On World Vision, Taking Your Ball and Going Home, and Love

What a mess.

So World Vision changes their policy saying they will hire GLBTQ Christians who are married.

And then a bunch of people (mostly conservative, evangelical, Christians) get upset and threaten (or actually do) pull their support and funding.

And then World Vision says they’re sorry and reverses their policy change.

Okay… Where to begin?  So much has been written about this, that I’ll only try to contribute a little.

(However, do check out Rachel Held Evans posts (here and here), and a take on the Sad State of American Evangelicalism by Brandan Robertson, and some thoughts by Kristen Howerton on Taking a Stand on the Backs of Starving Children).

But two things have been percolating in my mind tonight.

1. The first is from when I was in grade 4.  The neighbourhood kids would get together and play “ghost-in-the-graveyard” (a version of hide-and-seek-tag).  In chasing and tagging each other, there were moments where we had to figure out whether or not tagging a loose shirt counted, or if your tag had to contact the body.

While playing, I discovered that I could get the decision I wanted by sitting down and declaring that I wasn’t playing anymore unless I got what I wanted.  Maybe this is the roots of non-violent protest, or, more likely, it’s the roots of being a selfish cry-baby.

Sure, my threats worked the first time.  And the next.  But eventually, I discovered that the more times I threatened to “take my ball and go home,” the less my friends wanted to play with me.  Oh, they still wanted to play ghost-in-the-graveyard with each other til the sun went down.  They just wanted to play without me.  And they did.

If conservative, evangelical Christians don’t learn how to keep playing with their friends without threatening to leave all the time, methinks they’re in big trouble.  Eventually, they’ll be playing ghost-in-the-graveyard all by themselves.

2.  Jesus was asked:  “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

We all know this.  If you had to use one word to summarize the Christian faith, I hope most of us who identify as Christians would use the word love.

But here’s the catch.  Thinking we’re being loving, or saying we’re being loving, doesn’t necessarily mean we are loving.  Rather, I’d say the proof is in the pudding (and apparently so does Jesus (Matthew 21:28-32)).

I actually think that Christians are losing at their own game.  We’re being out-loved. And out-kinded.  And out-hospitalitied.  And all those other made up past-tense verbs.

All this yelling, this threatening, this petitioning, this leaving, this organizing, this fear mongering, this accusing… It’s not coming across as very loving (even if we think it is).

I’m looking forward to the final numbers World Vision numbers, but I can probably take a good guess that more people withdrew their funding over the original policy change than the reversal back to the original.  Why?  Nadia Bolz-Weber tells us why via her post on Facebook:

“World Vision is reportedly taking it all back.

I’m very disappointed, but still happy to support their work. The critique of pulling support for charity due to an employee hiring practice I disagree with has to cut both ways or it’s BS.”

When anyone is out-loved by their “enemies”,  they have already lost.

When the people who affirm gay marriages keep sending cheques to World Vision, even if they disagree with their hiring policies, I’d venture to say the people who don’t affirm gay marriage (and threw a hissy fit) have lost.  They’ve missed the point.  Because the point isn’t about winning a battle.  The point is about being loving.

We get it.  Some people believe A.  Some believe B.  Some believe C.  And some people didn’t even know there was a C.   Maybe, just maybe, our best witness to the world about what being a follower of Jesus is all about isn’t about getting everybody to believe A.  Or B.  Or C.  Maybe our best witness is to be about love.

The funny part about this is that we might disagree on a definition of love, or on the authority of scripture and hermeneutics and all that jazz.  Or maybe my post might not be considered very loving (Darn it!  Don’t we all think we’re loving?!?).

But in all of our conflicts, for Jesus’ sake (really), we have to figure out how to live and love together when we disagree.

Just over a year ago, this was my prayer:  As the morning casts off the darkness, Lord, help us to cast aside any feelings of ill will we have might harbour against those who have hurt us.  Soften our hearts to work toward their conversion and ours.  Amen.

And I’m still praying it.

– Kyle

PS – The Truth and Reconciliation of Canada is meeting in Edmonton this weekend.  For a lesson on love, we should all spend a little bit of time there…

Encountering God in our Blessings

I preached the following at Grace Mennonite on March 16, 2014.  I kind of felt like I was preaching to the choir…

____________

The word “blessing” is used a lot in the Bible.

