and invested in me through their relationships, through my mind’s eye. Try it! Who taught you to ride a bike, to say “thank you”, influenced and shaped you in your profesisonal life, encouraged and equipped you in your faith, nurtured your spirituality, taught you about the mysterious mutual and reciprocal aspects of love and relationships? In doing so, I realize that I am not my own; that we are not our own. I am both independent, and also dependent on others. I am not my own. Those who loved, invested in, and equipped me, did so out of love and in generosity, and I in turn am called to pass their faithfulness on, to pay it forward, to recognize that I am part of the intricate “web-o-life,” to be a good, generous, and gregarious steward of what has been given to me. My parents, teachers, friends, mentors, church community – and God in Jesus, have shaped what I do, how I do it, and mostly who I am today. My stewardship and faithful paying-forward of my blessings through my time, passion, money, and gifts is how I actively say “thank you” to them and continue building that giant web connecting all of creation to the life-giving God that makes it all possible.
We live in a world in which the “self” is our defining identity. Driven by an intense drive and desire for independence, we affirm and assert that we are ourselves the ones that planned, created, facilitated, or empowered whatever is happening around us or in us. At the same time we feel more and more alienated and powerless in a world in which major decisions are made by the uber-rich in board rooms or politicians born into trust-fund universes, in which everything we wear, use in our home and increasingly even eat comes from a distant country. Our post-modern world of the early 21st century is one in which we are shackled by the dominating drive for independence and self-sufficiency from the past, and yet the dawning hope of such forces as community, connectionalism, and corporate solidarity are rising upon what we know, kindling in us a desire for something else.
This past month I’ve been haunted by lingering and emerging thoughts about who I am and why I do what I do. I think it comes from the Sunday morning in which we created what David Kittams called the “web-o-life” in worship, in order to give a visible image of our community and hope in God’s presence (see photo). I live – like we all do – in and from that web. Who I am today is in part the result of some of my choices, but it’s also in great part due to the influence, presence, and mentoring of others.
The apostle Paul wrote this same “web-o-life” message in other words to the troubled church of Corinth, “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you— so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” As pastor, partner and parent of a family involved in the life of Fruitvale Church, choosing to make its relational web our spiritual home, I give financially and time-wise to our church to say thank you for how it blesses me, my spouse, and our children. What better place for our daughters to learn that God loves all people, and invites all of us to be bridge-builders and peace-makers in our world, to use our gifts to serve Christ in all the ministry that we do: in our learning, our work, our relationships, our imagination, and our rest. Our family is ready and anxious to say thank you, to pay our blessings forward, and to build the web-o-life at Fruitvale Church through the pledge of our time, gifts and money for 2007 and beyond. We recognize that such stewardship is costly for us and our family – and yet not doing so is even more costly to our church, our ministry field, and our family. I hope that as we prepare to present our ministry pledges on Sunday, November 19th you’ll take the time to slow-down and meditate on the web-o-life, on the faithful stewards of God’s grace in your life, work, relationships and identity, so that you too will continue to help our community build up that web at Fruitvale Church in 2007.