In two weeks Virginia-Highland Church will celebrate its 92nd anniversary. The parish council is asking folks to give a birthday gift to the church in multiples of 92. We have homeless folks for whom .92 cents will be a sacrifice. They could buy a bottle of water with that on a hot July day in Atlanta. Hydration is critical, so I will understand if they give nothing. The homeless folks who come, however, want to give as generously as they can, and they are grateful we think enough of them to ask. In the end, the church gives them much more, but letting them give as they are able means we respect them and where they are in their lives at this moment.
There are several students or unemployed folks for whom $9.20 will be a challenge. The challenge is the council couldn’t come up with a single person in the church, at least that we know of, who can give $9,200. That apparently is not the kind of church we are. We believe we can find 10 people to give $920. In fact, several council members pledged that on the spot. Still, like most churches, although we have people who make six figures, finding 10 who will give that much will be a challenge. We are mostly a congregation of people who can give $92. It may be a stretch for a few folks to give that amount above and beyond what they normally give, but we probably do have 100 people who can give $92 without too much pain and sacrifice.
That is the problem. We don’t want to challenge people to a painful level of generosity. Giving $92 might mean some of our folks won’t be able to eat out, or go to the theater or a ballgame this week. They might have to stay home and watch cable rather than go to a movie and spend $92 on popcorn.
As the parish council talked about our need to raise $18,000, I found myself wishing we had at least one person who qualified as part of the “one percent.” We don’t really need that much money because giving has increased substantially this year and it is a temporary gap in rental income that caused this shortfall. “Lord, couldn’t you give us just ONE member who could give $9,200?”
To which the Lord seemed to reply, “For them, giving that amount wouldn’t require any faith, just a level of generosity that is rare. What if I sent you 1,000 homeless people who are willing to give you .92 cents? That is an easier prayer to answer.”
Rev. Michael Piazza