Lent isn’t exactly supposed to be a joyful time but one of the things that makes me happy during Lent is listening to Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell. Even though it’s one of my favorites, however, I’ve never actually purchased any of the recordings for Godspell.  Fortunately, we live in a time where music is accessible almost everywhere and last week I was able to listen to Godspell through an online service called Spotify.  Spotify is a website that streams almost any piece of music you can think of – and it does it for free.

So I was sitting in my office preparing some of the 6 Holy Week services and listening to the 1970’s Broadway version of the story of Jesus and the parables of Matthew.  “Prepare the Way of the Lord” almost always makes me tear up.  I was really starting to get into it after “God Save the People”… and then all of the sudden the music stopped and an advertisement interrupted.  I don’t even remember what was being advertised, I just remember the jarring feeling of being brought out of this moment where I was thinking about Jesus and God and getting into the music but it was all interrupted for an ad.

Maybe you’ve had that experience while listening to NPR or watching PBS.  You’re following a  great piece of storytelling or a documentary on something really interested when they break for a pledge break to talk about how much money they need. How rude!

I imagine that’s what you feel like when we interrupt worship to talk about the church’s finances.  I know, it’s rude and it’s gets in the way of our talking about God and experiencing holy moments.  Unfortunately, it’s necessary.  Of course, Spotify has to advertise in the middle of Godspell.  It’s not really a free service.  They have to pay musicians and song writers royalties; it takes bandwith and web design to keep the service running. Once in a while we have to interrupt our regularly scheduled program so that we can talk about how we’re going to pay for it all.  We have no other source of funding to pay for our ministries.

There was a video going around the internet this past week of a televangelist with the unusually appropriate name of Creflo Dollar who was doing a bit of fundraising of his own.  He was trying to raise money so that he could buy a 65 million dollar private jet to fly around the world.   I promise you that is not what we’re doing today.

This morning we need to talking about money because we are looking to pay for simple things for MCC: heat, electricity, paper for bulletins, cleaning supplies, salaries –we’re looking for ways to support the ministries of the church to find ways to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and comfort the prisoner.

Last year we passed a budget to expand and fund some of our ministries and to help MCC grow in the future.  We’ve aimed for expenses totaling almost $280,000.  That’s not $65 million but it still seems like a lot of money.  And we’ve fallen short this year; we haven’t been able to raise enough money to cover our expenses.

Your Stewardship committee is charged with setting and funding a budget every year.  This is an obligation that they take very seriously.  They wring their hands every time they have to ask you for more money to cover our debt or to pay for unexpected expenses like this winter’s historic snowfall.  Over the next few weeks, you’ll hear them talk to you about next year’s budget.  Their hope is to pass a budget that is at least level-funded; matching last year’s $280,000 so that we can continue putting in the effort to support new ministries and growing our church.

But that $280,000 is a deficit budget.  We haven’t yet been able to cover all of our expenses from this year and the Stewardship committee is concerned. They want to be good stewards of the money that you so generously donate to MCC.  They want to make sure that they are spending your money in a responsible way and they realize that we can’t continue running deficits because then we’ll run out of money.

$280,000 may seem like a lot of money.  It may seem impossibly high for a mid-sized congregation like ours to pay for.  Now, I’m not a numbers person.  It takes me a while to figure out the figures.  But I did some of the math for our current budget.  We have 197 members of our church.  We could cover our $280,000 in expenses if each member gave a little over $1400 for the year – about $30 a week.  I realize that’s more than some of us can afford and we’re not asking anyone to go into personal debt to fund MCC.  But we are asking that everyone take time to seriously consider how you can support the ministries of the church.

When my wife and I discussed what our family could contribute, we looked at our tax forms: Line 37 on form 1040 to be exact; our adjusted gross income.  For Rachel and I, this number was a little over $36,000.  As I said I’m not great at math, but I can figure out 10% – a number that works for me because it’s easy to figure out.  10% of our income is $3600.  Rachel and I are both members of MCC so that $3600 is $1800 for each of us – a little more than the $1400 it would take to cover the church’s expenses.

A contribution of $3600 for the year works for my family.  It works for us because we want to see the programs of MCC succeed – all of the programs of the church.  We want our children to continue learning the basic stories of the Bible through Sandra’s amazing Discovery Kingdom curriculum.  We want our youngest to continue learning musical skills and worshipping God through song with the Cherub choir.  I get to lift my voice to God surrounded by wonderful people in the choir and to learn from Cathy and Christian’s leadership; and to witness and support the talent of the bell ringers; and to see my oldest learn about serving others with the youth group; and to work in a clean, well-maintained building; and to work alongside Ann who keeps it all organized and held together.

My family is happy to support the ministries of this church because we believe in MCC.  We believe that MCC is and can continue to be an amazing church community…and we believe that MCC has more to offer.  Instead of cutting programs or even just level funding them, I want to see them grow.  I’d love to increase our budget so that we can add more children’s choirs for some of the older siblings of the Cherubs; to increase Sandra’s hours so she can continue reaching out to families and inviting them to join us on our faith journey; to be the best church we can be.

There is so much more that we have to offer Sudbury and the surrounding communities.  And the truth is, just like Spotify or NPR, we have to pay for it somehow.  We’ll continue to have fun fundraisers planned like yesterday’s Chili cookoff or the upcoming service auction; our fall fair will invite others outside of the church help support our ministries – but the bulk of our funding has to come from us, the members.

So I hope you’ll join me this year in taking a thorough look at your support of MCC.  Can you give $1400 for each person in your family who is a member of your church?  Can you give more than that to cover other members who must give less?

With your help, we can do this.  I know the love that is in this room.  Everyone here cares for each other and wants MCC to continue long into the future, to find ways to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick, and comfort the prisoner; worshipping God, serving humanity and being a community where we can walk together in all God’s ways.

In the next few weeks, please let the Stewardship committee know how much you plan to give in the coming year so that they can develop a responsible budget.  With your continued support, we can focus on and grow our ministries and spend a little less time on advertising.

May God strengthen us and support us on our journey.

We now return to our regularly scheduled program.

We’ll return after these messages

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