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November 11, 2012–Reckless Generosity

Contributed by Paul Baglyos, St. Paul, MN

Warm-up Question

Generosity: Is it just a nice idea or is it a life commitment?

Reckless Generosity

Earlier this fall blogger David Briggs, writing for the Huffington Post, noted that recent research reveals that many churchgoing Americans misrepresent the amount of money they give in charitable contributions.  Whether intentionally or not, many people reply to questions about their giving by overstating the amount they actually give.  Briggs describes the research findings as indicating a “gap between perception and reality.”  Many people think that they give more than they really do, perhaps because they are unaware of their actual giving.  They may claim that they give more than they really do because they want to be regarded as more generous than they really are.  Apparently, many people are more committed to the idea of giving than to the actual practice of it. For Briggs’ full article on the research findings, go here.


Discussion Questions

  • Why do you think many people overstate the amount of money they actually give in charitable contributions?
  • Do you think it is difficult to be generous?  If so, why is it difficult?
  • Do you know any generous people?  Who are they?  In what ways are they generous?
  • Are you a generous person?  Do you find it difficult or easy to be generous?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, November 11, 2012 (Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost)

1 Kings 17:8-16

Hebrews 9:24-28

Mark 12:38-44

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.


Gospel Reflection

By commending the example of the poor widow, Jesus makes it clear that true generosity cannot be measured in money but only in attitude.  The widow’s two small copper coins, worth only a penny, count for little in comparison to the much larger sums of money given by others.  The true value of her offering is that it represents everything she has to give.  In other words, the widow is more generous than all the others because she gives everything while they give only something.

Jesus emphasizes that the widow “put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”  By any human calculation, the widow has done something reckless and foolish.  But her reckless folly mirrors the generosity of God.  Again and again in the teaching of Jesus, as in the entire Bible, God is seen to be reckless and foolish in God’s own abundant generosity.  Consider the stories that Jesus tells about the father and his two sons (Luke 15) or the laborers hired to work in the vineyard (Matthew 20).  Read what Jesus teaches in Matthew 7:25-33, and reflect upon the ways in which the poor widow has taken such teaching to heart.

By commending the generosity of the poor widow, Jesus points to the generosity of God.  The widow is a witness to the generosity of God, who gives everything and all.  Consider what Martin Luther teaches about God’s generosity in the Small Catechism, where Luther explains the Apostles’ Creed.  Scripture tells us that human beings are created in the image of God.  The poor widow shows us what it means to live as the image of the God who gives everything and all.

Discussion Questions

  • How do our practices of generosity witness to the generosity of God?  How does our giving represent what we believe about God?  What does our giving teach others about God?
  • What does it mean for us to be people created in the image of an abundantly generous God?  How does our generous God call us to live?

Activity Suggestions

  • Have a conversation at home with your family about financial giving.  Ask how much money the people in your family give in church offerings and other charitable contributions.  What are the beliefs and attitudes that guide the giving habits in your family?  Are the people in your family willing or reluctant to talk about their giving?  How does your family teach and practice generosity?
  • As a group, identify a project or a concern toward which you would like to make a collective contribution.  Make a plan about what you will do together, including the commitments that each person will make to help fulfill that plan.

Closing Prayer

Help us who have received so freely from you to give as freely in our turn, and so have the pleasure of giving as well as the happiness of receiving.*  Amen

 (*for this and other prayers)

October 14, 2012–Where Does Our Money Go?

Contributed by Jay Gamelin, Lexington, S. C.


Warm-up Question

Have you ever received a large financial gift?  What did you do with it?

Where Does Our Money Go”

Quadriga Art helped several non-profit companies raise millions of dollars to support their work with poor and marginalized populations from Native American children to disabled veterans.  So why are these non-profits in debt to Quadriga?  Can this possibly be okay?

It’s hard to say.

On one side, the company raises money for programs that are meant to help others but have a high cost to run.  When these projects fail it is not the fault of the fundraiser but the management of the projects.  If the project uses all the money raised without paying the fundraising company, the project owes a debt to the fundraising company. The fundraising company cannot be held accountable of poor management in the nonprofits.