At the very beginning of the Bible, When God creates human beings in God’s own image, God blesses them.

God also blessed the day of rest.

The Psalms are full of blessings for those who take refuge in the Lord.

In the beatitudes, Jesus has many blessings for people whom we normally wouldn’t associate as being blessed:  those of us who are meek, mourning, poor in spirit…  And then later he tells us to bless those who curse us.

Henri Nouwen simply defines blessing like this,

“Speaking well, or saying good things of someone.” (Life of the Beloved, Henri Nouwen 68).

And then he goes on.

“To give someone a blessing is the most significant affirmation we can offer.  It is more than a word of praise or appreciation;  it is more than pointing out someone’s talents or good deeds; it is more than putting someone in the light.  To give a blessing is to affirm, to say “yes” to a person’s Belovedness.  And more than that:  To give a blessing creates the reality of which it speaks.  A blessing goes beyond the distinction between admiration or condemnation, between virtues and vices, between good deeds or evil deeds.  A blessing touches the original goodness of the other and calls forth his or her Belovedness.” (Nouwen, 68-69).

I’ve heard someone else describe it simply as being ‘for’ someone.  To give your blessing means that you are for them.

And we all need this.  We all have moment of fear and anxiety and insecurity.  We all need each other’s blessings.

We see this in little children, “Daddy!  Look at me!  Look at my new trick!”

We see this when our kids are on the soccer pitch and they see their parents sitting in their lawn chairs on their sidelines.  Heck, I’m 30 and I still love it when my parents come and watch me play ultimate.

In family relationships, between partners or siblings or cousins, we all long to hear the words:  I appreciate you.  You are not alone.  I am here for you.  I want you to succeed.  You’re important.  You matter.

Have you been to a wedding lately?  It’s one big blessing ceremony.  I often tell couples to stop and look around at all the people who are here to support them.  People drove from far away, they bring you presents, your uncle even put on a suit! They’re all here to bless you.

We hear parents give their blessing, and then at the speech at the reception they say:  We love you.  And welcome to the family.  And we know our kid really well, so good luck.

To receive a blessing touches the deep parts of our souls.

In our scripture reading this morning, we read about God going to Abraham and saying, “I will make you into a great nation.  I will bless you.”

God telling him I will make you a great nation?  That probably touched his soul.  God was definitely for him.

There’s something worth noting about this blessing on Abraham.  He didn’t do anything to deserve it.  When the blessing comes, Abraham hasn’t done anything yet.  He’s just a dude.  And then as the story unfolds, we find there are moments where he is great and has a lot of faith, and then there are other moments where he isn’t so great and doesn’t have a lot of faith.  And he tells some lies.

But the blessing came first.  God was “for” Abraham, without Abraham ever doing something significant.

I often find that to best understand God, we need to look at Jesus.  In the gospel of Matthew, who are the very first people Jesus blesses?

Blessed are the poor in spirit.  “The ones who are lacking, who don’t have it together, who are acutely aware of how they don’t measure up.  The nobodies, the pathetic, the lame, the has beens, the not-good-enough.”  God is on their side.

We often think of our lives as a bunch of “if’s.”

If I do this, then I’ll be happy.  If I get a better job, if I pray more, if I lose some weight, if I quite smoking, if I am more loving, if I come to church more, if I give more money, then God will be on my side.

But that’s not true.  Because God is already on your side. God doesn’t work according to the merit or point system.

The good news of God is that in your moments of greatest despair, failure, sin, weakness, losing, failing, frustration, inability, helplessness, wandering, and falling short, God meets you there – right there, in that place, and announces, I am on your side.  (What We Talk About When We Talk About God – Rob Bell 133-136)

This gospel, this good news, is grace.  It’s a gift.  That God blessing us isn’t dependant on who we are or what we’ve done.

Twice a year, about 20 young adults from our church gather for a Young Adult Sabbath retreat.  We pray, we sit in silence, we go for walks, we rest our souls, we laugh, we eat good food.  I’ve been hosting them for about 8 years now, and they have become not only one of the highlights of my job, but of my entire faith experience.

And at the end of each retreat, we’ve developed a tradition that I learned from the nuns at St. Benedict’s Monastery in the city.

