Emmitsburg Council of Churches


  Planning, (Praying) and Budgeting with Faith

Because of the rising cost of fuel, electricity food (and everything!) - now is a good time to be Planning and Budgeting, especially for winter heating expenses. Perhaps I should include that Praying about the rising cost of heating oil and gasoline (and everything) is appropriate, but as we pray, we should also allow God and the Spirit to give counsel regarding what is the meaning of the times we're in?

What is Jesus telling us about the larger scheme in which we find ourselves, how should we respond to these tough economic times with authentic Christian action and faith? Truth be told, everyone knew that as long as oil was cheap, we'd use it like it would last forever, as long as food was inexpensive, we'd hardly give a second thought before over-indulging ourselves and sometimes forgetting to give our prayers of thanksgiving. Ok, now we know that inexpensive energy and food won't last forever and even though the oil will probably be around for the rest of most of our lives, (with ever increasing cost) it's on the way to running out and they ain't makin' any more, at least, not the kind that comes as easily out of the ground as it has for the past one hundred and fifty industrialized years.

We are entering a new era where being frugal with energy and other resources is a necessity, not just a fad or Dad trying to be an old miser! Many of you remember lean times from back in the depression era or during WW II when rationing was instituted. It is interesting to note that in the past 18 months or so, there has been a major shift in our consciousness about many things related to the state of our nation. All politics aside, we are now fully "awake" to the situation we're in, we have a new awareness that we are in a vulnerable position and change is not just a popular campaign word or a novel idea, but change is imminent and necessary - and we hope to change for the better.

The rising cost of fuel, the steady drain on our economy by the Iraq War and the present flooding in the mid-west are all combining to bring about a time of enlightened humility for us all. In these times, I think more people are sincerely praying for God's face to turn back and look upon us (as individuals and as a nation) with mercy. This is a familiar pattern within the ancient Biblical tradition. When Israel had become too haughty and self-confident, thinking she had no need of the Lord, or the words of his prophets. When she trusted in her wealth and military power more than the sustaining grace of God -- then it was that the Lord withdrew his presence from this people.

God took the attitude: "If you don't think you need me, and you show that you don't by ignoring the poor, the words of my prophets, and my laws, then, I'll just go away for some time and let you handle things on your own." Remember that old 70's hit, "Where Is The Love?" I especially appreciate the line, ". . . Or was it just a lie?" (was that Donny or Roberta?) . . . Where is our love for God? We should ask this question both as individuals and as citizens of one of the most powerful nations in the world. Remember the Lord asks for mercy not sacrifice, for actions, not empty words and for sincerity, not pride nor presumptuous grace.

As fate would have it, as soon as God's people were overcome by their own greed, injustice and false gods of power - then they would rediscover their reverence for the Lord their God. Whatever we might think about God, we learn from the scriptures that God has standards for his people and standards for nations to live by. Martin Luther taught that we, as individuals and as part of the state, are both created and blessed by God. Indeed God has allowed for the creation of government so there would be proper order and care taking of society. However, we know all too well that individuals and the state are easily led astray.

We easily fall from grace into diverse and complex sins. Whether committed knowingly or unknowingly, sin always entails consequences; there is a natural and spiritual outcome in such matters. If we have placed too much trust in something that is finite (the Israelites were warned against following gods of clay, wood or stone (or oil!), we will eventually find out that finite things are not worthy of our sacrifices. Only the Lord who created all is worthy of our praise and complete reverence.

The hopeful lesson from scripture is that, though the Lord may turn away for a season, he will not forsake his people-but instead of turning away he will pursue us. This is the reason God sent Jesus into the world, not to condemn the world, but that we might have abundant and eternal life. Our proper response is to worship God and keep him first in our lives, and not allow finite things to cause us fear or discouragement.

Keep on planning, (praying) and budgeting for the present rising cost of living, but also keep believing and discovering that God has a plan for you and for our nation - he will provide what is needed. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory in Jesus Christ our Lord.


Read more writings of Pastor Jon