On the other hand, it is the fundraiser’s job to raise this money. The projects these non-profits create are dependent on the support of the fundraisers and it is their work to make sure the goals are achieved. If they do not reach their goals, can this be the fault of the nonprofits?

This issue raises questions about how we give and support projects we believe are worthy. When we give to something, are we sure that the money is going where we think it is?  How much of the money we give goes to the project and how much goes to administration, support, advertising, and yes, the fundraising effort itself?

As this issue is resolved through investigations, it is clear that the greater lesson to be learned is this- know where you are giving and be sure your dollar is doing what you think it is doing.


Discussion Questions

  • Who is at fault in this case?  Do you find yourself supporting the non-profits or the fundraiser?  Why?
  • When was the last time you gave to a charity (outside of church)?  How much research did you put into the charity and how they use their income?  What do you think your money is doing?
  • How do you balance your own giving?  How much of your own money do you give to causes you think are worthy?  What is a goal you have for your own giving?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, October 14, 2012 (Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

Amos 5:6-7

Hebrews 4:12-16

Mark 10:17-31

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.


Gospel Reflection

What do we make of the rich young ruler in our gospel?  Is this a man troubled by the evils of wealth?  Is love for money the root of all evil?  It seems so, if we are to take this text at face value.  Perhaps it is easier to pass a camel through a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom.  Why?

Jesus holds up for the rich young ruler the laws of Moses and the ruler says he has followed “these.”  But what is to be noticed is not what is listed but what is not: “You shall have no other God before me” “Observe the Sabbath” and “Do not covet” are missing.  This is a remez style of rabbinical teaching, where what we are notice is not what is quoted but what is around it and we pay attention to what is not said.  By removing these commands, we look at the reality that this is not about money but rather that he has another God and it is his own wealth, that he has not honored the Sabbath (perhaps working instead!) and that this has led to him wanting more and more. Jesus recommends expelling this from his life, to get rid of this idol. Seems so easy, right?

We cannot simply remove wealth from our lives as if it were cancer.   In today’s culture, we need it for food, clothing, shelter, etc.  The issue is not the money, it’s what happens when we serve it as our god.  When wealth and accumulation becomes our goal we lose what is more important, justice and mercy. Amos says that we are to seek good, and this can be done with wealth. It has great power to do good things.  But we also need to be wise with our wealth. We need to be sure we give generously, so that it does not control us, but also wisely, so that it is being used for holy purposes. Seek the wisdom to use your monies for good so that you may control it rather than have it control you.

Discussion Questions

  • What are some things you think money is good for?  How has it been a help?  What are ways you have seen money used poorly?
  • What are projects you have been interested in giving a hand to?  What needs are in the world you would be interested in supporting financially?  Have you done this?  Why or why not?
  • Do you know of examples in your life, people or other entities, you look up to when it comes to money and giving? Does their faith affect them in their decisions?
  • What are some other things you think are great gifts of God but can quickly become idols?  (i.e. image problems, overindulgence of food, over-exercise, etc.)

Activity Suggestions

Charity Watch:

For this activity, you will need a computer connection.   Let’s take a look at some non-profits and how they use their money. Visit a site such as  Think of some non-profit organizations that you may want to consider giving to.  If you are looking for some direction, try these:  Lutheran World Relief, Compassion International, YWCA, World Vision, Kare Youth League, and Blood:water mission. How do you think they are doing? Hint: Don’t just look at the score!  Take a close look at the information such as the number of dollars that go to program as opposed to administration. Perhaps some are better than they may appear on the surface! Which might you be interested in helping?

There are many worthy places to support. It is our job to seek where our heart meets the needs of the world. No one can give to every worthy place, instead decide where your heart is called and get determined to give what you can to support this call.

