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Lenten Reflection - Gratitude & Generosity

Lenten Reflection:  Gratitude & Generosity

 

Church Lent ProgramHoly Week

Gratitude as a Life Attitude

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."                                                             
Luke 6:38

Have you ever watched an eagle hunt?  It will reel around and around high up in the sky, looking for movement on the ground.  Then in an instant, the enormous raptor will dive to the ground and fly back up with a small creature in its claws. 

Eagles see in ways that humans cannot.  Native Americans have long considered them sacred because of their keen vision and their extraordinary ability to fly so high into the sky that they nearly disappear from human sight.  An eagle, according to Native teaching, speaks to the Creator and sees with the Creator’s eyes.

Sometimes it is helpful to examine the world through someone else’s lens.  See through the eyes of a Haitian family who lives in a house that is fifteen feet square, with a tin roof that has enough quarter-inch holes sprinkled across it to let the rain in at night.  For them an 800 square foot house, like one that might be found in an impoverished area of the U.S., would appear a mansion.

But for the American family of six who lives in an 800-square-foot siding-covered house, a home with three full bedrooms and two baths would be palatial.

And from the eyes of a woman who picks coffee in the Nicaraguan mountains -- a single mother who does not earn enough from her hard labor to purchase adequate food for all three of her children each day -- being part of a nutrition project that teaches her to grow a tiny patch of vegetables to supplement her meals is wealth beyond telling. 

What are the eyes through which you view the world? 

Jesus saw with the eyes of our Creator. His gratitude for our precious life was reflected in the generosity which he shared with others – teaching, healing, witnessing God’s presence in the faith and lives of the people around him. 

This most holy of weeks we read again how Jesus taught us generosity when he washed the feet of his disciples.  He assumed the role of the servant and modeled how one passes on gratitude for our lives to others.  Gratitude becomes generous service.

Jesus humbly washed feet and taught us how to live.  Mother Theresa followed his example, cleansing with love the terrible wounds of people found dying on the streets, witnessing that everyone is a beloved child of God.  Read about a few more “everyday people” who are doing the same. 

Erica helps empower women who make fairly-traded pottery in El Salvador.  Matthew sells his crop of honey to support a nutrition project in Central America.  Elizabeth collects furniture for an arriving refugee family.  Brendan organizes a concert of local teen musicians to benefit his church’s St. Vincent de Paul Conference.  Fausta leads a community in prayer for those killed violently in her city.  Tim rides the city bus because of his commitment to caring for the air and Earth and for his grandchilden’s future.  Fiona takes steps to make her high school a fair-trade-commitment school.  Bart organizes a monthly community restaurant in an inner-city neighborhood.  Jane Ann rocks newborn babies suffering withdrawal from their mother’s addictions.  Phyllis teaches young mothers practical skills to be good parents.  Debbie and Ed serve coffee to homeless men in a day shelter.   Doris prays for her community every day. 

This final week of Lent – which culminates in our most sacred holy day of Easter – let us all reflect upon how we can choose gratitude as our primary life attitude.  Let us be grateful for the Earth, for the seas and skies and for all that are in them.  And as we are grateful, may this become generous sharing in good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over.

Lent programTHIS WEEK’S PRACTICE 

Microfinance Projects Transform the Face of Communities

 

Cooperatives can make all the difference in the health of families and small communities. As we enter our final week of Lent 4.5, let us learn how cooperative enterprises enable poverty reduction, how they generate local and just employment and how they reconnect those who are marginalized to their society.  http://social.un.org/coopsyear/

Microfinance programs like those offered by Catholic Relief Services and Oxfam America collaborate with people in the poorest of communities.  They have found that working with women, who are the least likely to have access to other lines of credit, proves the most fruitful partnership for lasting change.  After women care for the needs of their own family with the money they raise, they tend to reinvest in their community. 

In a microfinance program, a cooperative group forms, saves part of their income, then as a group lends and pays dividends to its members.  Each group elects its own leadership, establishes bylaws of their cooperative, and works on achieving common goals.  A client’s loan is based upon their savings which ensures that they build resources as they borrow. 

Catholic Relief Services uses “group-guaranteed loans” instead of collateral.  They foster the concept of solidarity, which links new loans to on-time repayment of past loans. “A self-selected group of clients guarantee each other's loans with the understanding that no one in the group will receive a new loan until each member's previous loan is repaid.”  Since participants are directly involved in the management and administration of the services they receive, they remain engaged, voting on such things as loan applications and collecting payments from fellow borrowers. www.crs.org 

Oikocredit has empowered or impacted over 26 million people through nearly 900 partnering groups.  Longtime experience has proven that the most effective and sustainable means of assisting those in need is to provide them the opportunity to help themselves.  Oikocredit has also made a commitment to environmental conservation, encouraging those who receive their loans to earn a living in a way that preserves the natural resources that they rely on.  They are partnering with UNESCO’s “Man and the Biosphere Program” that recognizes 531 sites in 105 countries as “biosphere reserves.”  In these living laboratory reserves, fully protected areas are combined with sustainable development zones. http://www.oikocredit.org/en/who-we-are/respecting-our-planet

Cooperative business models like CRS and Oikocredit are recognized by the U.N. as powerful tools for effecting lasting change in impoverished communities.

