Making Space for Truth and Reconciliation

By Dori Zerbe Cornelsen

winter-2968505_1280

The carol, ‘Twas in the moon of wintertime, is very familiar to Canadians but it is likely little known elsewhere. Also called The Huron Carol, it was written between 1626 and 1649 by Father John de Brébeuf, a member of the Society of Jesus (Jesuit). Brébeuf lived among the Wendat indigenous nation which the French called the Huron. Originally written in the Wendat-Iroquois language, the words were set to a French folk melody.

After having been lost for a time, this carol was first translated from its original language into French and later into English. The most popular English version was written by Jesse Edgar Middleton in 1926. As blogger Andrea Shalay notes, the original intent of the author seems to have been lost in translation. In the English, romanticized images of indigenous life are crammed into an imaginary nativity scene not present in the original. And the English version muddies different indigenous cultures inserting the Algonquian words, Gitchi Manitou (Great Spirit), into the lyrics.

Between 2008 and 2015, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) of Canada worked to create a comprehensive response to the colonial history of residential schools in Canada. The residential school system was set up to assimilate indigenous children by separating them from their families. The legacy of harm caused by this state and church sponsored system has affected generations of indigenous people in Canada.

With the TRC as a backdrop, singing this carol becomes an uncomfortable experience. Are those of us who sing this carol perpetuating a colonial attitude toward indigenous communities in Canada? How do we come to terms with the fact that the church willingly participated in the residential schools system to make another cultural group become like us? These questions seem to be counter to the coming of Jesus, the Suffering Servant and Prince of Peace.nativity-2570017_1920

I continue to love this carol and enjoy singing it, in part because of the discomfort itevokes in me. It seems to me that the coming of Jesus wasn’t meant to be grand and comfortable. This carol reminds me that we need to be jarred from all the cultural trappings of Christmas we’ve so grown accustomed to.

As I wonder about Jesus’ coming in the context of truth and reconciliation in Canada, I want to embrace the way of Jesus that is radiated from him at the end of this carol – the way of beauty, peace and joy. I think these are good values with which to judge all my relationships as I seek to walk in the way of Jesus.

‘Twas in the moon of wintertime

‘Twas in the moon of wintertime when all the birds had fled
That mighty Gitchi Manitou sent angel choirs instead;
Before their light the stars grew dim and wondering hunters heard the hymn,
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

Within a lodge of broken bark the tender babe was found;
A ragged robe of rabbit skin enwrapped his beauty round
But as the hunter braves drew nigh the angel song rang loud and high
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

The earliest moon of wintertime is not so round and fair
As was the ring of glory on the helpless infant there.
The chiefs from far before him knelt with gifts of fox and beaver pelt.
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

O children of the forest free, O seed of Manitou
The holy Child of earth and heaven is born today for you.
Come kneel before the radiant boy who brings you beauty peace and joy.
Jesus your King is born, Jesus is born, in excelsis gloria.

Hear a version of this hymn sung by Tom Jackson, indigenous actor and philanthropist:
www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCa6BM6-F24

About the Author

dori_zc-abundance-profile-pictureDori Zerbe Cornelsen is the Director of Development for Canadian Mennonite University.

Image credits: pixabay.com

 

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What Really Matters

By Rev. Morgan Dixon

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Many of my earliest CHRISTmas joys involve the singing of hymns and the playing of special music. My uncle would play the piano and we would all gather around and sing along making melodies and memories that would last for a lifetime. These hymns were at the crux of my understanding of the CHRISTmas story. They helped to form my own personal theology and appreciation of the nativity and birth of Jesus.

Over time as I have lived through life, those words of assurance and intention ring ever more important as I seek to navigate in this world of confusion. The Advent messages of HOPE, PEACE, JOY, and LOVE during this commercialized season are ever the more needful. The hymns help re-member us to the body of Christ when feeling out of sync and distant. They help ground our faith and reassure our confidence in a coming Savior.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel. And ransom captive Israel.
That mourns in lonely exile here, until the Son of God appear!

crib-1094317_1280Amid everything coming our way encouraging us to buy and consume, let us focus on the
simple things: things that cannot be purchased or wrapped and placed under a tree but have profound and lasting staying power. Recall the memories. Cherish the times with loved ones. Share Christ’s message of HOPE, PEACE, JOY and LOVE through a simple smile or random act of kindness. Use this time to focus on what really matters.

