How is our money used? It was an email or a note enclosed with a gift to our ministry, I can’t recall for certain. I do know I failed to answer and can’t recall who asked the question. The shortest and most honest answer is this: To pay me.
I cringe a bit when I type the words because it seems so self serving and selfish to face the fact that when I ask people to support our ministry I am asking them to pay my mortgage, for two toppings on the pizza I ordered last week and everything else.
It was the treasurer for the ministry I served as a campus pastor many years ago who taught me that this is not only okay, but a good thing. Money was tight that year and I suggested forgoing a raise. He insisted I receive a raise saying, “You are our program,” and went on to explain that I was not only the face of the ministry but the ministry itself. I’ll confess to feeling honored at his respect for the role I serve and have thought about it over the years.
I like to work and have always worked hard to be a good pastor to those I serve and to work to meet their needs not my need for power, to be liked, to control or be comfortable. Yet, for all my efforts I realize sometimes the best thing I do is to show up. I thought of this last week when a man told me how much it meant that I had stopped to see him when he was in the SHU (Special Housing Unit, our penitentiary’s nomenclature for the ‘hole’). I was embarrassed that I didn’t recall talking with him although in his appreciation he failed to notice.
We Lutherans celebrate two sacraments, places where God promises to meet us; baptism and holy communion, but there is a another place, not a sacrament, but a promise. In Matthew’s gospel Jesus tells us we will find him in the least among us: the hungry, the thirsty, the naked, the stranger, the sick and those in prison. This is the secret to the success of the Prison Congregation’s of America model of ministry. We welcome visitors to our worship service each week where they encounter Christ and, through the power of the Holy Spirit, they become the face of Christ to those who are in prison.
How is your money used? It’s used to perform a miracle Thursday night’s at 6:30 PM behind the walls of the South Dakota State Penitentiary. And sometimes for pizza.