Reconstruction and Advance
ST. BARTHOLOMEW'S CHURCH
in the City of New York
SUNDAY MORNING, JANUARY 27, 1946
THE RIGHT REVEREND
ST. BARTHOLOMEW'S CHURCH
Reconstruction and Advance
"God so loved the world, that He gave." St. John 3: 16
THE difficulties of the world in which we live hardly need any description, for these problems and perplexities face us in news reels, over the radio, in the columns of newspapers, and in articles in magazines.
We are told that we must have more cooperation, and told that rightly. We are informed that there must be greater unselfishness, and that is also true. We have taken steps for world organization, steps which are essential and important. But General MacArthur was right when, in accepting the surrender of the Japanese, he declared that the primary problem was theological. We cannot face our world and the problems of sin, of suffering, and of want without considering the great purpose of the universe, the character and the nature of God, and God's fundamental objective for all mankind.
"God so loved the world that He gave."
The faith of Christianity, as I understand it, is to look into the face of Jesus Christ and make this great affirmation—that as we see Him, what He taught, what He did, what He was, there we trust [3/4] we find the deep answer to the problems of human life; there we find, at the heart of life, a revelation of God Almighty, Eternal, Everlasting; a God filled with compassion and mercy; a God Who "so loved the world that He gave."
That truth in Jesus must have world-wide application. Either He came for all men, to bring life and life more abundant, or He did not come for you and for me; because truth is universal. This worldwide aspect of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is fundamental. Upon it must be based all our own hopes for the future. God gave, not to Western civilization, not to the United States of America, not to the Anglo-Saxon race, but "God so loved the world that He gave."
There is the authority and the basis for this appeal of our own Church to the people of our Church for $8,800,000.
If some of the people in New York react as do some of our people in Massachusetts, some one this morning is sure to say, "How disappointing it is to go to Church and to hear about money, because money is not spiritual."
Let us be realistic about that, and not escapist. Money in itself is nothing, but money can be used for innumerable purposes. It can gain selfish ends. It can be used for luxury. It can be used for secondary things. Or money can be translated into human service in the name of God everywhere. Tell me what a person does with his money, how conscientious he is, how he decides these things in the sight of God, and I will, to a certain extent, tell you the [4/5] things for which he cares; how much the Church means to him; how much this service of God affects this very vital and important aspect of his life. I make no apology for talking about giving money to the Church, because, if we are honest with ourselves, it is perhaps one of the most practical ways of showing how much we care.
For what is this $8,800,000 to be used?
One of the objectives is to rebuild our war-torn churches and congregations in the Far East. That, it seems to me, needs no explanation. It would be incredible if, after our years of service in the Philippines and in China and elsewhere, we should say, "Let us forget it all. Let them go ahead without us."
Furthermore, it is impossible to exaggerate the opportunities before the Christian Church in the Orient under present conditions. New vistas, new opportunities, are opening to us. We send soldiers to China. We send statesmen to China. We send economists to China. Are we going to send everything except missionaries of the Gospel of Christ? And I need not emphasize that this world-wide aspect of Christianity has been proved to be right as this world has grown somewhat uncomfortably smaller and smaller.
Then, some of this money will be used for the relief of war sufferers abroad. As Dr. Sargent has said, I have recently returned from Europe, my second trip within the past six months. The difficulty is that we have read so much in terms of so many millions of people that those figures have ceased to have significance to many of us here at [5/6] home. We pick up the morning paper and we see that so many million people are being dispossessed. It is the same old story, and so we turn to the editorial page or to the sporting page or to the financial page!
We are naturally a sentimental and a generous people. Let a child in some hospital need some particular type of blood for a transfusion, and that is blazoned all over the country. But in the matter of this relief we are thinking in terms of millions of people suffering as is that one child. I have seen them with my own eyes. I have stood in railroad stations as these trains have come in. I have gone into cold shelters and prisons, or in bomb-proof shelters where they are being kept. I have watched them come over the border from one country to another. To stand there and to look into the faces of little children (they get you the most),—wan, with that look of wonder of childhood, many of them separated from their loved ones, not knowing what the future has in store for them: you cannot stand there and see the condition of these people without being moved to the very depths of your being. I wake up now at night and think of some of these scenes.
I talked with a little boy eleven or twelve years old. He had on a fairly good overcoat, but very little under the overcoat. He had lost all his family. He did not know what was to become of him, where he was to be sent. The same is true of old people, and of babes in arms. What do we need to see in [6/7] our world to stir us to share with these sufferers abroad?
Some of the money is to be used to continue the work of the Army and Navy Commission. I wish at this time to express my gratitude to so many of you here in this Parish who, in response to the leadership of Dr. Sargent, have so generously supported this cause for the last five years. There will be no special appeal this year. It is included in this Reconstruction and Advance Fund.
