As he traveled with Bond, Asbury collected small contributions from whomever was willing for what he called his “mite subscription,” after the story of the widow’s mite (Mark 12:42-44). Bond says that Asbury started this fund after hearing “an account of the great deficiency in the preacher’s quarterage in the New-England Conference. The bishop thought it most likely that the same deficiency would prevail in Ohio and Tennessee conferences, and that many of the preachers, especially those with families, would suffer, or have to locate; in order to seek support by their own industry in some secular imployment [sic].” If the plan generated a surplus, Asbury hoped to use it to fund German-, French-and Spanish-speaking missionaries. No one was supposed to give more than a dollar, reflecting the grassroots nature of Asbury’s plan. The money itself was important to Asbury, but he was also aware of the symbolic value of what he was doing. Here was the church’s senior bishop, emaciated, poor, and suffering, begging for those in need. Poverty was nothing to be ashamed of, just the opposite. Social pretension was the enemy of true religion, of this Asbury remained sure. Why else limit contributions to a dollar? (American Saint, 396-97).
I think it is interesting that Asbury decided on a method of raising money for a specific project by limiting donations. This seems counter-intuitive to us, and indeed it may be. I’m not suggesting that we follow a similar pattern in our church now, but I do think this example serves to remind us of the importance of every person doing what they can.
The Gospel lesson for this Sunday’s service is the parable of the talents from Matthew 25:14-30. A wealthy master leaves on a journey and puts three of his servants in charge of a vast sum of money. Two of them double it by the time the master returns, but the third servant buries the talent he was given in the ground (out of fear). Many followers of Jesus don’t believe that their gifts–financial or otherwise–are worth much so they decide not to use them or offer them in the service of the Church. This parable, and the example of Asbury’s “mite subscription” serves to remind each of us of the importance of everyone doing their part–no matter how small that may be. Doing small things for the church is just as important as doing large things! Please, think about ways this week that you might be able to accomplish something small for the church. And, thanks for all that you do! It does make a difference.