For those who are new, or visiting, or returning from summer adventures, or reading this
on the website (Hi, Mom!), or who just zoned out in June, our congregation is
raising money for a forward looking campaign named Shepherd of Tomorrow.
It includes a list of projects: roof repair, solar panels, lighting updates, new screens, and
an upgrade to the sound system because everyone here hangs on every word of
every ... children's sermon.
It also includes offerings to Lutheran camps and college campus ministries, our two most
reliable pipelines for identifying and developing future church leaders; our gifts
will help raise up shepherds of tomorrow.
This tithe is critically important, if not to the wider world, then at least to us as a
communion: it is a discipline that reminds us we do not exist for ourselves.
I am proud of Shepherd of the Valley for having this perspective and bearing this witness
in a world addicted to a false gospel of more money and bigger barns.
So I had lunch this week with Pastor Glen Egertson, the director of Lutheran Retreats,
Camps and Conferences, to alert him to our gift and share the spirit behind it.
As we talked, Glen noted that fewer camp staff than ever are going on to become rostered
Many consider it, even feel called to it, but most conclude it is an unsustainable career.
They are smarter than I was, I thought—or less faithful?
Voices from my past came back to me: college professors urging me not to throw my life
away by being a pastor; my beloved condemning me for being too cheap and accepting too little the same week that a church member griped that "we're paying
the pastor too much"; conversation about whether a pastor having a savings account is a sin, or just a sign that either her faith is too small or her paycheck is too large.
As theses voices bounced in my head this week, good news arrived that my seminary is
now giving full tuition support to its students, thanks be to God, but I couldn't
help but wonder where was that when I had to take on mountains of debt and
shame that I'm still struggling to climb.
I resented the good news of tuition support and the option I never felt of saying no.
I felt like a confirmation parent who learns that their child doesn't have to fear
the pastor or memorize the catechism: my child should suffer just like I did!
I wanted to tell Glen's savvy, selfish camp counselors who don't love Jesus enough to get
off my lawn ... but I don't have one.
At which point Jesus slapped me upside the face with this week's gospel.
Take care, Hiortdahl!
Be on your guard against all kinds of greed.
The land of a rich man produced as abundantly as God has helped and forgiven you.
He responded by thinking to himself about himself.
He talked to himself just like you do: What should I do, for I don't have...I will do this...
I will set myself up and then I will congratulate myself...I, I, I. (aye-yi-yi)
Martin Luther would observe that the wise investor in the parable and the whiny pastor in
the pulpit share something in common: sin.
Learning from St. Augustine, Luther defines sin as being in curvatus in se – being curved
in on self.
There are many ways to do this; there are, Jesus says, all kinds of greed.
I know that I can be greedy with time, energy, love, patience, attention, books,
possessions, money, and more.
I covet and compare instead of giving thanks for the abundance I receive and then work
hard to hoard.
I get curved in on myself, which is settling for a god much too small.
Greed is idolatry, the author of Colossians writes.