On October 20, the Pullen congregation approved a budget for 2014 that will allow the church to continue its ministry of doing justice, loving kindness, and humbly journeying where God leads. We are now in the process of collecting pledges from members and regular participants to insure we are able to live into our budget in the new year. This video, compiled by Lorry Romano, offers several perspectives on why pledging to the budget is an important part of our life together as a community of faith.
Archives for October 2013
Text: Luke 18:9-14
I grew up with one sister who is two years older than me. Unlike now, growing up we were not very close. We could not have been more different as children and as teenagers. As a child, Allyson loved baby dolls and all things girly. I, on the other hand, loved playing in the dirt, riding motorcycles and throwing a ball. Allyson loved clothes, make-up and dressing up. I loved blue jeans, tee shirts and baseball uniforms. As we got older, our differences became more striking. Allyson liked rock-n-roll music and I loved listening to John Denver. (I still do!) She liked black lights, posters of the band KISS plastered all over her bedroom walls and going out with boys. I liked the sky nightlights, posters of Jesus and going out with girls. While she was out on Saturday nights cruising the local strip with her friends, I was at the church with my father preparing our small rural church for Sunday morning services. While I was reading my Sunday school lesson, she was reading the 1970s equivalent of Teen Vogue. Allyson was always getting into trouble, breaking the rules and living life her way. I was the pleaser child, always following the rules and living life the way I thought every one else expected me to live. I can remember many nights lying in my bed hearing my sister plead with my parents to forgive her for something that she had done that she shouldn’t have.
I can’t explain it but when I read the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector, I thought of growing up with my sister. And I realized, I was the Pharisee in this story. Here’s how I heard the story in my head:
The youngest sister, standing by herself, was praying, “God, I thank you that I am not like my sister always getting into trouble, listening to that sinful music and disappointing my parents.” But the older sister, standing at a distance with her face buried in her hands crying, would not even look up, but was pleading with her parents for another chance, begging for forgiveness.”
When I was growing up, it wasn’t unusual for my parents to host dinner parties. Every few months, the good china would come out. The smell of banana nut bread and chocolatey sweets would waft out of the kitchen. The lamps and tables that only got dusted when company was coming would shine with a mirror finish. When everything was in its place, my brothers and I would be given orders to stay upstairs, or maybe to spend the night at a friend’s house.
One November evening, I saw the familiar ritual taking place as my mom unpacked grocery bags of baking goods and my dad popped in a new George Winston album for ambiance. A few hours later, when my parents asked my brothers and me to meet them in the dining room, I knew what to expect. The silver serving trays had been polished and were filled with a smorgasbord of freshly prepared h’ordeuvres. The dining room and hallway were a glow with the dancing flames of candlesticks that I wasn’t sure I had ever actually seen lit before. The stage was set for a perfect evening. “When will everyone start to get here?” I asked, cutting to the chase.
“This is it,” my father said. “Everyone’s already here.” The candles, the sweets, the music, the polished silver, the little sausage balls cooked in gravy that I could never get enough of – it was all done just for me and my two younger brothers. The food was good and the music was festive, but what has made this memory stick with me over the years is the attention that I know went into it. This was an evening when my parents were entirely focused on me. The busyness of the world outside, the never-ending responsibilities of work and the constant call of the phone and media were set aside. What mattered most was being together and focusing on one another. I knew I had their full attention, and I knew I was loved.
I thought of this scene this past week as I was spending some time with tutors at church getting ready to meet students for the beginning of a new year of our Wiley-Pullen Tutoring Ministry. For 12 years now, Pullen has provided after school tutoring and mentorship for at-risk students from Wiley Elementary School. Many of the students have continued coming back to Pullen through middle school and high school, as much as possible, because the connections they forged with their tutors become so important. The students receive help with their homework and build their confidence in reading while working one-on-one with a tutor.
For one hour each week, they also get to experience what it is like to be the focus of someone else’s attention. During tutoring, they are not one among 30 students that a compassionate but overworked teacher is desperately trying to give equal attention to, or one of several siblings sharing responsibilities and chores at home. In the tutoring classroom, they are all that matters. They are the focus of a caring adult’s attention, and they can trust that they are loved. And that’s no small thing.