08 July 2009

Give Us This Day...

die Van ist kaput.

When we pulled into our parking spot at Ponca State Park last Thursday, we were all excited for a three day cabin stay with my entire family. When I backed the van up to move it closer to our particular cabin, the large puddle of transmission fluid that was revealed indicated we would soon be enjoying something of a change in plans as far as driving goes.

We limped back to Ames on a replacement quart of fluid and dropped off the van at the shop yesterday morning. The verdict? Leaky torque converter. The expense? $1400. At least, that's the estimate. Wow. As Bing said in White Christmas: "It's somewhere between 'Ouch' and 'Boing.'" Wow.

These things happen, of course. But the peculiar thing is how and when they happen. Beloved and I have been discussing what to do with our extra money this month. See, I am paid every other Friday, which means that two months out of the calendar year contain an 'extra' paycheck. July '09 is one of those months. In addition, I'm scheduled for several supply dates this summer, so I'll be pulling in some extra $$ there as well. We were trying to figure out how much to put toward debt retirement vs. some stuff we'd like to do in the house. Well, now we know where the extra money is going, don't we?

In the midst of these troubled times, I'm struck by the story of Israel in the wilderness. God provided enough manna for one day. Anyone who tried to gather more found it mealy and wormy by morning. We think in terms of scarcity: there's no way of knowing what tomorrow will bring, so we grab all we can for today. God thinks about things differently: what is meant to last will last, and what is meant to end will end, no matter what we might do about it.

It occurs to me that God might really care very little for the continuation of the institutions we think are so important. Churches who worship less than twenty people with endowments to maintain the building and cemetery? Seminaries who pour all their gifts into endowments while they pile the burden of today's education on the backs of their students? Companies who lay off workers while executive salaries continue to climb and widen the gap between labor and management? I'm not so certain a God who promises to provide daily bread, not monthly bread, thinks a lot of this type of stewardship.

It's one thing to be responsible in planning for the future. Beloved and I have far too much debt. If that weren't the case, this car repair wouldn't be the problem that it is. We're working on being free of what we owe to others, but it's going to take some time. Afterwards, though, we're going to have to work just as hard to remain free of our excess, assuming we ever get there. We all know about the farmer in the gospel of Luke who builds new granaries for all his excess - he dies that night and all that excess does him no good.

This week's lectionary texts deal with some of these institutional issues, also. Amos tells the people of the northern kingdom that they will not stand forever just because of who they are, that God is about to set them plumb (an image for justification), and that it will not be all lollipops and sunbeams when it happens. Herod hears about Jesus' ministry and is haunted by the thought that Jesus could be John the Baptizer resurrected - and we get the picture of a man haunted by the knowledge that all his wealth and power will amount to nothing in the end.

I remain convinced that God doesn't give a fart in a stiff wind for propping up institutions for their own sake. Our call to stewardship is both a call to recklessly trust that God will provide and a call to understand that debt and wealth can each be a burden and a barrier between ourselves and faith. So we'll go to the dealership tomorrow afternoon and unburden ourselves a bit, and hopefully our faith will be all the richer for it, even if our wallets will not.

Grace & peace,

The painting is "Daily Bread, Version 1" by Jim Gola


  1. Scott,
    I enjoy following your blog. This post, especially, deserves a "well said!"

    On a side note, have you ever used Dave Ramsey's financial stuff? His Financial Peace University class is GREAT! Has helped us pay off so much of that debt AND understand it's faith implications. I would see it as a valuable tool in campus ministry, too. Just my two cents.

    Nonetheless, thanks for your words about daily bread...a good reminder for me today.

    In Christ,
    Renee (Hesseltine) Kowlessar (from LSC/Luther Sem)

  2. what a beautiful post... on the heels of my own getaway and a clutch on a pickup that was precarious; a heavy storm that threatened us; an allergic reaction to something... *sigh* makes perfect sense to me that god provides for the day... and off i go to that little church that may or may not be here in 25 years...

  3. Wow...great stuff, as usual. Thanks for saying it so well.

  4. Way to go, Scott. This rocked. And this made me laugh out loud: "I remain convinced that God doesn't give a fart in a stiff wind for propping up institutions for their own sake" So true!