Hebrews 12:1-4, 14-15 – Do you see what all this means – all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running – never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God – he could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourself flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls….
Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you'll never get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure no one gets left out of God's generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time.
Matthew 28:16-20– The eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some though held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally. Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: “God authorized and commanded me to commission you: go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name, Creator, Redeemer, Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I'll be with you as you do this, day after day after day right up to the end of the age.
When one of our young people has hard times and the cost for help is beyond the means of a family, Westminster lives into its baptismal vow to help them, and then I think of the memorial funds for children and youth given to the church by Goody Miller, Jane Sledge, Sarah Coryell, Lillian Verhalen, and our beloved Betty Leonards.
When you explore the textures of your spiritual life – prayer, meditation, reflective retreats, the Spirit Led Life – I gratefully remember the generous bequest of Sarah Todd who served this church as Elder, Clerk of Session, Deacon, General Assembly delegate, and founder of Westminster's spirituality program. Today, nearly all of our spiritual formation activities are underwritten through Sarah's generous gift.
Bob Clover and Paul Schwendener found in this congregation a welcoming home and a great choir. They remembered the church in their will, specifying that their bequest be directed by the Session. Ruth and Mike Denekas, traditional, Dutch Reformed “Pillars of the church,” wanted to ensure the stewardship of church facilities, directing their gracious gift to much needed deferred maintenance and upkeep.
Martha Bigelow, charter member and “Pillar of the church,” funded the Charles Bigelow Memorial Library decades ago and at her death left a gift to the church to fund peacemaking causes that were close to her heart. A portion of that fund assisted Mustafa's family when they were reunited following his surgery.
Jack and Ruth Frost, who with a loyal cadre, literally kept this church going in the late ‘70's when membership was 80 people and Sunday school had two children. Jack and Ruth set up a charitable remainder trust with the Presbyterian Foundation, one of the largest foundations in the country. Their joy was in knowing that they could make a real difference for the generations that followed.
When I was completing my will, I included the Westminster Legacy Fund. I did so not because I am the minister of the church or trying to be a ministerial object lesson or the Legacy Committee had me in a hammerlock. On the contrary, Nancy and I happily joined in supporting the mission, ministry, and education of one of the most unique churches in the bay area and this presbytery.
Today we shine a celebratory bright light on the two-year old Legacy Fund, founded two years ago on our 50th anniversary. It is Westminster's spiritual stimulus package for the future, our currency of hope! The Legacy Fund, which is guided by six skilled congregants and chaired by David Elliott, is supervised by the Session Elders. These directors created a sound investment and distribution policy for the gifts currently held in the Legacy Fund and those that are essential to fund the future. Presently, the Legacy Fund has $300,000 and will make its first distribution in 2011. It is our vision and hope to grow the fund over the next 5-years to one million dollars.
Our hearts rejoice when we watch the children in the time of discovery, or their Christmas pageant, or when the Joyful Noise Choir leads worship. They spotlight what is so special here; something that has taken time to create and that will take generous genius to preserve long into the future. We watch our teens go off to clean up after Hurricanes, build houses in Mexico, work at the food bank, or assist in a medical mission to Guatemala. Then we see them stand tall and we listen to their life-changing stories and witness how they are forever marked by loving kindness, and empowered with deep spiritual values and self-confidence. With a strong and steady personal presence beside them, our children and youth must always have this church family as their foundation and anchor.
We adults sit together in classes, small groups, and worship, sharing our faith journeys and life stories. We bring hot meals for all manner of programs that benefit those in need. We send teams to New Orleans or to Guatemala, Haiti, or Ecuador to bring healing and love. We care for each other in times of illness, death, struggle, uncertainty, vulnerability, as well as times of joy, honor, and accomplishment. We sing, rejoice, and our spirits are lifted a dimension more with the choir and music program. We muster our courage, grab some healthy snacks, and teach in the church school because we are invested in our children's faith development.
Most of this we accomplish through annual giving and by your tremendous spirit of volunteerism. But if we want to ensure the graces we experience and the blessings we receive at Westminster against economic fluxuations, generational changes and vocational transitions; and if we want the capacity to live into fresh dreams and visions, and take bold initiatives, and be a strong, steady, lovingly presence amidst the winds of the ages, or respond when our heavily used facilities need fixing, and if we want to be ready to step forward whenever and how ever God calls us to compassion and mission, then the church must have a stable reserve, wisely managed, and dedicated to our faithful presence in this county and world long into the future.
The Legacy Fund committee, Session, and staff are not asking you to commit or to give today; we just want you to know that if the idea of the fund and a stable bright future for Westminster speak to your heart, there is now something you can do in response. We invite you to think of Westminster when you meet with your attorney to draft or review your will. Gifts to the Legacy Fund can also come through designation of the church as a beneficiary in a life insurance policy or IRA, through bequests in wills and trusts, from proceeds of a home sale, through charitable reminder trusts, and appreciated stocks.
And, if you feel inspired to make an earmarked gift beyond your pledge to a specific aspect of church life, there are six great program categories in the Legacy Fund that you can contribute to at any point in time: (1) youth/Christian education, (2) Mission, (3) Building and Grounds, (4) Spiritual Life, (5) Music, and (6) General Ministry. As one person put it, “I don't want to have to die in order to make something special happen.” These Fund categories are for those who may have discretionary dollars, or who are not yet in a position to use one of the other vehicles, or as they allocate their yearly charitable gifts.
Together, we've built our dream and vision on the corner of Tiburon Boulevard and Greenwood Cove. These dreams and visions have a vast reach: from Strawberry Nursery School to Tam High School to the Redwoods Retirement Center, from patient rooms at Marin General to a hospital in Antigua, from a living room in Mill Valley to an orphanage in Guatemala City, from a grace-filled friendship with Kol Shofar to shared work with Habitat For Humanity, from happy kids in church school to loving kindness in Kosovo and Iraq.
Because the stuff of the ministry and mission of this church grab your heart, light up your life, put a smile on your face, empower your compassion, support your highest values, we can take the next step to make all that is here that is good and kind and faithful a steady blessing into the future. Together, we have the will and we have the ability to make a vast difference for generations to come.
Prayer: for a few moments in silence think of something special, recall a moment in your life in this church that was or is special to you. Rejoice in and give thanks for that experience. Amen.
I invite you to contact the members of the Legacy Fund Committee, and to also know that both Barbara and I are available to talk with about your charitable desires as well. David Elliott is the chairperson, Jerilynn Blackstone, David Hansen, Ginny Quick, Bob Smoke, Rod Farrow, and Barb Rowe is the pastoral liaison.
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