Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Taxes and Charity

This Sunday, having returned from a week at the beach, the sermon was to be about communion.  I'd spent much of the week thinking and reflecting on it, and so rolling into the service I was all about the Lord's Supper.  My heart was on the Eucharist, on its meaning, on its transforming power, on how it had come to be a transforming experience for me.

As I moved from the sermon about the Eucharist to the Eucharist itself, I noted my music director giving me some funny looks.   But I was caught up in the spirit of the thing, and so we proceeded.  As I went up to sing the last hymn, she seemed to hesitate, but on we continued.

As I prepared to offer the benediction, one of the elders who'd served communion gave me an urgent signal.  "Offering," he murmured, with some gentle urgency.

Which, being in a communion-focused state of mind, I'd completely skimmed over.


We took it up as we departed, but what struck me afterwards was two things.  First, that sometimes when we come back from vacation we're not entirely back from vacation.  And second, just how vital a part of community the offering is.  Beyond paying my salary, it sustains the shared space that enables us to do ministry together, and supports our mission work and our collective aspirations.

It's not something we want to get out of.  It's charity, meaning it's a gift that we want to give.  It's a good thing, essential to the life of community and a positive part of our individual identity.

Which is why when Mitt Romney recently declared that he considered his charitable giving similar to paying taxes, I found myself nodding in agreement.

Of course it is!  You go, Mitt!

Taxes pay the salaries and training of firefighters and teachers, and equipping them to do their work.   They insure that our police are professional, competent, and honest.  Having been in places in the world where that was not true, I really and truly appreciate that about America.

Taxes build the roads upon which we drive, and the bridges that get us to the beach, and the satellites that monitor weather and give us fair warning when a storm's a-comin'.   Taxes pay our best scientists and engineers to pull off the seriously awe-inspiring landing of a laser-wielding atomic robot on Mars.   Which was, in the event I have not already said so, awe-inspiring.  Epic, as the kids might say.

Not to mention insuring that orphans, widows, and the elderly aren't starving in the streets.

And so, shortly after Paul Ryan got the Veep nod, we now have the Republican nominee for the President of the United States implying...on purpose, I am sure...that taxes are a good thing, as necessary to the bonds of our American community as giving is to the health of a congregation.