Joy To The World, The Lord Is Come!

Lord, my prayer is that we are able to be good stewards of the CHRISTmas story and allow it to inform our Christian walk throughout the year. Inspire our hearts with each melody and remind of your reason for coming. Help us to bring Your hope, peace, joy and love wherever we go.

About the Author

Rev Morgan E DixonRev. Morgan Dixon is an Itinerant Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and serves as the Church Administrator & Youth Minister at DuPage AME Church in Lisle, Illinois. She also works with the denomination’s district stewardship department as its Media Director.

Image credits: pixabay.com

O Day Full of Grace

By Timothy Siburg

tower chapel PLU o day full of grace

I grew up in the choir loft of a Lutheran congregation in the Seattle area, where my mom served as music minister and choir director. I am also the descendant of generations of Scandinavian Lutherans.

One thing Lutherans historically have loved to do, is to sing hymns with four-part harmonies. One of my favorites, is “O Day Full of Grace.” Whether it was singing it in worship and knowing of its rich words, or singing it in choir in college in the moving arrangement by composer and arranger F. Melius Christiansen, the song always gets me.

There have been at least 8 different verses written for it. I will only include five of them. But the poetry speaks to- God’s work for us, God’s love and promises given for us; and the response of joy, hope, and praise because of what God has done and has continued to do. It’s a hymn that really gives my understanding of theology and stewardship a melody.

For example, “How blest was that gracious midnight hour, when God in our flesh was given…” God did all the work for us. Our joy is sharing that gift, and living in response to it through our stewardship.

O day full of grace that now we see appearing on earth’s horizon,

bring light from our God that we may be abundant in joy this season.

God, shine for us now in this dark place; your name on our hearts emblazon.

How blest was that gracious midnight hour, when God in our flesh was given;

then brightened the dawn with light and power that spread o’er the darkened heaven;

then rose o’er the world that Sun divine, which gloom from our hearts has driven.

Yea, were every tree endowed with speech, and were every leaflet singing,

they never with praise God’s worth could reach, though earth with their praise were ringing.

Who fully could praise the Light of life who light to our souls is bringing?

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As birds in the morning sing their praise, 
God’s fatherly love we cherish,

for giving to us this day of grace, for life that shall never perish.

The church God has kept two thousand years, and hungering souls did nourish.

When we on that final journey go that Christ is for us preparing,

we’ll gather in song, our hearts aglow, all joy of the heavens sharing,

and there we will join God’s endless praise, with angels and saints adoring.

This hymn gained a new meaning for me ten years ago, when my maternal grandfather, a retired pastor passed away near midnight, the night before Thanksgiving (in the United States). We sang this hymn, a favorite of his, the day of his funeral. And since then, as both of my grandfathers passed away in November shortly before Thanksgiving, this hymn has always been a comfort, and a reminder that my Grandpas are with the other saints, joining in God’s endless praise.

As you celebrate this holiday season, whether it be Thanksgiving this week in the United States, or Advent and Christmas to come in the month ahead, I pray that you take the time to see what God might be up to. My hope is that as you celebrate and give thanks, you remember that which God has done for you and promises to do, like the words of this hymn remind me.

About the Author

timothy headshotTimothy Siburg is the Director for Stewardship of the Nebraska Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), a Deacon in the ELCA, and is a member of the COMPASS Steering Committee. His wife Allison serves as an ELCA pastor, and together with their cat Buddy, they reside in the greater Omaha area. Timothy attended college at Pacific Lutheran University, and graduate school at the Claremont Graduate University and Luther Seminary. Timothy can also be found on TwitterFacebook, and on his blog.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS Initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page, follow us on Twitter, and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Image credits: Timothy Siburg, pixabay.com

Reorienting Spiritual Principles for Financial Planning

By John Withum

car-768711_1280While planning a day off from school in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the titular character wants access to a vintage Ferrari belonging to his friend Cameron’s father. When Cameron points out his dad’s meticulous attention to  details of the car, including its mileage, Ferris replies, “We’ll just drive home backward,” with the hopes the mileage will reverse.

