During my years as a pastor (especially the earlier ones) there was a time of year that was traditionally known for delivering sermons on stewardship. This usually occurred during the fall, when church finance committees were about the work of constructing the following year’s budget, but every Sunday gave me an opportunity to remind worshipers of the church’s need of their support.
When the time came in the Sunday worship service to take up the collection, I tried to remind the congregation that the collection consisted of three kinds of donations: there were gifts (the giving that was not quite ten percent), tithes (the ten-percent mentioned in the Bible), and offerings (giving beyond the ten percent), and so would invite worshipers to prepare their hearts as we received our morning “gifts, tithes, and offerings.” At some point it occurred to me that “gifts, tithes, and offerings” could be abbreviated to G, T, O (bringing to mind the model of Pontiac automobile that was popularized by Ronnie and the Daytonas in their hit song, “Little GTO”). It was during those years that I preached a stewardship sermon with that title. The sermon attempted to clarify the different kinds of donations a church might find in its offering plates.
While reminiscing about this the other day, another obsolete abbreviation came to mind: TWA, or Trans World Airlines, which was in business until 2019. As I thought about it, it occurred to me that TWA could also apply to a faith concern: thoughts, words, and actions, probably the three main ways we are tempted to sin.
How often do we hear the pastor pray for forgiveness for the sins we commit “in thought, word, and deed [actions]?” The 1965 Book of Worship of the Methodist Church (three years before the denomination became the United Methodist Church) contains the ritual for “The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion.” The prayer of confession in this ritual contains the line:
We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, which we from time to time most grievously have committed, by thought, word, and deed, against thy divine majesty.
By substituting “action” for “deed” we return to the TWA abbreviation.
So, the church has been aware of these three means of committing sin for decades (dare I say millennia?).
The point is that applying “TWA” to “thoughts, words, and actions” means that this is one airline we DON’T want to fly!! Thoughts, words, and actions are not inherently bad, of course. We need to be able to think, speak, and do things – hopefully, good things. But, being human, even these good, God-given attributes can occasionally let us down and lead us where we know we shouldn’t go.
The next time we feel tempted to fly TWA (the sinful TWA, that is), we should ask for a transfer to another airline. Like, maybe, “Spirit?”