Our own Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton tells a story about something that happened when she was a pastor serving a congregation, and I’m delighted to retell it.
One Sunday, the ushers were solemnly taking up the collection as usual, and the people were glumly doing their duty and putting their offerings in the plate as usual.
A little girl in the assembly, seeing what was going on, nudged her dad and pleaded (and pleaded and pleaded) until he gave in and dug into his wallet and handed her a bill so she could make an offering, too.
Wait for me! Here’s mine!
The little girl ran up the aisle after the ushers, waving the bill in the air, calling, “Wait for me, wait for me! Here’s mine! I want to put some in!” And as she dropped the money in the plate, she beamed with joy and then danced her way back to her dad’s side.
Later, at coffee hour, Bishop Eaton–I mean, Pastor Eaton–was chatting with a parishioner and said, “Wasn’t that little girl beautiful? It would be so wonderful if everyone could give as joyfully.”
And the parishioner said, “Well, it’s easy for her–it’s not her money!”
And Pastor Eaton replied: “No.” And she paused–a pregnant pause–and then went on, “It’s her father’s.”
Message about giving
If you’ve ever met Bishop Eaton, you can envision the twinkle in her eye as she tells that story. Cute as the story is, it carries a real theological message about giving.
In the parish where I grew up, we sang a little acclamation as the ushers carried our offerings up the aisle every Sunday: “All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee.”
That’s the same message as Bishop Eaton’s story.
Eagerly and joyfully
Everything we have comes to us from our loving and generous God, just as that little girl’s offering came from her loving and generous dad. Everything. When we give to Women of the ELCA, when we contribute to Katie’s Fund, when we make a designated gift through Women of the ELCA to Lutheran Disaster Response, we are simply using what God has already given us to support God’s work.
That little girl asked eagerly and gave joyfully. Can you imagine how she felt as she ran to support God’s work with all she had? Can you imagine how she thanked her dad for making it possible?
Can you imagine doing the same?
Audrey Riley is director for stewardship and development for Women of the ELCA.
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