Financial planning, at least in the “conventional” view outside of the church, is meant to maximise the potential of our money to build wealth and protect the future for the investor. When the working years are over, this line of thinking says, money will provide a verdant pasture for retirement and golden years of relaxation and leisure.

But much like Ferris Bueller, we have to look at the whole situation backward. We are followers of Jesus, whose birth was an exaltation of the lowly, whose ministry cared for the poor and powerless, and whose victorious kingdom reverses the power structures of the kingdoms of this world. This alone causes us to think of all sorts of priorities in new ways. Our approach to financial planning, then, must be based around Kingdom priorities as well. It matters little whether we would be considered wealthy in this world or poor; our entire lives fall under the rule of King Jesus, and we should view how we utilise our money accordingly.

While not exhaustive, here are three reorienting principles around which we should consider financial planning.

First, financial planning gives us the opportunity to line all of our priorities up together. Jesus tells us in Matthew 6 that our heart will find rest wherever our treasures are (v 21). We are also told to seek the kingdom of God above all else (v 33). Even if we talk about Jesus, worship weekly, and participate in Christian community, our money could be living a different life than we are. If we are truly interested in offering our whole lives to Jesus, we need to stop viewing our money as a means to personal gain and instead as a means to further the redeeming and healing mission of Jesus Christ in our neighbourhood and world.

Second, having a plan allows us to utilise our stamp-2022899_1280
money instead of it controlling us. Spending can get out of control quickly, day-to-day necessities can overwhelm, and the urgent can take priority over the truly important. When we lack a plan to use our money wisely, to invest it properly and well, it ends up taking over our lives. No matter what our income, having a plan for how to manage our finances helps us to navigate both day-to-day spending and long-term saving. Most of us carefully plan how to spend our time; likewise, we must have a plan for how to use our money.

Finally, our money can do work for us in the years our bodies can no longer physically serve the Lord. Followers of Jesus should be devoting their whole lives—work, rest, time, and money—to God’s ongoing mission in the world. At some point, however, our years of work will end, and eventually (hopefully many years later) our bodies will not be able to continue the same level of participation or activity we once could offer. In those years, if we have planned well, our money will be able to continue bearing the fruit of our life’s service to Jesus. My education was funded by the financial legacy of several individuals who had given their lives to educating pastors and missionaries. I am blessed to be a part of their ongoing work.

The platitude “you can’t take it with you” is true, in the sense we give up personal control of our finances at the moment of our earthly lives. If we have planned well, however, our money can continue serving the Lord long after we are gone.

About the author

Processed with VSCOcam with kk1 presetJohn Withum is the associate pastor of the First Baptist Church of Aurora, Illinois. He also serves as the recess supervisor at a local elementary school. He has an MDiv from Northern Seminary of Lombard, Illinois and a BA in Journalism from Marshall University of Huntington, West Virginia. He and his wife, Katie, live in Northern Illinois with their dog, Bacon.

Image credits: pixabay.com

Let’s talk about money

By Mike Littlecheckbook-688352_1280 copy

When I talk to groups of people about faith and money, I often start by suggesting they share their checkbooks and credit card statements with one another. I’m (mostly) joking, but I don’t tell people that right away. As I watch people glance at each other nervously, I explain, “Money is such a dominant topic in our scriptures that we have to get our money conversations ‘out of the closet.’” I know how to make people uncomfortable, don’t I?

In response to this suggestion one day, a woman adamantly objected. “My generation was taught not to talk about money,” she said, and packed up her things and walked out. There was an awkward silence. Then a hand went up. “I am a lawyer,” a man said (I was the one who got nervous then)—a divorce lawyer. He shared that in his experience, 85-90% of his clients break up due to money. “If we can’t talk about money in church,” he asked, “where can we talk about it? That has been the problem.” Exactly.

