Monday, March 02, 2009

The Envelope Please – Paying It Forward

I attend worship as part of the community of Reunion Christian Church, a two-year-old congregation that meets in the ballroom at Boston’s Back Bay Hilton Hotel.

Reunion Link

The pastor, Hank Wilson, began a new sermon series this past Sunday, addressing the issue of money and faith. The title of the series is: “Cha$ing the Almighty” At the end of the sermon, he asked people to hold up sealed envelopes that had been given at random to 20 individuals as they entered the room. These men and women were told to open the envelopes – each of which contained $50 in cash and a letter of instruction. The expectation was that each person would prayerfully think of a person in need, and find a way to connect personally with that person while using the money to in some way respond to their need. The concept was one of “paying it forward” – based on the 2000 film starring Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Haley Joel Osment.

The instructions also included the stipulation that over the next several weeks, as the sermon series continues, these individuals will be asked to share with other members of the congregation stories of how they and the recipients of the money had been impacted.

I was not one of the 20 to receive an envelope, and I found myself wishing that I had been one of the “lucky ones.” I thought to myself, “It would be fun to look around and find someone to help in that way.” Very quickly, God slapped me with a new thought:

“You don’t need an envelope to be able to engage in the same exercise. Just do it!”

And then God reminded me of an incident that had happened on Saturday afternoon:

“But, if you feel you do need an envelope, what about the ‘envelope’ I gave you just yesterday?”

I had stopped by the dry cleaners to pick up a week’s worth of cleaning. As I held up the $20 bill to pay for my dry cleaning, the owner looked at the slip that was attached to my clothes: “My husband wrote here that it has already been paid.”

“But I don’t recall paying in advance. Here, take this $20.”

“If it says paid, it is paid. Keep your money.”

So, the light dawned. “OK, Lord, you only have to hit me a few times with a 2x4 before I get the point. How shall I ‘pay it forward’?”

I was reminded of a beloved family member who has had some extraordinary expenses this winter. A surprise “envelope” in the mail might be just the things to chase away the shadows of winter discouragement!

‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

Enjoy the blessing of paying it forward.

Oh, one more thing . . . I would love to hear from you about how you choose to "pay it forward," and how you and the recipient were impacted by those acts of kindness.


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