A man said to me the other day, "Why do you need money for the Army and Navy Commission when the war is over?" I pointed to the size of our occupation armies, to the problems which they confront in lonely and difficult situations all over the world. I have been there and I have seen many of these places and many of these men, and I say that, perhaps more important now than even in the days of conflict, is that these men should have the guidance, the counsel, and the inspiration of the chaplains representing the Churches.
I happen to be Chairman of a commission of the Federal Council of Churches, which is interested in the recruiting, for the ministry, of men returning from the armed forces. A questionnaire was sent out to all of the chaplains and in response to that questionnaire we have now the names of over five thousand young men from the non-Roman Catholic Churches who, as a result of the experience of these years, feel that the most vital and important thing in the world is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. These men do not have much money to give, but [7/8] they are giving something infinitely more precious than money; they are coming home to dedicate their lives to the complete service of their Master in the ministry of the Churches.
What I think more important than any single one of these objectives—this Reconstruction and Advance Fund is, in essence, a blood transfusion for our entire missionary enterprise. To be honest, we have been playing with the work of the Church.
I am greatly interested in a great Massachusetts hospital, and I rejoice at every dollar of support that comes. I am struck with how medical education has captured the imagination of the American people. I am interested in various educational institutions, and again I rejoice at every dollar of support that comes. And again I am struck with how education has reached the imagination of our people. I would not have it otherwise. But in comparison the work of the Church remains on a somewhat childish basis.
Let me remind you that many of our educational institutions had their birth in the Church. Take away Christianity and this gospel of compassion, and you have lost the meaning of human personality and the reason to care for human bodies. It is the Church, it is the Christian Gospel, which are the inspiration of all other good works. Cut the nerve of the Church, treat the Church as an insignificant affair, and in the long run you cut the nerve of all these worthwhile causes which are so a part of our modern life.
 Please do not misunderstand me. I am not asking you to choose the Church instead of these things. I am asking you to realize the primary appeal of the Church, because only as we have this deep faith in God will we be able to carry on these other enterprises.
In the Diocese of Massachusetts we have taken as our watchword for this appeal: "A sacrificial gift or a No from every member of the Diocese." I have said to our people: "I want to know where we stand. I cannot tell much from statistics and from numbers of communicants. I want to know who are the people who really care. I do not wish any money from any one who does not care. If you do not care, say No, and then we shall know exactly where we stand. We are going out and we are asking gifts from fathers, mothers, young people, and from boys and girls. I want the children to feel that they have a responsibility and a share in this greatest enterprise of our Church in our generation."
The Senior Warden of one of our well-to-do parishes said to me, "I think you have made a mistake in your watchword. It should be a generous gift, rather than a sacrificial gift." I replied, "Certainly not. Unless I said 'a sacrificial gift' there would be thousands of people who would not make any gift. Any gift from them means sacrifice, because they give it out of no margin of safety whatsoever."
The largest gift we had when I was Rector of Trinity Church in Boston was from a woman who worked in a small branch department store. [9/10] She supported her mother, and she came with her pledge of ten cents a week. In the eyes of God that ten cents a week was the largest gift we had from all the members of our congregation. If only we had a sacrificial gift from everybody on those terms! We have not begun to realize the resources of our Church and what we could accomplish for the Kingdom of God.
I can understand those who say, "We do not believe in Christianity." I can understand those who are opposed to Christianity in this war of ideologies in our modern world. That is a definite clear-cut position. But it is difficult to understand those who say, "I believe"; who turn to the Church in times of need; who truly come to the Church to worship, and who yet are not able to have the vision of the work of the Church and the need of Christ in our world today.
We need to be stabbed awake. Nobody can be too optimistic under world conditions. One comes home from Europe inevitably depressed by the weight of hatred and of misunderstanding and one gets the impression of little men trying to deal with too great problems, trusting in their own wisdom and their own strength. The only hope I can see—and it is a tremendous hope—is in this Gospel of Christ, the light shining in darkness. It is because of the reality of that hope in the service of our fellow men and, more than that, in thanksgiving to Almighty God Who "so loved the world that He gave" that your Church asks, not a patronizing gift —I had rather have a firm and emphatic No; [10/11] not a thoughtless gift; but a gift which proves that you care, that your minds and your hearts are touched; that you love because God has so loved.
So this comes to us all. I cannot tell what you should do. You cannot tell what I should do. It is a matter which rests between you and your Master. Somehow, if we understand this, then in worship, in thanksgiving, in sacrifice, we shall give to God what we are, what we have, and all that we can ever hope to be.
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Note: Following the sermon Dr. Sargent announced that those who had not come prepared to make their offerings for this Fund, could send them to Mr. James B. Taylor, Treasurer of St. Bartholomew's Church, marking them for the Reconstruction and Advance Fund.