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Pass It On

     A few years ago, actor Kevin Spacey starred in a movie called “Pay It Forward.”  Based on a book by Catherine Hyde, the movie set forth the idea that when a person is the recipient of a good deed, he or she should do three good deeds to repay it.  The idea was that we can’t always ‘pay back’ the good done to us; sometimes we have to ‘pay it forward.’

     While the movie is only about ten years old, the idea behind it is much older.  In the church we know it (and sing it) as “Pass It On.”  How many blessings have we been given – in life, in church, in health, in family – that we can never repay?  How do we ‘pay back’ the churches and people who raised us?  The teachers who taught us and the people who cared for us?  How can we repay love?  We can’t, really.  Sometimes we get to give back to those who have given to us but most of the time we just have to pay it forward, to pass it on.

     Last year, my congregation received a bequest of $180,000 from a deceased member of the church.  As this was a woman who had spent a lifetime helping others, it was no surprise to see that her generosity of heart found a way to live on, even after she had passed into God’s arms.  We tried to receive her gift with the same kind of grace.  We told her story, so that the legacy of her whole life could be passed on.  We made arrangements to be good stewards of this gift, so that we might not squander it but use it for God’s ministry.  And we decided to pay it forward, to pass it on – to tithe on the gift, giving 10% of it to Our Church’s Wider Mission.  In this way, we hope to “pass on” the gift given us by supporting ministries in our city and our region and our nation and our world, thus making of it an even greater gift and legacy than it already was.

     What we have been given is more than a financial offering.  It is a gift of the heart – an example of faithfulness that reminds us how to live with God.  We cannot possibly repay the gift this woman has left our congregation.  There is no way to pay it back.  And so we pay it forward.

“That’s how it is with God’s love,
once you’ve experienced it.
You spread God’s love to everyone;
you want to pass it on.”
Kurt Kaiser

Rev. Kirsten Linford
Westwood Hills Congregational UCC
Los Angeles


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