Forgiving debt

I don’t usually draw attention to the sermon from the previous Sunday and advise folks who weren’t present to definitely read or hear it online – but that’s what I’m doing here.  If you weren’t in church on Sunday, you should catch the sermon.  The reason isn’t so much that it was unusually stellar – but that it includes a call to action in which everyone is encouraged to participate.

Here’s the summary:

When Jesus taught his disciples to pray – what has come to be called The Lord’s Prayer – he included the phrase “Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”  We sometimes plug “sins” or “trespasses” into that slot, but the original language speaks of “debts.”  The majority of folks in Jesus’ time were buried in debt in a system overloaded with high rents, fees, taxes, and tolls.

In our time the high cost of US education has, in the words of a recent Sojourner’s article (attached in this email), led to “a new form of indentured servitude.”  Education debt has unique rules detrimental to the borrow such as not being able to refinance at a lower rate, stiff penalties for late payments, not eligible for bankruptcy, and having federal tax returns and benefits withheld to pay an overdue balance.

People also get swamped with medical and other forms of debt.

When Jesus taught his followers to pray and act for debt forgiveness, he was referencing the ancient Hebrew teaching of the Jubilee in Leviticus 25, a form of which the early church practiced by sharing goods, such that there was not a needy person among them – Act 4:32-37

So…in order to better become the answer to our own prayers, and in order to continue Practicing Resurrection during this Easter season, we have created a CMC Jubilee Fund.  If you do not have student loans or any other debt you consider overwhelming, you are invited, in the next two weeks, to give to this Fund.  Our goal is to raise $10,000 but maybe that’s too small a goal.  If you do carry student loan debt or other debt you consider burdensome for getting by each month, please let me know by responding to this email simply with the word “Debt.”  This will remain confidential with me and a few of our finance folks.  At the end of the two weeks we will divide up the total Jubilee Fund by the amount of people needing debt relief and mail out checks. (For example: We raise $10,000, 50 people express debt burdens = $200 check per person.  If both members of a couple carry individual debt, they should both sign up.)   All of this is happening in-house with CMC and is open to anyone who considers CMC their faith home.

I’m also grateful that Everence, the stewardship agency of Mennonite Church USA, has agreed to match up to $2,250 of our Jubilee Fund.

The sermon gives more details about the biblical setting of debt and debt forgiveness, the current state of indebtedness in our country, and how this Jubilee Fund will work, respectively.

If you were not present on Sunday but carry student loan debt or other burdensome debt you can participate in this by sending me a brief email so you can be counted.  If you weren’t here Sunday and are free of burdensome debt you can participate in this by giving to the CMC Jubilee Fund – checks made out to Columbus Mennonite Church with “Jubilee Fund” in the memo line.  I’m glad to answer any questions you may have and hope to be getting some emails soon to join with all those already on board with this.

On a final note, Rev Tim Ahrens of First Congregation Church in Columbus (a fellow member of BREAD) is doing his Doctor of Ministry work addressing student debt and has produced a brief YouTube video which nicely communicates the state of the situation.

Let’s Practice Resurrection and become the answer to our prayers.