Wednesday, February 24, 2016
Psalm 105:1-15 [16-41] 42
When the worst happens—whether war or flood or disease or famine—and we take our place before this Temple (we know you are personally present in this place!) and pray out our pain and trouble, we know that you will listen and give victory.
[2 Chronicles 20:9]
I just came through two challenging evening meetings on Monday and Tuesday. The first night was with the Finance and Budget Committee of the Northeastern Ohio Synod, and the next night was with the Synod’s Executive Council. The main topic at both meetings was the financial condition of the synod.
For the umpteenth year in a row, it seems, we have experienced an income shortfall, and had to find where we could cut to balance our budget.
This is not a subject I enjoy discussing, especially in a forum so public as this. But the reality is that it is also not something that can be concealed. When the money isn’t there, something has to give. I personally don’t like making a pledge to support partners such as our seminaries and social ministry organizations then coming back and saying that we have to reduce our commitment.
Trusting in God’s abundance fails to convince accountants. As one told me across the table, “We have to be realistic.”
So do we lower the expectations for the coming year’s budget and let our congregations off the hook, or do we raise the bar and challenge them to give more so that we can support our ministry partners? That is the question we will wrestle with at the next council meeting in March.
The synod’s financial hurdle may not rise to the level of Jehoshaphat’s military crisis in the reading from Chronicles. Though ours is not a life and death matter, we are nevertheless facing a future that begs courage.
I noted a couple of things in Jehoshaphat’s prayer. He ends with his admission of vulnerability and utter dependence on God: “we are powerless against this great multitude that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
The story ends with assurance from the prophet Jahaziel that the battle belongs to the Lord, a song of thanksgiving from the people, resulting in a victory over the enemy.
How will things end for us? I don’t know. But I do know that I will not operate out of anxiety or fear. We will not shirk from the challenges ahead. We will continue to do what God calls us to do and carry out the ministry that has been entrusted to us.
As the old saying goes, “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.”