At the end of It’s A Wonderful Life (spoiler alert—although if you’ve never seen the film, shame on you), down-on-his-luck George Bailey comes home to discover that most of his home town is gathered in his living room. Having been rallied by his wife and a few others, they are there to support him, to celebrate him and to save his reputation. So instead of coming home to the fraud and embezzlement charges he had been expecting, George comes home to find that he is awash in cash and friends.
As the movie ends the Bailey home is crowded with smiling faces, music is playing, wine is flowing, people are singing, and the table is overflowing with money donated by those whom George has impacted along the way.
That’s what it feels like in the office at Heritage today.
Three weeks ago, our finance committee challenged the church to pay off the remaining portion of our original $600,000+ mortgage, a mortgage taken on with tremendous vision and courage and leadership in 1997.
We only had about $27,000 dollars left to pay, but we’re not a huge church and our members already give generously to our budget and special missions causes. So with some hesitancy about whether we could meet our goal, the finance committee challenged the congregation to give over and above their regular offerings to pay off the mortgage in time for our church anniversary in September.
What’s happened since then has been nothing short of AMAZING. As Mary tells George when he gets home to Bedford Falls, “It’s a miracle.”
Donations have come in by the bucketful, thousands and hundreds and fifties and tens at a time. For the last few weeks it seems like every time we turned around a few more people were at the office door waiting to do their part.
So today, just three weeks later, we can announce that we no longer have a mortgage! Our balance as of today is ZERO! What we were worried was too big to accomplish in five months, you've accomplished in three weeks! .
So as the celebration continues around here, I’m asking the question, “Why have people given and given so generously?"
Well, I think it’s mostly for the same reasons that everyone showed up to help George Bailey. George was there when they needed him. When other people said no, George said yes. And George developed a habit of finding value in people where others didn't.
When we’ve been sick, Heritage has visited. When we’ve faced difficult decisions, Heritage has prayed. When we've lost loved ones, Heritage has grieved. When we’ve had children or grandchildren, when we’ve gotten married or found new jobs, when we’ve graduated or been promoted, Heritage has celebrated with us.
We give to Heritage because Heritage has been there when we've needed God and God's family most. We live in a world that’s good at saying no, but Heritage has developed a habit of saying yes.
Heritage has seen us not for what we have or for what we can offer or do, but for who we are—children of God. God has been faithful to Heritage and Heritage has been faithful to us.
Today we can celebrate a job completed--a job well done--because Heritage's founding generation has consistently chosen faithful commitment and generosity. They’ve chosen over and over again to say yes.
In the middle of the celebration at the Bailey house, George’s brother, Harry, walks in and caps off the evening by giving a toast to “my big brother, George, the richest man in town.” Harry said what everyone knew--that George, never wealthy in money, was rich in the things that matter most—the love, respect and friendship of everyone who’d been lucky enough to know him.
As we make our final mortgage payment, this is a week to recognize how rich we are in things that matter even more than money.
So today I offer this blessing. May we always be good at saying yes—yes to each other’s hopes and dreams and needs, and yes to the vision and mission of God for this church and our community.
And with Harry Bailey I offer a toast. Here’s to Heritage, the richest church in town.
It IS a wonderful life.
See you Sunday.