The stories of real people make all the difference.  Learn how such a loan made it possible for one Cambodian widow to buy supplies for her tiny rice dumpling business, or how a father of five was able to buy tools for his bike fixing shop that enabled him to earn $8 a day.  A loan of less than $100 gives a hand up -- rather than a hand-out -- and enables such people to provide for their families while empowering community transformation.   http://crs.org/cambodia/microfinance-stories/

Any of us can make a difference by investing even a tiny amount in such a micro-loan project.  Our $50 can give back 100-fold, becoming life-changing for one family after another over time.   This Holy Week let us live out of our gratitude and share generously.

Learn about Oxfam America’s “Saving for Change” program in West Africa at http://www.oxfamamerica.org/publications/oxfam-americas-saving-for-change-program-in-west-africa

Other fine microfinance organizations include:  www.finca.org/   www.kiva.org/   and www.givewell.org 

Lent programCHURCHES IN ACTION

Offering a Hand Up

Christian Churches in the United States

Excerpted from “Churches opt for starting own humanitarian agencies” (7.16.10)

http://www.pcusa.org/news/2010/7/16/churches-opt-starting-own-humanitarian-agencies/

Metro Community Church in Englewood, N.J., … started Zimele USA, a nonprofit that raises money for microfinance projects in South Africa. The 400-member church regularly sends teams to see how the organization works.

For years, projects like microfinance ventures were the provenance of large faith-based aid agencies and denominations. But as American Christians grow more skeptical and less dependent on traditional institutions, individual churches are starting their own humanitarian aid organizations, doing their own projects on their own terms.

“Part of the emerging church environment is that everything is re-examined,” said David Gushee, a professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University.

Nearly 30 percent of all American Christian teenagers participate in some form of a short-term mission trip, according to recent estimates. By the time those teenagers are old enough to lead churches, many are “confident that they can navigate international arenas without having to rely on somebody else,” Gushee said.

In Everett, Wash., New Life Foursquare Church last year created Northwest Community Relief and Development, a nonprofit that, despite sharing a phone number and staff with the church, attracts non-Christians for aid work at home and abroad.

The nonprofit’s Web site features a gift catalog, with options ranging from $10 to buy five hot meals at a homeless shelter to $2,000 to outfit a Cambodian orphanage with solar panels. Some gifts are delivered through large faith-based aid agencies, but others are for projects created by the church.

Pastor James MacDonald of Harvest Bible Chapel in suburban Chicago and Pastor Mark Driscoll of Seattle’s Mars Hill Church created their own nonprofit, Churches Helping Churches, in the wake of the Haitian earthquake. The two men delivered 1,000 pounds of relief supplies, and have since raised $2.5 million that will be funneled through local Haitian churches, Mars Hill spokesman Nick Bogardus said. 

 
Lent church programWHAT CHURCHES ARE SAYING

 

Catholic Church

Prayer from:  The Roundtable Association of Diocesan Social Action Directors. Living God's Justice: Reflections and Prayers. Cincinnati, OH: St. Anthony Messenger Press, 2006. (p. 185)

 

The Lord's Prayer: An Adaptation by Jane Deren

 

Leader: Our God who is in heaven and in all of us here on earth:

the hungry, the oppressed, the excluded. Holy is your name.

All: May your reign come.

Reader: May your reign come and your will be done;

in our choice to struggle with the complexities of this world

and to confront greed and the desire for power in ourselves,

in our nation and in the global community.

All: May your reign come.

Reader: Give us this day our daily bread;

bread that we are called to share,

bread that you have given us abundantly

and that we must distribute fairly, ensuring security for all.

All: May your reign come.

Reader: Forgive us our trespasses;

times we have turned away from the struggles of other people and countries,

times we have thought only of our own security.

All: May your reign come.

Reader: Lead us not into temptation;

the temptation to close our minds, ears and eyes

to the unfair global systems that create larger and larger gaps between the rich and the poor;

the temptation to think it is too difficult to bring about more just alternatives.

All: May your reign come.

Reader: Deliver us from evil;

the evil of a world where violence happens in your name,

where wealth for a few is more important than economic rights for all,

where gates and barriers between people are so hard to bring down.

All: May your reign come.

May your reign come, for yours is the kingdom,

the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen. 

http://storiesofhope.crs.org/Solidarity_Will_Transform_The_World_Study_Guide%20.pdf

 

Prayer for Week of Gratitude & Generosity

Loving God, 
your heart is open 
to the call of your creatures and all creation.
Open our eyes to see the needs of others. 
Open our ears to hear their cry.
Open our hearts that we might feel their anguish. 
Open our hands that we might respond. 
Give us compassion like your own. 
Amen.

Imagine if the Earth were divided equally among all of us. Each person would receive 4.5 acres. Now imagine that everything you need – food, energy, home, clothing, gadgets – must come from those 4.5 acres. But it takes 22.3 acres to maintain the average American lifestyle.There is a new way of observing Lent that helps us care for God’s creation by taking steps toward using only our fair share of its resources. Moving in the direction of 4.5 is essential for anyone walking in the footsteps of Jesus today.

Our Ministry

Lent 4.5 is a seven-week faith formation program which inspires and informs Christian communities on how to use the traditional Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting and almsgiving to protect God’s creation, embrace Gospel justice and nurture spiritual fulfillment. It offers practical opportunities for people of faith to apply the values of Christian Simplicity to their everyday lives.


This Week...

Open our eyes to see the needs of others.

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