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May 2024

by Rev. Phillip Girardin

We are all moving into the summer months. We are trying to figure out our vacation plans, how to make money stretch, and at the same time, the church regularly has a comment made about how we are short of making ends meet. At the last Voter's Assembly, Mr. Miller reminded Zion that the health insurance has not been paid yet.

At the same time, we live in a world that is governed by statistics. These statistics help us to understand the nature of the world we live in as we look at how we can make the gift of our money do what we need it to do. At the time of writing, the Fed has released that interest rates will remain uncut because the inflation report has remained. This means that your money just isn't going as far. At the time of writing, the stated interest rate was 3.48%, up from last month's 3.15%, but down from last year's 4.98%. The Fed has stated that they want to be around 2%, but we are not near that. At the same time, the one that seems to rob the pocketbook blind at the register, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) says that we are at 3.5% inflation. This is the inflation not on the economy as a whole (The inflation rate), but the actual rate of inflation for the prices of goods... the stuff you buy. There's no way to get around it, our money just doesn't go that far. We are having to figure out all kinds of things to do to improve the situation of our families. This is seen in the prices of things such as milk that have gone up so much over the last several years.

The hard part for the Christian, is where does this leave us? We are told to tithe a certain percent, and then the church asks for more, but with things as they are; maybe you're giving less, but it's all you have to give. Yet you still need to pay the rent/mortgage, the insurance, car payment, utilities, and the list goes on. What is the believer to do?

First, we understand that we do what we must. Luther in the Large Catechism explains, “If, therefore, you send away someone who is naked when you could clothe him, you have caused him to freeze to death. If you see someone suffer hunger and do not give him food, you have caused him to starve...

For you have withheld your love from him and deprived him of the benefit by which his life would have been saved (Luther's Large Catechism, 2022, p. 133). In Mark 12, the wise young man tells Jesus that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves, being the second most significant commandment, on the heels of the first. 1 John 3 tells that we love as Christ loved us. So, what do we do in today's world? In today's economy when all seems to be doom and gloom?

There are a few things that we can do. First, we can remember that we live in a tragically fallen world that is incredibly corrupted by sin. All things have been touched by this rotting hand, and as a consequence its leprosy causes everything to rot and come to ruin. We can see this and acknowledge it. As we acknowledge it, we can also live in hope. While sin most certainly creates problems we must deal with, we serve a God who has overcome sin, death, and the Devil. Jesus has destroyed their power completely, and we no longer are subject to them. No longer being subject to them our fear becomes concern. Our depression becomes a cautious outlook. In Christ, we don't ignore the reality of what is going on, but we realize fully what is going on.

As we do this, we begin to consider our responsibilities under the fourth commandment. Under this commandment, we are to teach our children what following Jesus looks like in fat times and in thin. I would much rather do this in fat times, because it's much easier, but what good is faith if it can't walk through the thin ones? As we do this, we talk to our children about what Corban is (Mark 7) and come to understand that our works giving for the care of each other can be given as offering to God (Mishnah Nedarim 9.1). Now keep in mind, this is a statement of extremes. If putting money in the offering plate would result in not putting food in the stomach of your child, Korban. The money that goes to IGA is given in service to God. That's your responsibility. If you're having that dilemma but have a motorcycle, 2 cars, a fishing boat, and a camper, maybe it's time to sell something. Give 10% as an offering to God and use the rest to buy groceries.

When we move through these tough times, following that 4th commandment, what we do becomes incredibly important. Our children are watching us to see what matters. They are paying attention to what we do and how we do it. When we think about what we are doing for the care of others (5th commandment) and we see what God calls us to do loving our neighbor... how well are we doing it? How well are we loving our neighbor next door? How is Zion loving the community it has been placed in? Ultimately, many parts of worship can be placed nearly anywhere, but what can't be replaced is what happens at home. How are Dad and Mom leading in godliness?

To strike a balance, my family is going on vacation this year. We are looking forward to the time, but we are also looking for ways to love those around us, and trying to figure out how to do more.

I pray your summer leaves you rested and rejuvenated.

Pastor Phil

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