Screen Shot 2017-05-29 at 12.40.28 PMWe don’t want to talk about money. But Jesus talked more about money and its relationship to God’s way of life than anything but the Kingdom of God itself. Our story as a people of God is that we are all invited to live in this new realm that Jesus talked about, the Kingdom of God, which includes every aspect of our lives, including our money. Perhaps especially our money.

The question is, what does it mean to be the body of Christ? Especially in the midst of the huge disparity we see in the world, how can we be the family of God? How can we live in God’s realm now? We’ve been trained in our individualistic culture that our money, resources and lives are private, but that creates such isolation and loneliness. Instead, God intends for us to have community, to be community to one another.

Perhaps it is so threatening to talk about money because it has somehow become related to our identity. Our worth is connected to how much money we make and what we own. That is absolutely antithetical to Jesus’ teaching that our identity is found in community and our love for others and that our worth is found in God’s grace and God’s love for us.

We have learned to place our security in our money, and we certainly don’t want our indiana-1888207_1280security threatened. Jesus called the guy who built the bigger barns a fool because he identified his security in what he had in the barn. It’s no different for us. We say we want our barns full of God but we have one shed out back full of money, just in case.

If we talk about money in the light of our faith, it might require something of us that we fear. But spiritual growth always involves a risk.

Growth starts with an acknowledgement that we want to grow deeper. It starts with an awareness that if part of God’s family is suffering, then I’m suffering. As a Christian, I’m responsible to help bring the fullness of life for everyone, a fullness that includes people’s inward lives and their outward, material well-being.

In our churches, many people recognize this responsibility and are unsure about their plenty and wonder what their obligations are. We are often caught up in all the time and energy involved in “making ends meet” but realize that the deepest values that we grew up with in the church have been attended to poorly. When we can acknowledge that, we are ready to make some changes in our lives.

About the Author

Mike Little-photoMike Little is director of the Faith and Money Network, a ministry born out of the Church of the Saviour that equips people to explore and transform their relationship with money within the grounding of their faith. Many resources are available at www.faithandmoneynetwork.org. Mike Little can be reached at mike@faithandmoneynetwork.org.

Join us TOMORROW at 8 p.m. ET for a Live Chat led by Mike Little. During this chat, we will explore your relationship with your money, writing a money autobiography, making good financial decisions, connecting faith and finances, and more! There’s still room to sign up at marcia_5.gr8.com.

Photo credits: pixabay.com

What is your money, debt management, and generosity type?

By Beryl Jantzicards-161404_1280

 It’s been suggested that Americans fall into one of four groups when it comes to how we manage money. Maybe as you review these four models, you can identify your own, and decide what changes, if any may, be helpful moving forward. Here’s what they are:

 The Perfectionists: 19% of Americans

These consumers know the exact route to their financial goals, whether they developed the map themselves or sought a professional financial planner. Not only do they have a household budget, which includes retirement savings and insurance, but they work toward specific short and long-term savings goals.

The Dreamers: 38% of Americansface-2269319_1280

Most consumers fall in this category. They have some goals worked out and have an idea of what they’d like to achieve. Dreamers may have savings plans for retirement or education, but they haven’t pulled everything together to form an overarching plan.

The Procrastinators: 33% of Americans

These consumers put forth the bare minimum and might get to the rest of planning later. Most in this group have a budget or plan to address savings goals, but not both. Their comprehensive financial planning behaviors don’t differ much from wanderers, but some Procrastinators keep a written budget, and they tend to avoid racking up credit card debt.

 The Wanderers: 10% of Americanswanderer-455338_1280

In this group, people float from bill to bill without any intentional plan. They tend to live in the moment without much concern for the future. They may have debt but probably couldn’t tell you the total debt they have.

Knowing our predisposition for managing money is a good start to knowing what we may need to do to get to the next step. Most of us will need to move one step at a time rather than leap from a Wanderer to a Perfectionist.

Questions to ponder:

  • Where do you see yourself most closely identified
    by the descriptions stated above?
  • If you don’t like the label used to identify your style
    what different word would you use?

Your generosity will be most fruitful when you have a clear understanding about how God is calling you to share what has been entrusted to you.

