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October 15, 2015

Money Matters

A few weeks ago, close to 120 Minneapolis Synod pastors and religious leaders gathered for a two-day Bishop’s Theological Conference.  I was on the planning team for the conference, which focused on Faith and Public Voice.  Six Grace members were there: Dee Cole-Vodicka, Executive Assistant to the Bishop; Rev. Barbara Lundblad, who preached and also gave two excellent presentations on Preaching and Public Voice; Rev. Sue Engh, Director of Synodical Partners for Mission and Congregational-Based Organizing in the ELCA; Campus Pastor Kate Reuer Welton; Pastor Mary Halvorson and myself.

The history of the church’s public voice is varied, at times speaking clearly to justice issues of the day, at other times one wonders if the church has any voice at all.  The planning committee for this conference was clear that race and racial equity would be a major focus, but we were also aware of other issues of the day…global climate change, patriarchy, hunger and poverty, to name just a few.
 
A year or so ago, I was part of a meeting which included Black Pastors from San Francisco who were working very hard on the issue of Mass Incarceration of people of color.  They talked about the growing privatization of the prison industry, and one pastor said it clearly, “No matter what the justice issue, the underlying issue is economic justice, it is money.  To find the root of injustice, follow the money!”  Whether it be racial equity, issues in education, climate change…follow the money!
   
Mark Kinney says, “Money is like an iron ring we put through our nose.  It is now leading us around wherever it wants.  We just forgot that we are the ones who designed it.”  That is true of us as individuals; it’s also true of our country, and indeed the world.  Whether it be precious metals being mined in African countries at the profound expense of local communities, or the long history of slavery and Jim Crow in our country, with its roots in greed and economic power.
 
Money Matters.   It’s true today, it was true in Biblical times, and it’s always been true.  Money matters, it matters how we use it, share it, invest it, relate to it.  It can be a great resource for good, but it also can be the root of much suffering.  There are close to 800 passages in scripture that deal with money! Jesus talked about money more than he talked about Heaven and Hell combined. 11 of 39 parables of Jesus talk about money.  In the Gospel of Luke, 1 of every 7 verses talks about money.  Jesus was clear about the need for justice in our economies and our sharing of resources.
 
Lynne Twist, in her book The Soul of Money (our November “Grace Reads” Book of the Month), talks about how we often eclipse, dismiss, or compromise our own soul/s in our relationship with money.  This happens in the way we get money, the way we use money, the way we give money, and sometimes in how we do everything we can to avoid thinking or talking about money.
 
One can clearly see these compromises in our corporate world, in the banking industry, in Wall Street, but if truth be told, they are also present in our own individual relationship to the paper energy we call money.
 
Let’s find ways to talk more about this at Grace.  It’s important, it matters, to the world, and if Twist is correct, it matters to our very souls.
 
Pastor Dan
 

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