In the old, glossy, and somewhat dog-eared photo, two little girls pose for the camera. The girl on the right — my sister — is dressed as an angel, complete with spray-painted wings, a pipe cleaner halo, and a gold garland belt tied around a white robe (all of it, no doubt, lifted from the church’s Christmas pageant costume bins). The girl on the left — yours truly — is bedecked in a blue dress, blonde braided pigtails, and (just out of the frame) a pair of homemade glitter glue ruby slippers to complete the Dorothy of OZ ensemble. The back of the photo, in my mother’s fading cursive script, reads “Halloween, 1989.”
While I can’t remember many details about this particular Halloween, I can remember the first stop on our neighborhood Halloween tour. Every Halloween, the first stop was always the same: Mrs. Gettick’s house. Why? Mrs. Gettick was remarkably generous with her trick-or-treat “treats.” Her Halloween offerings were a veritable five-course meal of high-fructose corn syrup. Reese’s Cups and popcorn balls! Heaps of lollipops and handfuls of candy corn! And the pièce de résistance: full-size Snickers bars. By the time we left Mrs. Gettick’s house, our plastic pumpkin buckets were practically full to overflowing.
But there was one catch: we had to get to Mrs. Gettick’s house early. If we dragged our feet, we’d miss out on the sugary buffet. You see, Mrs. Gettick was a deeply religious woman, and spent every holy day — including All Hallows’ Eve — in the pews of the local Roman Catholic church. She was more than willing to fill our buckets with her generous helpings of candy, but only until it was time to leave for church. We made it a point to never be late.
As a child, Mrs. Gettick’s habitual Halloween churchgoing was, for me, a minor hurdle to my pursuit of a plastic pumpkin bucket filled with an abundance of treats. I never stopped to reflect that it might have been the source of that abundance. The abundance in my Halloween bucket was the natural result of a generosity rooted in deep faith.
Faith that fosters generosity. Generosity that overflows in abundance. That’s what we’ll be talking about throughout the next several weeks in worship. We’ll be exploring — and even rethinking — the idea of abundance.
And of course, I’m not actually talking about an abundance that comes in the form of over-indulgence in sugary Halloween treats. I’m also not talking about our culture’s prevailing definition of “abundance”: working more and more, so we can accumulate more and more, and therefore hoard more and more. There’s about as much spiritual value in that kind of “abundance” as there is nutritional value in a full-size Snickers bar. The pursuit of that kind of shallow, flimsy abundance leaves us, in the words of the hymn, “rich in things and poor in soul.”
No, we’re not talking about the wider culture’s version of abundance. We’re talking about the kingdom’s kind of abundance. We’ll be exploring how true abundance enables us to glimpse the presence of God, helps us look beyond scarcity to see possibility, compels us to recognize that all that is ours has always been God’s, challenges us to live with less, and invites us to share more whenever we have more. We’ll be learning to view our lives with an “abundance mindset.”
Throughout these weeks, as we talk about abundance, we’ll be encouraging you to view your own resources with an abundance mindset. We’ll also be asking you to prayerfully consider the ways you want to share that abundance by giving to the mission and ministry of Wesley Church. We hope that you will make a commitment to supporting God’s work in our church! To that end, we ask you to fill out this pledge card before Sunday, November 17.
This year, we’re also offering the opportunity for you to offer your gifts electronically. We’ve partnered with Vanco Payment Solutions to offer online giving through our church website and mobile app giving through the “Give +” app. Through either platform, you can set up one-time or recurring gifts through your bank account, debit card or credit card. It’s our hope that this electronic giving option will not only be more convenient for you, but will also help you make a habit of giving as you make abundant generosity a way of life. Of course, we will continue to accept donations of cash or checks in our collection plate, as we have always done. We believe these various forms of giving will help us all share in the work of God here at Wesley Church!
After all, that’s what your giving accomplishes. When you give to Wesley Church, you share abundantly in the good work that God is doing in our church, our community, and our world. When you give, you abundantly share in a place where youth, children, and preschoolers can grow as people and more specifically as people of faith. You abundantly share in the ways our church meets the needs of our community through the Lehigh Valley Outreach Depot, the Wesley Community Garden, and the “We Got Your Back” Backpack Program. You abundantly share in the care of others through our prayer group, visitation ministry, and cancer care program. You share abundantly in the spiritual growth of others through Bible studies, small groups, and our church library. You abundantly share in our United Methodist Connectional giving, making an impact all around the world. When you give, you abundantly share in all that God is doing through the ministries and missions of Wesley Church!
It’s my hope that here at Wesley Church, you discover and deepen a faith that fosters generosity, a generosity that — like Mrs. Gettick down the street — overflows in abundance.