Are you a generous wanderer? Is your generosity usually based on the whim of the moment?

Are you a generous procrastinator? Do you have good intentions about giving, but never get around to it?

Are you a generous dreamer? You give, but you could be more disciplined and focused with your giving?

Are you a generous perfectionist? Do you feel confident about your giving habits now, and have plans to continue to increase it in days to come?

In the book of Philippians, Paul writes,

“Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Philippians 3:12, NRSV).

What small steps can you take today to move from one money management and generosity type to another from the examples described above?

Source: Household financial planning survey 2013

Reprinted from a blog post on February 9, 2016.

About the Author

Beryl Jantzi and familyBeryl Jantzi serves as the stewardship education director for Everence, a faith-based financial services company of Mennonite Church USA, which serves all who are interested in integrating their faith with their finances.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Photo credits: pixabay.com

Understanding Our Relationship With Money

By Marcia Shetler

puppy-1647692_1280Have you ever thought about you and your money being in a relationship? It might seem like a bizzare idea, but it’s true. You might be the one in control of your relationship—or it might be your money. Most likely, it’s an ongoing tug-of-war between the two of you.

Followers of Jesus are not exempt from this relationship. In fact, in the Bible we find that Jesus speaks more about money than any other topic, save the kingdom of God. This emphasis indicates that a healthy understanding about our relationship to money is essential if we are to realize our full potential as children of God.

Our relationships—healthy or not—are formed over time. Your connection with your money has been shaped by many things, including your family and friends, your environment, your personality, and your faith. Taking some time to think about those influences can be very helpful in understanding your relationship with money, and putting you in charge of that relationship.

One way to begin that exploration is by developing a money autobiography. A money Money bookautobiography is a reflection process on the role and influence of money and material possessions in your life. It challenges you to explore the past to see how your attitudes, assumptions, and values concerning money and wealth were formed. The money autobiography provides a lens through which you examine how you manage money and how money manages you. It allows you the opportunity to wrestle with your needs, wants, and desires and helps you understand the lifestyle choices you make. It can even help you set some priorities and goals for the future.

This month, the COMPASS Initiative will take a look at money autobiographies:

  • Get great insights every week on this blog and on our Twitter feed and Facebook page.
  • Join us for a Live Chat with Mike Little, director for the Faith and Money Network, Mike Little-photoon Tuesday, May 30, 8:00 p.m. Eastern time, 7:00 p.m. Central time, 6:00 p.m. Mountain time, and 5:00 p.m. Pacific time. The Faith and Money Network equips people to transform their relationship with money, to live with integrity and intentionality, and to participate in creating a more equitable world. One of the resources of the Faith and Money Network is guidance on completing a money autobiography. Mike will give us even more information about this benefical way to explore our relationship with money.

Jesus said, “You cannot serve both God and money” (Matthew 6:24, NIV). Your relationship with money influences your understanding of Christian stewardship as discipleship, your willingness to give generously and joyfully, and your responsiveness to use what you have been entrusted with as channels for generosity and love. I hope the information shared this month will help you improve your relationship with your money!

Many of the ideas in this article come from the Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church website.

About the Author

marcia shetlerMarcia Shetler is Executive Director/CEO of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center. She holds an MA in philanthropy and development from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota, a BS in business administration from Indiana Wesleyan University, and a Bible certificate from Eastern Mennonite University. She formerly served as administrative staff in two middle judicatories of the Church of the Brethren, and as director of communications and public relations for Bethany Theological Seminary in Richmond, Indiana, an administrative faculty position. Marcia’s vocational, spiritual, and family experiences have shaped her vision and passion for faithful stewardship ministry that recognizes and celebrates the diversity of Christ’s church and the common call to all disciples to the sacred practice of stewardship. She enjoys connecting, inspiring, and equipping Christian steward leaders to transform church communities.

This blog is a component of the Ecumenical Stewardship Center’s COMPASS Initiative to engage young adults in conversations about faith and finances. Like what you see and want to know/do more? Visit the COMPASS web page, follow us on Twitter, and join the COMPASS community on Facebook.

Image credits: pixabay.com, Mike Little