By The Rev. Joanna Gragg
Associate Pastor, Mt. Horeb, Chapin
On Friday, January 31 learners from across the South Carolina Synod gathered at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary (LTSS) in Columbia for the annual Stewardship Symposium. This year’s presenter was the Reverend Dr. Craig Alan Satterlee, Bishop of the North/West Lower Michigan Synod of the ELCA. The day’s activities included two sessions of thought-provoking lecture and two sessions of panel discussion.
As the title of the symposium suggests, much of the presentation and conversation for the day was spent on what ‘mammon’ is and how we should faithfully talk about it in the church. Mammon is wealth that sometimes corrupts our relationship with God. Wealth and the value we place upon it often messes with our emotions and we often give money power in ways that we don’t like to talk about. But as Bishop Satterlee reminded the group, “unless mammon is talked about in the pulpit, it appears that money is beyond the reign of Christ.”
To set people free from the power of mammon, Bishop Satterlee suggested we need to be honest and talk about the struggles we share that exemplify its power in our lives. Each of us, as preachers and Christ followers, can start by naming the ways that money controls our words and actions. Our preaching should mess with a lot of things, including mammon.
The challenge for us all is that mammon doesn’t like to be examined under the light of the gospel. However, if we are afraid of talking about money in church, if we are keeping it at arm’s length because we think it will get in the way of ministry, then we are in danger of making it an idol that rivals the import of Christ as Lord of the church.
So, now our invitation is to simply be aware of what we do not talk about in church. And then to talk about it. Name the power that money has. Why? Because what you do matters to the church. We are living examples of the abundant life that is already ours through our baptism into Christ. Thanks be to God that we have been given the opportunity to show the world where our treasure lies and where our heart is centered. Not with the powers of the world, but with Jesus, who is stronger than money.