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Letter from Amy: June 12, 2024




Dear Incarnation,


I have had some really great conversations with you after the sermons the past two weeks. Thanks for your insights, your questions, your book recommendations, and especially for your willingness to really engage this Ordinary Church series on Acts 2:41-47. I'm so encouraged by the ways you are wrestling with this hopeful, convicting, challenging, beautiful picture of the early church.


Two weeks ago I preached on "We are Worshipers." As an introduction, I asked the kids what they thought we'd be doing forever in our life with God. In addition to all the ideas they called out in the service, I got some amazing pictures, lists, and even a poem in response. Two of those are included above! If you ever wondered whether the kids were listening in church (despite wiggly evidence to the contrary) and what kinds of things they are learning about God — just ask them a big open-ended question and see what kinds of things they have to say.


Last week I preached on "We are Generous." I shared the prayer of one of our vestry members: "Lord, free us." I shared about the generosity of a woman named Alma (whose name means soul) who spent her tithe buying 7 strangers breakfast so they'd feel welcome in her border town. I shared about the grip of mammon and the temptation to believe what it says about God, us, and the world. As part of that sermon, I encouraged us to take one very brave, very difficult, very practical step to break mammon's power: give money away.


I also mentioned how much I appreciated Richard Foster's work on this topic. In the "Simplicity" chapter of his classic Celebration of Discipline, he offers a list of practical steps to take to help free us from mammon and reorient us toward God's economy of rest, abundance, and generosity. That list is below, lightly edited.


But first, a warning: it's a bit intense! And yet Foster offers it as a gracious invitation to freedom, not a burdensome new law. This list provides a set of small steps that we can all take, again and again over a lifetime, to help us learn to live as human beings under God's generous provision.


  1. Buy things for their usefulness, not their status. Aim for livability, not impressing. Buy only what you need. Buy secondhand if you can. Use things until they are worn out. Borrow what you don’t need to buy. [This community is an amazing resource for borrowing, and we're working on ways to make that resource more accessible!]

  2. Reject anything that produces a compulsion in you. Refuse bondage. Addictive substances. Media. Money. Possessions. Give away, cut it off, and feel the inner release. Simplicity is freedom, not bondage.

  3. Develop a habit of giving things away. Declutter. Many of us could give away half our possessions without any serious sacrifice.

  4. Refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry. Time-saving devices almost never save time. Most gadgets are built to break down and wear out, and so complicate our lives rather than enhance them.

  5. Learn to enjoy things without owning them. Share. Enjoy public parks, libraries, beaches.

  6. Develop an appreciation for creation. Discover that the earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it.

  7. Look with healthy skepticism at all buy now/pay later schemes. The Old Testament viewed interest as a denial of community because it exploited someone else’s need for profit. Jesus told his disciples to lend without expecting anything in return. Some debt is unavoidable in our world, but approach it with caution.

  8. Resist goods that knowingly breed the oppression of others. This is a difficult and sensitive matter. It is not as simple as buying different, more virtuous goods. Very few supply chains are untainted from the exploitation of people and creation, and learning more about these chains can nearly drive us to despair. Be mindful of your purchases, share/borrow/reuse what you can, pray for God's wisdom, and let your awareness of the world's brokenness deepen your longing for God's coming kingdom.

  9. Shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the kingdom of God. Even legitimate, good things like your job, position, family, friends, security.

I truly believe that God wants to free us. I am praying for his continued work in me, and in each of us, and in our church.


This week Katie will tackle "We are Peacemakers." Contrition, repentance, forgiveness, and repair are some of the hardest things God calls us to do, and yet there are essential to the life of our community. We'll bring a printed resource for continuing this work beyond Sundays. I'm looking forward to continuing in this challenging series together!


Questions? Challenges? Thoughts? In need of prayer, or hoping to simply catch up? Please reach out — I'd love to get together!


With love,

Amy

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