Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
I’ve told the story before, but it’s worth repeating. A rich man came to see me in the church I served back in St. Charles, Illinois, about a wedding for his daughter. They were nominal members of the more fashionable parish in the next town down the river, but they never attended church so the priest there had refused to do the wedding. Would I? The father would “make it worth my while.” What did my church need?
Well, I thought to myself: think boldly here, John. So, looking out the window of my study to the vacant expanse of lawn we owned, I said, “Well, we very much need to expand our education wing.” My visitor made a choking sound, so I quickly laughed said that I was only kidding; we’d be glad to do his daughter’s wedding and he could make whatever contribution he felt called to out of gratitude.
Needless to say, my relations with that man were never very good. He got my back up; I got his. We were operating, you see, out of completely different paradigms. He came from a successful corporate career, the world of commerce and power, where I offer something to you if you will do something in return. I will build you a ship (this had been this rich man’s most recent business) if you pay me so many hundreds of millions of dollars. The Church, however, operates (or is supposed to operate!) differently. For example, each Sunday we offer you a wonderful breakfast, a beautiful worship service, a helpful (we hope) message for your week, and the Body and Blood of Christ. And it’s entirely up to you what you do in response – moneywise or anything-wise. It’s all free gift.