Closing Prayer

The earth is yours and everything in it, Lord, ourselves, our time, and our possessions. Help us to use what you have given us to be signs of life and good. Lead us to those places that need us. We turn over what we have to you, in the name of Jesus. AMEN.

October 16, 2011–Gonna Serve Somebody

Contributed by Bob Chell, Brookings, SD

Warm-up Question

What do you want from your life’s work?

Gonna Serve Somebody

Forbes magazine (‘information for the world’s business leaders’ is how it defines itself) recently published a list of the Ten Most Hated Jobs and the Ten Happiest Jobs. It took me less than five minutes on Google to find competing lists where one person’s ‘happiest’ was listed as another persons most ‘hated.’

As our son headed off to the university this fall I paid close attention to the articles Time and Newsweek publish nearly every spring listing the best jobs—meaning those with high salaries and lots of job openings.

Whether it’s the happiest, the hated, or the best, chances are good you can find your career of choice on at least two out of the three lists.


Discussion Questions

  • Generations of young adults have despised the question, “What do you want to be/do when you graduate?”  How and why does the opening question above differ from this conversation stopper?
  • What is your greatest fear as you consider career options? Does your family raise your confidence or your anxiety as you contemplate your choices? Has anyone suggested how faith may shape your choice?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, October 16, 2011 (Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost)

 Isaiah 45:1-7

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

Matthew 22:15-22

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.


Gospel Reflection

As a college student I loved the liberal arts and feared the hard sciences. (There’s a reason they’re called hard sciences, I figured.) I loved essay tests and loathed multiple choice and fill in the blank which required me to know the answer. With essay tests if I had only the sketchiest notion of what the question was asking I began: This question is best answered by looking at the broad context… On the other hand, if I knew but one detail I would begin by writing: This question is best answered by examining a microcosm…. With essays I was in control and could lead the professor wherever I chose.

I loved the courses where there were no answers: philosophy, English literature, sociology, psychology. Any class where the teacher said, “Well, it could be this, but on the other hand…” Ah, ambiguity! It was precision I feared.

It was only when I became a campus pastor, and later when I married, that I realized what St. Paul meant about each of us having different gifts.  I married someone who loved the hard sciences; chemistry, math, biology; classes where there is one correct answer. Today she administers drugs which can kill or heal. Precision makes the difference and she gets the details right every time.

I love the diversity of students I work with as they discern where their personalities and passions (their gifts from God)  meet the wide variety of opportunities available to them.

You may wonder what this has to do with paying taxes (the issue in the gospel text). I think Dylan says it best. (For folks of my generation Bob Dylan always says it best.) In his song. Gotta Serve Somebody he writes

You may be a state trooper, you might be an young turk

You may be the head of some big TV network

You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame

You may be living in another country under another name.


But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes

You’re gonna have to serve somebody,

Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.

Jesus told the Pharisees to give the coin to the emperor because it had the emperor’s image on it, and to give to God those things which were God’s. The Pharisees were detail people, masters of minutiae, and it sprang to mind immediately, where God’s image could be found. They knew what was to be given to God. They knew it by heart, “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Gen. 1:27

You, too, have been created in the image of God and marked with the cross of Christ forever.

Discussion Questions

  •  Is God giving you a clue to your vocation hidden in your hobbies and interests? (For example,  if you love to figure your batting average you may be called to be a baseball player…or an accountant…or a statistics teacher…or a manager. You get the idea)
  • Where would your friends and family say your gifts and interests might lead you vocationally?
  • In Forbes’ list of the happiest and most hated jobs, most of the happiest were lower in salary and status than those which were hated. Does this surprise you? Just how important is money when choosing a career?
  • Lutheran’s celebrate two sacraments, places where Christ promises to be present: Holy Communion and Baptism. Can you name two other places Christ promises to meet us? (See Matt. 18:20 and Matt. 25:37-40 for two answers—are there others?)

Activity Suggestions

Ask each person in the group to make their own list of  five jobs they would most like to have and five which they most most hate.

