Dear Friends in Christ,

Last Sunday’s service of worship at Sudbury UMC included the baptism of three children. Actually, a baby boy and a baby girl were baptized and another child, a one-year-old who was previously baptized under emergency circumstances, was reaffirmed as a child of God’s baptismal covenant and welcomed as a member of our congregation’s “community of love and forgiveness.”

For an ordained minister like me, administering the sacrament of baptism is as close as I will ever get to doing the work of an obstetrician. I never get tired of it. I never get blasé. And I never get over the miracle I am witnessing as God uses me and the congregations I have led to serve as midwives for new generations of young Christians. Being present for the birth of my second daughter (when I was a new dad, you see, that was a radical idea!) gave me a glimpse of the joy that obstetricians get to be part of every day. But my high school STEM scores did not suggest that God was calling me to the life of an obstetrician. The only births I would ever “attend,” if using that verb is not too presumptuous, would not be physical but of the spiritual variety. And, like I said, for 30 years that has been a great joy!

Recently, however, I’ve been getting to know an obstetrician in Texas whose name is Renee Lockey. And the way she understands her work as an OBGYN as “another kind of ministry” has also inspired me to picture my dabbling in spiritual midwifery as another kind of obstetrics.

Renee’s story as an obstetrician and as a committed Christian is told in the book I mentioned last week in this space, Chip Ingram’s The Genius of Generosity. Renee explains that she imagined her life would be more than fulfilled by the twin privileges she enjoyed almost every day – ushering new lives into the world and also to collecting the generous salary afforded to those who are trained and certified to do so. Much to her surprise, however, Renee discovered that, even after accomplishing all of her goals by the age of 37, her heart was anything but content. Sound familiar? A relationship that was important to her turned out to be a dead end. And the choices she was making to sustain her career and to save all the money she could for a lavish retirement felt like being imprisoned instead of truly free.

Finally, God spoke to Renee when she was running one day on a fitness trail. “I want you to work like a doctor,” God said, “but I want you to live like a nurse.” Over the coming weeks, Renee figured out what God was asking her to do. The amount of money she needed to save for retirement was not infinite. In fact, she had already laid aside just about enough for a modest but satisfying lifestyle. If she gave away three-quarters of her physician’s salary and lived on the last quarter – modestly, like a nurse – God promised she would find freedom and fulfillment like she had never known before. And God was right.

But, listen. Don’t take my word for it. By clicking here you will get to hear and see Renee Lockey telling her own story in own words.

Last week I wrote about John Saville and how he taught a young pastor about the genius of generosity. God does not give us resources to earn, save, and spend in order to turn us into God’s rent-payers and debtors. God give us resources to make us partners with God in the repair and restoration of human lives on planet earth. The difference between partners who give like Renee Lockey and rent-payers who merely give a tithe or less is profound. It may mean the difference between a 2017 pledge to Sudbury UMC that makes you feel free and fulfilled or empty and imprisoned.

See you in church,

Pastor Joel

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