By: Dennis Bates
Who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor? Not me.
About a week ago I was asked to give a short talk during the church service about why I give both my time and my finances to the church. It was designed to be the last of a series of similar talks which would lead up to a dedication period during the service. During that time members of the congregation were to walk to the front of the church and place their pledge cars in a wicker basket to indicate how much they plan to give next year.
Exercises like that have always bothered me a little because of the rigidity of them. Why not let the Holy Spirit direct our giving on a case by case, week by week basis? Still, in a church as small as the one I attend, finances are very tight to say the least, for lots of reasons which I won’t go into at this point. Therefore, to budget, the church finance committee needs to have some rough idea of how much it has to work with, so I guess as imperfect as this practice is, it is born out of necessity.
I had some vague idea of what I wanted to say, but I wanted to keep my comments brief and informal so I wrote only a few general notes on a three by five inch recipe card. I scratched out, drew arrows, and wrote on the edges. The pastor stopped me before the service and showed me the place in the bulletin he planned to call on me for my comments. He put a big star at that location in my bulletin so I would be ready.
I told him I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to say, but that I would keep it brief….maybe a half minute or so. He laughed and said, “I know you. Once you get started you won’t be able to keep it that brief.”
I prayed asking God to show me exactly what he wanted me to say. “Give me Your words,” I asked. “Let me say what you think needs to be said.” I took a deep breath and trusted that He would do just that. I would simply open my mouth and let His words come out.
When the pastor came to the point in the service where the big star had been marked in my bulletin I stood in the back of the church and waited for him to call me forward. Instead of calling on me, he looked down into the Bible on the podium and began reading the scripture lesson for his sermon.
No problem, I thought, he must be saving me for a more dramatic moment in the service, maybe even the deeply moving end to his sermon. I can be quite eloquent at times, so maybe that’s what he’s doing. So, I sat down and waited. When he pronounced the benediction and told everyone to stay for coffee in the fellowship after the service, I realized that the service was over and I stuck the chicken scratching on the note card into my side pocket so nobody would see it.
When I went to the back of the church to shake the pastor’s hand after the service, he took one look at me and turned bright red. “Oh my, I forgot you, didn’t I? I’m so sorry.”
I shrugged. “That’s okay,” I said. “I asked God to give me the words he wanted me to say. I guess he just wanted me to keep my mouth shut for once.”