  • Have each person share their list with at least one other person.  If your group is small, each can share with the whole group; you may want to break a large group into smaller groups.
  • Next, tally all the individual lists into group lists.  Is there a clear consensus on what is viewed as desirable and disgusting.
  • Look at the top jobs on each list; what characteristics do they share?  (For example, top jobs may pay well or offer a lot of flexibility in working hours, while unpopular jobs may pay poorly or involve a nasty work environment.

Closing Prayer

O God, we feel more confused than gifted when we think of the future. We love the security money which routine provides and are anxious about what it would mean for us if we trusted in you completely. Guide are hearts and minds as we explore the future and keep us open to those things which stretch our boundaries and push us to lean on your promises. Help us to let go of our comfortable security that we may grasp the exciting opportunities you call us to.  Amen.

February 23-March 1, 2011–No Strings Attached

Contributed by Dennis Sepper,

University Pastor, Pacific Lutheran University, Tacoma Washington

Warm-up Question

Name one thing you spent money on this week.  Why did you spend the money on that one thing?  How did you feel when you laid down the cash and took possession of whatever it was that you bought?

No Strings Attached

A commuter student at the university where I work lost everything in a house fire.  Thankfully, her family and the family pets got out of the house in time and were not injured but the entire house burned down.  They lost everything, their treasured memories in pictures and souvenirs, their clothes and beds, their entire possessions.  Our student even lost her books for the spring semester which, as a nursing student, was a very substantial loss.  Certainly insurance will cover a good deal of the loss and the school has a fund which allowed our student to buy another set of nursing books, but insurance and the good will of others cannot cover everything and it cannot replace the personal items that each family member had collected and now lost.

These kinds of tragedies happen every day from accidents to natural disasters.  It’s funny how we always think our possessions will be there.  We become so attached to them that we deny that one day they could go away.  Even though it happens every day, we still think that we will be able to hold on to everything that is ours.  And should we come to the realization that what we have is transitory, we worry about it and so we invest in alarm systems and fire alarm systems and locked boxes all in an attempt to hold on to our possessions.

(Writer’s note:  if you have a local example by all means use it.  One could use a natural disaster too, such as the flooding in Australia, etc)

Discussion Questions

  • Have you ever thought about losing all your possessions?  How does that thought make you feel?  What are the things you would miss most?
  • Do you every worry about losing something or having it stolen?  How does that make you feel?
  • What steps to do you and/or your family use to make sure you keep your possessions?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, February 27, 2011 (Eighth Sunday after Epiphany

Isaiah 49:8-16a

1 Corinthians 4:1-5

Matthew 6:24-34

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

With today’s Gospel text from Matthew 6 we are still in the midst of the Sermon on the Mount.  At the beginning of Chapter 6 Jesus warns the disciples against drawing attention to themselves through their piety around almsgiving, prayer and fasting.  Jesus then turns his attention to money and to possessions.  Jesus warns against “storing” up treasures here on earth and encourages us to store up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21).  Today, our text opens again with a warning against money.  “You cannot serve God and wealth,” says Jesus in verse 24.

We may not think that we worship money in the same way we worship God but, if you take the time to reflect on it, we do come awfully close.  Have you ever seen someone accidently rip a one, five, or ten dollar bill?  If you look at the faces of the people around when that happens you would think that the person just blasphemed the Lord.  We are taught at a very early age that money is sacred and that it has a power all its own.  In our day there are a number of people who prefer to serve money rather thank God.  (For a humorous and insightful treatment of this worship of money see Health, Money, and Love and why we don’t enjoy them by Robert Farrar Capon especially pages 87-91.)

From that point Jesus goes on to explore the root causes of our dependence upon possessions and money; we human beings cannot predict or see the future, therefore, we have a deep rooted anxiety about the future.  We simply believe that money and possessions will keep us secure or can protect us from that unknown future.  However, as can be seen in our opening discussion, money and possessions have no power to protect us, for they are as temporal as we human being are temporal.

