What Can I Give Him, Poor as I Am?Christina Rossetti asks this question in her poem, “A Christmas Carol,” which is known to us as the hymn text “In the bleak midwinter.” (The Hymnal 1982, #112) She reflects on this question as a response to God giving his Son as the Incarnate, Jesus Christ. The Christian scriptures are persistent in their regular asking of a similar question, “Who do you say that I am?”
The Usual Approach
We are all familiar with the stewardship approach that invites members to make an annual financial commitment to the work of the parish for the upcoming year by completing a pledge card. In fact, those cards and letters are going out, or will be going out soon, to more than 300,000 Christian congregations all across America. Sometimes these pledge cards are accompanied with a request to complete a “time and talent” card as well.
These cards normally list the various ministries the congregation is carrying out and invite the member to find their “spot” and “fit in” with what parish leaders have determined constitutes the life and ministry of the congregation. For several decades this has been the standard approach to meeting the financial and people needs of the institutional congregation and it has worked well. It inadvertently however, limits members to thinking of the gifts they can offer only in terms of what the congregation is doing when unbeknownst to them, they have so much more to offer.
Asset mapping is the name of another approach to identifying the gifts that we can offer to God’s glory and service. A couple of preliminary understandings:
● An asset is a gift known for its usefulness
● There are five types of assets:
● The asset questions are simply:
- What are you good at doing?
- What do you like to do?
- What do you have that’s useful?
The kinds of assets we are thinking about here might also be considered as blessings, things like: I love working with young children; I am a breast cancer survivor; I speak Spanish; I have a van; or I am good at fixing things.
Key, Key Point!
A blessing from God remains a blessing only if it is offered to glorify God and to benefit others, elsewise it is no longer a blessing and may even become a spiritual burden! Blessings are to be shared. God has blessed us for his purposes not just for our own benefit.
About 100 parishioners took up magic markers and post-it notes and began to list the assets they could offer to God. It started slowly and gathered steam. Soon the parish house walls were covered with sheets of newsprint, themselves covered with yellow post-its, nearly 1500 in all! You could feel the energy rise in the room as those seated at tables engaged each other in conversation, light bulbs going off in people’s minds one after the other, as it became clearer and clearer to them the gifts that they and others at the table had to give Emmanuel.
When this was completed and the sheets of newsprint were posted all around the room, our leaders pulled off five post-its at random. Reading them out loud to the group, they asked each table to create a ministry plan with those five assets to be shared later with the whole group. It was quite amazing to witness the creativity involved as each table “cooked up” a ministry making use of a coach, someone with military experience, someone who likes to tell jokes, a big kitchen, and someone who loves to teach art to children. (HINT: Something to do with military families and Wounded Warriors.)
This was fun! Our eyes were opened to see ourselves and what we could offer for God’s glory and the benefit of others in a different light. We are the people God has blessed and sent into the world to be a blessing to others. Don’t let your blessings stop with yourself but be a blessings conduit!
Christiana Rosetti saw herself as poor compared to the great God who gave his only Son for the world. Oftentimes, we too, see ourselves as poor, but not in comparison to God but to others around us. Consequently, we don’t believe we have anything of value to offer God, or when it comes to our collective ministries we are anxious that there is not enough.
All those post-its presented us with a very different dilemma: how can we possibly use all that God has put in this place for his glory and the welfare of his people?
Next time we explore seeing the world with God’s holy perspective.