After communion on the last evening, you give everyone a hug!  And what I do is I pull them close to me, and I whisper in their ears really great things about how much I appreciate them and how much God loves them and how they have awesome gifts to share with the world.  Now obviously, some people don’t like hugs, or don’t like hugging strangers, but on every retreat I know everyone, and I like hugs, and so I live in anticipation all weekend of giving hugs to my friends where I can bless them and remind them that God is for them.

God blesses Abraham.  God is for Abraham.  God blesses us. God is for us.    This is blessing.

Go

Abraham was told to simply go.

To leave his land, his home, his people, and go to the land that God was going to show him.  That’s kind of crazy, isn’t it?  Just go.  Where?  Trust me.  But, no I want answers!  I want to know where I’m going! Is it safe?  And is there running water?  Who’s going to be there?  Is it warm?  And when I am coming back!? And most importantly, is there WIFI?

Just go.

Most of us wouldn’t go, would we?  We’d need more answers.  Sure, it’s nice to see know that God is blessing us and for us, but really, we’d all want a bit more than that.

Brennan Manning tells the following story in his book, Ruthless Trust.

“A brilliant ethicist went to work for three months at the “house of the dying” in Calcutta, as he was seeking a clear answer as to how best to spend the rest of his life.  On the first morning there, we went to Mother Teresa.  She asked, “And what can I do for you?”  He asked her to pray for him.

“What do you want me to pray for?” she asked.   He voiced the request that he had brought thousands of miles from the US.  “Pray that I have clarity.”

She said firmly, “No.  I will not do that.”  When he asked her why, she said, “Clarity is the last thing you are clinging to and must let go of.”

“But YOU always seem to have clarity.”

She laughed.  “I’ve never had clarity.  What I have always is trust.  So I will pray that you trust God.” (Manning 5)

We often come to church, to faith, to the Bible looking for clarity, a new insight, a new thought, something to ponder.  Maybe, we should come learning to trust more.  To trust that God is for us.  To trust that we are blessed.  And to trust that God is sending us somewhere.

But where is God sending us?

Blessing

There’s an expression we hear in the world. We hear it from athletes and politicians and artists and pastors.

God bless Canada.  God bless America.  Thank you God for the blessing.  I just want to thank God for this award.  Thanks God for our church.

They’re expressing the following.  God bless me.  God has blessed me.  Thanks for the blessing.

Which isn’t bad.  But it’s remarkably incomplete.  Because it gives the appearance that God blessing us, that God being on our side, that God being for us, is selfish.  And static.  And the point of it all.

“…and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”  Gen 12:3

Thanking God for being on our side, for the blessings, for the Grammy or salvation or the Oscar or for our country or for the Grey Cup or the victory or for answering prayers or our jobs or our health or our church is all vain and meaningless unless the blessings lead to blessing others.

“Being blessed leads to a deep desire to bless others. The characteristic of the blessed one is that they are always speaking words of blessing.  It is remarkable how easy it is to bless others, to speak good things to and about them, to call forth their beauty and truth, when you yourself are in touch with your own blessedness.  The blessed one always blesses.  And people want to be blessed!”  (Nouwen 82)

This is the reason why I believe that the church is really, really important.  Because we, at our best, are in the business of blessing others.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  The church should be the only institution that doesn’t exist for itself.  It should exist for the benefit of others.

It’s not about us.  It’s about us blessing the world.  It’s about coming together as Jesus followers to grow as communities of grace and peace so that God’s hope and healing flow through us to the world (a big thanks to Mennonite Church Canada’s mission statement).

God calling Abraham those thousands of years ago is still relevant to us today.

We encounter God in our blessings when we can name that God is for us, and trust that God is leading us places where we are able to bless others.

Lent – What to give up, what to take on, and why…

Today is Ash Wednesday, signalling the 40 day period before Easter.

Traditionally, it has been a time where people have “given up” something:  Sugar, coffee, meat, gossiping, anger, etc.

Other people choose to take something on:  Praying, giving, exercise, contemplation, etc.

Last year, I chose to wake up early every morning and pray.  I started with Centering Prayer, and ended with Common Prayer:  A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals. It truly changed my life.

Some of my favourite authors have written some wise words about Lent, so I’m simply going to borrow some of their words.