The words of Jesus in Matthew 6:25-33 are addressed to his disciples who did leave everything behind to follow Jesus.  Jesus reminds his disciples that they are of more value to God than the birds of the air or the lilies of the field.  God has called them into this life of discipleship and God will care for them as God cares for all creation.

That message is valuable to modern day disciples too.  One of the things Jesus came to show us is that all of our lives are in the hand of God—a gracious and loving God.  It is interesting to note that the word “worry” comes from an Old English word that means “to choke”.  That is certainly what worry can do to our lives.  Worry can cause sleepless nights and paralyze us into inactivity.  Jesus came to call us to action in the world and Jesus promises that God will take care of us so that we are free to serve God and neighbor.

While Jesus can be very hard on possessions and wealth, he isn’t saying that every disciple is called to life of poverty.  Jesus simply wants us to keep our priorities straight.  Even today, our lives are in God’s hands and God still continues to care for each and every one of us.  Earlier in the chapter Jesus says, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Our hearts should be centered on God for that is indeed a treasure no one can take away from us.

When Jesus speaks of not worrying about tomorrow, he is not advocating a “don’t worry, be happy” Bobbie McFerrin kind of attitude.  Rather, he calls us to a sure and confident faith that the God who calls us his children and into the world will care for us today, tomorrow, and in the months and years ahead.

Discussion Questions

  • Do you believe people worship and serve money?  Give an example of something you have seen or experienced.
  • What kinds of things do you worry about?  Have you ever been so worried about something that it causes you not to take action?
  • What are some other things that people do to try to be secure against the unknown future?  What do some people do to try to control the uncontrollable future?  (Think about athletes and coaches who have favorite hats or ties that can “guarantee” a victory)
  • On the whole, do you have hope for the future or not?  Why?

Activity Suggestions

  • Assemble a group of current newspapers, news magazines or, if you are in a position to have internet access, bring up the homepage of CNN or some other news website. As an individual or as a group look for news articles that would cause you or others to worry or be anxious about the future.  After you have identifies several, as an individual or as a group write a short prayer for people who might be worried about that issue or news event.  When we do this at our university we call this activity “praying the headlines” and we try to do it about once a month.
  • Another thing you can do is link this week’s discussion to Luther’s explanation of the fourth petition of The Lord’s Prayer.  Note how Luther says that when we ask God for “daily bread” God provides much more.

Closing Prayer

(Use the prayers from the above activity, “praying the headlines,” or the following.)

Loving God, we know that you provide for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field and indeed they are well kept and beautiful.  However, even in the midst of such evidence of your care we still worry about so many things and sometimes that worry dominates our thoughts and actions.  Fill us this day with your Holy Spirit, a Spirit of power and might.  Install in us a sure and certain faith that we can cast all our worries and anxieties on you, knowing that you will give us your peace, a peace that will allow us to confidently walk into the future to serve you and our neighbor.  In the name of Christ Jesus we pray.  Amen

September 15-21, 2010–Doing Good by Doing Well?

Contributed by Eric Ullestad, West Des Moines, IA

Warm-up Question

When have you been given more responsibility than you thought you could handle?  How did it turn out?

Doing Good by Doing Well?

What’s it like to head up the world’s biggest company?  Mike Duke knows.  He was named CEO of Wal-Mart in 2009.  This was a daunting task for Duke.  He inherited a major improvement plan, Project Impact, from his predecessor, which gave a face-lift to nearly every Wal-Mart store around the world.  This multi-billion dollar project came on the heels of the nation’s biggest economic crisis in decades.  Duke soon discovered that, though shoppers liked the fresh look of the stores, they were visiting less frequently and spending less each time they came.

Wal-Mart has also endured its share of public-relations setbacks in the past few years.  “Big Box Stores” like Wal-Mart are often cited as reasons why smaller retailers are closing up shop.  Wal-Mart also came under fire for shady employment practices that required close to full-time labor from employees, but offered no benefits beyond an hourly wage.  Some people have called for a boycott of Wal-Mart stores because some of their products are manufactured in countries that don’t provide safe working conditions for farmers and textile workers.

