Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
This week we will have a guest preacher and guide, a well-known and respected Episcopal priest on the topic of stewardship. He will be with the Vestry all weekend and be with the community at church on Sunday. We hope great new learnings and understandings evolve from this weekend and that we will be transformed.
"Oh, if I could only win the lottery!" I can't tell you how many times I have heard parishioners or friends say this. Yes, it would be great, but only for a time. Sooner or later things would become worse...not better. Why?, because stewardship is a transformation of thinking, acting, feeling, not just giving. Wishful thinking is not a bad thing, but it is a poor substitute for determination and creativity. Results come not because of what we wish, but because of what we do with what we have.
Immediately preceding the events of Christ's Passion and in response to his disciples' question about when the end of the world will come, he shifts their focus from trying to find some certainty of timing to being prepared at all times. Indeed, the pithy sayings and detailed parables that run through this section of Matthew were reminders to the disciples then-and to us now-that the role of the steward is one of intentional activity on behalf of the One who has entrusted us with gifts and called us to make wise investments with those gifts.
Now, investing is serious business! Investors, home based and professional, find themselves at the mercy of the financial market's volubility. Savvy investors know that there is no "sure thing." They understand risk. Elsewhere in the Gospels, Jesus urges his followers to be as shrewd as serpents while at the same time remaining as innocent as doves. Followers of Christ know that their gifts, their time, their money, their lives are not really their own. They are not owners, but stewards, and one day they will have to account for how they invested all that with which God has entrusted them. Courageous Christians like Francis of Assisi, Dorothy Day, and Oscar Romero experienced firsthand the risks involved in following Christ...but they also acknowledged that the payoff in long-term investment in the Reign of God is worth all the risks, and so they made every word and every action count.
One of this nation's most celebrated speeches, offered during the bleakest days of the Great Depression, began by asserting that the "only thing we have to fear is fear itself." It is a line that is, of course, almost universally familiar. The rest of President Roosevelt's first inaugural address is far less well known, including his contention that the distress felt by many "comes from no failure of substance." Indeed, he asserted, "we are stricken by no plague of locusts...plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply." I am often reminded that as Christians we must move from a position of scarcity to that of abundance. To make this transition is to move, as Paul said to the believers in Rome, from being "conformed to the patterns of this world to being transformed by the renewing of the mind." It is, in other words, an intentional decision of discipleship, not an inevitable result of circumstances.
So then, where do we make our investments? Into what do we pour our hearts and souls? The answer is found in the tale of the sheep and the goats. We learn that we are called to invest our time and energy and money in the lives of the people whom God brings before us, including, as the Prayer Book says, "all those whom it would be easy to forget. Sometimes they are truly "the least of these," hungry, sick, in prison. Sometimes they are our peers, our neighbors and co-workers, hungry in heart, soul-sick, and imprisoned in regret and guilt. We are called to be stewards not just of checkbooks and calendars, but of one another. Indeed, commitments of money and time will follow.
So, go and be bold, be creative, be determined, and most of all be stewards who know that it really is about the relationships to which God calls us and brings us; transformative relationships that, in turn, transforms the world more than any lottery ticket.
See ya Sunday!
Blessings & Peace,
All Saints Messenger >