“Lent is not really about sacrifice and deprivation, it is about freedom and transformation. This is not a time to wallow in our sins and shout woe is me, though it is a time to acknowledge our brokenness, repent of our sins and journey towards wholeness. It is a time to acknowledge the deep longing of our hearts for a more intimate walk with God and consider ways that we might accomplish that.” – Christine Sine

“God’s people first came into existence when the children of Israel were delivered from slavery in Egypt and called out into the desert to be educated into freedom, to learn to live with no other master but God himself.” – Thomas Merton

“For me Merton’s words sum up the true purpose of Lent. God wants to educate us into the true freedom of following God with all our hearts and minds and actions. In this season God wants to liberate us from the bondages of our slavery to self-centredness, greed, busyness, and rampant consumerism. God wants us to help others be liberated from the bondages of poverty, sex trafficking, imprisonment, addictions, injustice and disease. And God wants us to commit to the liberation of our earth from pollution, deforestation and species extinction.”  – Christine Sine

“In a world filled with clutter, noise, and hustle, Lent is a good excuse to step back and rethink how we think and live. In a world of instant gratification, it’s a chance to practice delayed gratification – to fast – so that we can truly appreciate the blessings we have.  In a world where virtual friends are replacing real ones, it is an invitation to turn off TV and computer screens so we can spend time with real people again.  It’s an opportunity to give up something that is sucking the life out of us so that we can be filled with God, with life, with love again.” – Shane Claiborne

I find myself screaming these thoughts inside.  Longing for God!  Freedom!  Contentment!   Liberation!  Filled with God, life and love again!  My spiritual director shared with me that if our lives were like rubber bands, most of us able to stretch when needed.  The problem, she said, was that most of live almost all of our lives stretched out, and so we are completely unable to stretch anymore.

This is my life right now.  Maybe it’s because of my job as a pastor.  Maybe it’s because this has been the coldest winter in my life and it’s finally getting to my soul.  Maybe it’s the season of life I’m in (with small children, plus a teenager), where I am perpetually tired and giving of myself.  I love my life, but I am stretched out.  I want rest.  I want renewal.

This year, I will be doing a bit of giving up, and a bit of taking something on.

I will again attempt to pray in the mornings.  However, with the kids waking up at stupid hours, I am plan on giving myself some grace on this one. It’s hard to put it into words, but the more I center myself in God through prayer, I am both more loving and present to those around me.

I will also not bring my phone into my bedroom at night, but instead end my days with reading and/or prayer instead of email and game #830 of cribbage against the computer (I’m up 422-408).

And I will be saying goodbye to my social media apps on my phone.  I will miss out on how some of you are doing, I will miss reading articles from my favourite authors, and I will definitely miss seeing your pictures on Instagram.  I’m sure that you’ll all miss the Arianna-isms, my impeccable wit (smile), and certainly the Facebook birthday greetings from a sasquatch.  But in doing so, I am hoping to be more present to God, my family, myself, my friends, my church, and the earth.

This Lent, may we say yes to some things, no to other things, and be re-filled with God, life, and love again.

Grace and Peace,

Kyle

PS – If your birthday is between now and Easter, this picture is for you.

sasquatch

Polar Vortexes, Garages, and the Canadian Revenue Agency

I have to admit, I’m more nervous to preach on this text than I was when I preached about hell.  Because for most of us, hell is this abstract belief that we don’t put much thought into, and it definitely doesn’t affect our daily decisions.  When we make choices about our careers, our education, what kind of car we drive, who we marry, how many kids we want to have, or where we want to live, when we want to retire, we don’t really consider whether or not hell is real and who’s going there.

But money.  Oh, we consider money.  In all of our big decisions, like jobs and houses, and all of our little decisions, like premium vs. regular gas, or whether or not we buy that stick of gum, we consider money.  Money is probably one of the biggest factors in our life.

Jesus knew this.  Jesus spends more time talking about money than heaven, hell, sex and prayer combined.

And so here we are.  On the eve of the RRSP contribution deadline, and we are reading a parable about a man making a lot of money and putting it away for the future so that he can take life easy, eat, drink, and be merry.  Hopefully he’ll even have enough money to go down south for the winter, so that he can avoid the polar vortex.  That sounds a lot like most of us polar-vortex hating folks here, doesn’t it?  And yet God calls him a fool.