Despite these, and other, obstacles, Wal-Mart continues to set the pace for global commerce, topping $408 billion in sales for 2010.  Being entrusted with the responsibility of running a company of 8,500 stores and 2.1 million employees is a task that Duke welcomes.  He is already looking to the future in the hopes of building a “next-generation Wal-Mart.”  This won’t be easy, as economists consider the possibility of a “double-dip” recession in the months ahead.  Duke believes that enhancing the company’s participation in social programs, ensuring living wages for employees, and adding stores in growing markets like China and India will be benchmarks of Wal-Mart’s future.

Discussion Questions

  • Would you want to be CEO of Wal-Mart?  Why or why not?
  • What challenges (financial, ethical, legal) would you encounter as the head of a major corporation?
  • How would you demonstrate your leadership abilities if you were given this kind of responsibility

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, September 19, 2010 (Seventeenth Sunday after Pentecost)

Amos 8:4-7

1 Timothy 2:1-7

Luke 16:1-13

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

The Parable of the Shrewd (Dishonest) Manager, found in Luke 16:1-13, is one of the most perplexing tales in all of Scripture.  It has confounded scholars for centuries.  So, if you’re not quite sure what Jesus is trying to say, you’re in good company.

Jesus begins by telling his disciples, within an earshot of the Pharisees, about a manager who wasn’t taking good care of his master’s property.  The master is about to fire the manager, but before he is relieved of his duties, the manager has to turn over the accounting books to the master.  Quickly, the manager goes to the people who are indebted to the master and reduces their debt.  By doing this, he has built a relationship with the lowly servants in the community; a relationship that he may need to rely upon once he is unemployed. 

The odd thing about this story is that Jesus concludes by praising the tactics of the dishonest manager.  He even encourages the disciples to “make friends for yourselves by means of dishonest wealth.”  Fortunately for us, he goes on to talk about faithfulness and responsibility.  Jesus calls his followers to be “faithful with what belongs to another,” indicating that if a person is responsible with caring for someone else’s possessions, they will prove themselves trustworthy to handle their own riches.

In many ways, the easiest verse in this passage to comprehend is also the most difficult verse to implement.  “You cannot serve God and wealth.”  It’s an interesting choice of word.  Notice he doesn’t say “money” or “possessions.”  Jesus says that wealth is the “master” that is in direct opposition to God. In other words, focusing on acquiring a lot of stuff isn’t the way that God works.

Consider the debtors in the parable.  A hundred containers of wheat and a hundred containers of oil were crippling debts to the poor people, but likely didn’t mean much to the wealthy master.  This is not unlike the world we live in today.  We currently have the highest concentration of wealth in recorded history.  The wealthiest 20% of the people in the world have 83% of the wealth, while the poorest 60% have only 6% of the wealth.

Perhaps this story can teach us that God rejects the systems that make it possible for wealth to be accumulated at the expense of the poor.  God doesn’t appear to be anti-stuff, God just wants to make sure everyone has enough to live.  Serving God, therefore, might mean doing what we can to bring about economic justice and equality to all of God’s people.  

Discussion Questions

  • Why do you think Jesus praised the shrewd / dishonest manager?
  • How would you interpret this parable?
  • What can this parable teach us about faithfulness and responsibility? 
  • What do you think about what Jesus says in verse 13?
  • How do you find yourself serving the god of wealth? 


Activity Suggestion

Use your phones, computers, iPods, etc. to do some research on companies that are giving back to their workers, helping to reduce debt, or helping to lessen the gap between wealth and poverty.  (Examples include Fair Trade products, American Apparel clothing, Tom’s Shoes, and Justice Clothing.)  Discuss ways to support companies, especially locally owned businesses that reinvest their wealth in responsible ways.  Consider sharing your findings with people in your congregation.  Be creative!

Closing Prayer

God of abundance, thank you for the many blessings in our lives.  Help us to turn away from the false comfort of wealth and serve you by caring for those in need.  Amen.