This year, for the first time, I get to practice and sing with the choir occasionally. The schedule doesn't always line up: sometimes I am teaching confirmation on Wednesdays, and sometimes the choir sings during communion (which doesn't work out at all logistically). But it is great to be with them, to be with the community and exercise my voice and hear and make the harmonies.
The children practice right before we do, in the same room. So one of the great things that happens on Wednesday evening is the great meeting in the hallway, as the Adult Choir members are walking down to the choir room to take their seats, and the door opens and the children begin running down the hallway toward us. They are exuberant from singing.
The choir member next to me Wednesday, a mother of four daughters, turned to me as we walked and she just stopped. She turned to me and said, "I love this time." She looked at all of the children running. She was looking for a particular little girl, and when they saw each other, the woman bent down and the little girl ran into her arms. Then she lifted the dimpled little girl up in a hug about as wide as the love of God.
This happens every week.
That's why I give.
The woman and the little girl are not related to each other. The woman is not the little girl's mother, or aunt, or sister, or grandmother. They are not related. Except of course, they are. They are related by baptism, which is thicker than blood, although most of us don't recognize it most of the time. They are related by this community of faith that they belong to together, where they show each other a piece of the love of God incarnate, and where together they show that fleshly love to the world.
In most of our world, the stories that are told are about us as individuals. We succeed or fail on our own steam, by our own power. Our virtues and our sins are individual. And what we have belongs to us as well, to be generous or stingy with, as we see fit.
But the truth is that we are all related. We are a part of one another. Our actions or inactions affect each other's lives. We are a community, not simply a collection of individuals, and we belong to God, and we belong to one another. It's hard to notice most of the time, because we are so busy running in so many directions. When I come to church, I remember. We run into each other's arms, we open our hands and share bread and wine, we sing harmony, we fight and forgive each other, and I remember. I remember that we are a part of one another, and that God has given us to each other for a purpose, and I'm a part of that purpose.
That's why I give.
It's true, of course, that I give because I am often overwhelmed by the riches of God in Jesus Christ for me. I give because my heart is overflowing.
It's also true that I give out of obligation. I know that God wants me to give, because it all belongs to God anyway, and God is just letting me take care of God's 'stuff' for awhile.
But I give to my church because we are all related, we are related to one another by baptism, which is thicker than blood, although it is hard to remember that. I give to my church because the cross that is traced on my forehead is traced on every forehead; we belong to each other, and that is wonderful, and it is impossible, and it is essential. We have been given this impossible mission, this story to share, this story of God who created and who mends our hearts, and wants us to join in mending the world. And it is impossible to do it alone.
That's why I give. I give because these are my children, and they are my grandmothers, and they are my aunts and uncles and sisters and brothers.
And I am sure of just one thing: when we give, we are running into each other's arms. And we are running into God's arms, too.