Now, I think that we’re a long ways off from the world that Jesus occupied.  People 2000 years ago didn’t have Pension Plans or Old Age Security or RRSP’s.  They didn’t live til their 80’s and 90’s, they had more than 2.1 kids and those kids didn’t move across the country for jobs.   And they also didn’t have to pay their darned heating bills.

I think, in our culture, things have changed over the years too.  I was talking to one of you recently (who happens to be in their 80’s), and you told me that your father thought that owning RRSP’s was selfish.  If you had extra money, you would share it with those who needed it.

Your family followed Augstine’s thoughts about this parable, “The rich fool didn’t realize that the bellies of the poor are much safer storerooms than his barns.”

But, in the 80 years that have happened since, I think many of us have taken a different approach.  For many of us, we do our best to not rely on our kids during our retirement years.  We work hard when we’re younger, are responsible with our money, and save our nickels so that we aren’t a burden on our family.  In our current culture, hitting up your family for cash because you gave it all away is more or less considered a foolish thing.

That being said, there are a couple of things to consider about this parable and how it is applicable to us today.

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The first, is that the context of the parable is a man coming up to Jesus and telling Jesus to tell his brother to divide the inheritance.  So the brother’s father has passed away, and given the culture of the time, it was the eldest brothers job to divide the inheritance.  And that obviously wasn’t happening.  Jesus.  Make my brother divide the estate.

So, here’s a question.  What do you think the relationship was like between the two brothers?  Were they best buds?  Do you think they went fishing together on weekends?  Probably not.  It sounds like their relationship was on the rocks.  Communication had probably broken down, they probably have 30 years of unresolved conflict between them, and now they had to figure out how to close the estate of their father.

Does this sound familiar?  Families arguing over estates?  My friend who’s a lawyer told me once about a family that were arguing before the funeral of their parent over some money in the will.  And that money was the equivalent of one month’s pay cheque for each of them.

Jesus!  Tell my brother to divide the inheritance properly!  Now we just pay lawyers to do it for us.

The point isn’t the money.  The point is your relationship.  The point is that you are letting greed take precedence over your relationship.  No wonder Jesus calls him “Man,” which was somewhat harsh tone and is deserving of an eye roll.  “Man, who appointed me a judge between you?”  When an abundance of possessions is what drives us, we have missed the point of life entirely.

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The second thing is that Jesus tells a parable of a certain rich man who had a bumper crop.  Now, a careful reading shows that the man was rich before the harvest.  This one harvest didn’t make him rich.   He already was.

And then when he had his bumper crop, do you notice what he was saying?  What shall I do?  I have no place to store my crops.  This is what I’ll do.  I’ll build bigger barns.  And then I’ll be able to take life easy.

I, I, I.  The man dialogued with himself.  He is alone.

This is doubly sad when you take into consideration the important role that family and community played in the Middle East 2000 years ago.  Everyone was closely knit together, everybody had a say in everybody’s business, and this was considered the good life, and he had none of it.  He was alone.

Being rich has a tendency to do that to us, doesn’t it?

When Ash and I lived in Winnipeg, both us and our neighbours had detached garages.  We always saw each other, waved, smiled, said hello, asked how they were doing, even when we were lugging groceries from the garage to the house in the middle of winter.

Now, our house in Steinbach has an attached garage.  It certainly is more convenient, and warmer, but we honestly don’t see our neighbours for 5 months of the year.  We’re more alone.

Also, when we were living in Winnipeg, one of our friends moved from East Kildonan to North Kildonan.  I didn’t question the move, as most of us move houses, but one person said something to our friend that will forever stay with me.  He said:  “Good move.  You’re almost out of the city.”

The point of moving, to this man, was to get out of the city.  You move from Elmwood to East Kildonan to North Kildonan to East St. Paul.  And I know there are factors such as noise and safety and taxes.  But one thing about being out of the city is that the houses are bigger, the lots are bigger, and it’s harder to see your neighbours.  Wealth makes us more alone.

This hits close to home for many of us, doesn’t it.  Think second homes.  Think retirement homes.  Think vacation properties.  Think cabins.  These things that we place an awful lot of value on can actually move us further and further from our primary community and family.

When I was living in Africa, one of my friends said to me:  It’s really hard to have a genuine relationship between 2 people who have vastly different amounts of money, because there’s a massive power imbalance.  Are you friends because you like each other, or because of the benefits that might come with being friends?  Unequal wealth makes relationships harder.

“Woe to you who add house to house
and join field to field
till no space is left
and you live alone in the land.”  Isaiah 5:8

So you have a rich man who is alone and only has concern for himself.

_________________________________

But at least he can eat, drink, and be merry, right?

And he’s even following the Bible when he says this:  “So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.”  Ecclesiastes 8:15

He got the first part right, about eating and drinking and enjoying life.  But he misses the second part.  He completely fails to acknowledge that the days of his life are a gift from God.  To him, the highest sense of accomplishment and satisfaction is eating and drinking and living the good life.  The highest sense of accomplishment, to this man, is remarkably selfish.

When one of my kids is at day care, one of the first questions I ask is, “Did you have fun?”  I don’t even think when asking it, but seriously? Fun is the point of life?   I think next time I’m going to ask, “Did you love well today?”

In the man’s speech, there’s no sense of gratitude, or sharing, or generosity, or even remotely believing that life is bigger than oneself.

And then he dies.  And I wonder who will care…

In this parable, Jesus is really putting the screws to the man who wants Jesus to divide the inheritance.

It’s like Jesus is saying to man:  Think about this.  You and your brother are not on the same page, and you want me to ignore that so you can get your stuff.  And then when you get your stuff, it’s going to end up pushing you further away from relationships.  And then when you die, who’s going to get your stuff?

I imagine Jesus shaking his head and sighing, and the (non-violently) hitting him on the back of the head with a dead fish, because this man is missing the point of life.

___________________________

I don’t think that this parable condemns people who are wealthy.

I don’t think this parable tells people to not save for retirement, at least, I hope not, because I have a self-directed RRSP through work so that I don’t have to preach til I’m 73.

I don’t think this parable is telling us to be grumpy people who never have fun and don’t eat and drink and be merry.

But I do think that this parable is reminding us that everything we have, from our houses to our families to our cash to our last breath, is a gift of God.  It’s reminding us to live in gratitude.

I do think that his parable is warning us about the pitfalls of money.  That money and possessions are not the most important things in this world.

I think this parable is a reminder that our relationship with others is one of the most important things in our lives. That we are to love our neighbours as ourselves.

It reminds us to not store up things for ourselves, but to be rich towards God.

Rich towards God can be understood many ways.  I’m going to offer you three handles, suggestions, things to talk about over lunch.

1)      It’s tax season, and we’re all busy collecting our T4’s and charitable receipts.  And when we hand in all those papers to our accountants and to CRA, will they know that you are rich towards God?  Will they know that your life does not revolve around an abundance of possessions?

2)      Some of us make wills to ensure that our kids won’t have to go to Jesus (or the lawyers) to settle our estates.  One of my friends told me this.  He said, “I have 3 kids, but in my will, I have 4.  That 4th kid is my favourite charitable cause.”  It could be MCC, church, MDS, CMU, World Vision, Soup’s On, Today House, an endowment fund, whatever.  But are you willing to add a “kid” to your will?  How would you react if your parents added a “kid” to the will?

3)      Do your possessions, or your money, help your relationships?  Or do they hurt your relationships?  Does it bring you closer to people?  Or further away?  Does your wealth build community?  Whom does it serve?   When I came back from Zimbabwe 13 years ago, one of the ways I navigated through being rich was through the guidelines “Does this enhance the quality of my relationships?” Does it bring me closer to people? What kind of car do I need for my relationships?  Does a canoe bring me closer to people? What  does social media do to how I interact with people?  Do my shoes matter?  Do we put up a fence in our backyard, or do we let the neighbourhood kids play on our play structure?  It’s not a perfect guideline, as we can pretty much justify anything, but I have found it to be helpful.

Does CRA know you are rich towards God?  Are you willing to add a kid to your will?  How do you use your wealth to build community and relationships?

These are good questions to ask.  And not necessarily easy to answer.

But as we seek to be followers of Jesus, I think that they are really, really important questions.