Stewardship is about how we care for and use the gifts God has entrusted to us, gifts given to us as a Parish, and gifts given to us as individuals. Biblical Stewardship is about how we use scripture as our guide.
Although money is involved and is particularly important at various points, Stewardship is most definitely not primarily about money. You could be the financially poorest person you can imagine and still be an effective steward!
Scripture tells us that Jesus frequently employed parables when teaching. In the way in which Jesus chose to use them, parables were way more than stories to engage his audience. They were challenges to encourage his listeners to engage their God-given gifts of the ability to think for themselves and challenge the obvious.
The parable on which we base this Stewardship programme is a parable of this type, usually known as The Parable of the Talents, you can find it in Matthew 25:14-30, and another version is in Luke 19:11-24.
Next the story. A rich man is going on a lengthy business trip, so he gives control of his wealth to his Stewards to look after until he comes back. On his return, he seeks an accounting of what the Stewards had done with his money. Almost all had made profits for the rich man, but one of the Stewards had buried the money to keep it safe and had not used it. When the master returned, he had some very unkind things to say to this Steward!
The point of this parable appears to be that it is wrong for people to ignore the gifts entrusted to them, when by using them, God’s world would be better off. The ‘gifts’ in both versions of this Biblical story are financial (A ‘talent’ was an ancient coin), but as usual with Jesus’ teaching, the principle which the story is getting at, had/has a much wider application than simply money.
Stewardship is everything we think, say, and do after we first say, “I believe in God.” Stewardship is a fact, you took it on at your baptism, and confirmed it each time you repeated the Baptismal Covenant. However, you can choose to be a good, caring, steward, doing the best you can, or you can choose to do nothing. Read the Parable of the Talents carefully! Jesus does not have nice things to say about those who do nothing!
Stewardship is collaboration with God in building the ‘Kingdom of God’ on earth. It takes many forms and could well be described as living a Christian Life, or as we phrase it in our Parish Mission statement, ‘Living Christ in Community.
What do we mean by the “Kingdom of God on Earth”? We pray for it every time we recite the Lord’s Prayer. We are referring to a world of justice and peace, God’s dream for humanity. Every time you make an ethical decision, or smile at the clerk at the grocery store, or phone a lonely shut-in, or vote, you are helping to build God’s Kingdom bit by bit.
So! ‘Doing Something’ is Stewardship, and surprise! God gives us the gifts we need to do this, and giving thanks and using those gifts in God’s service is our gift to God.
As for me, there are many, many things for which I am grateful this Thanksgiving, significant amongst these things is our Church and the community that gathers here.
• I am grateful for you, the people who worship here at St. A’s, as well as our housebound friends. When my life was very dark indeed, I give thanks that God worked through you to heal me with your love. I have seen you do this repeatedly with other hurting people, giving hope and comfort and a glimpse of a better future.
• I am grateful for your open minds, your courage, and your willingness to explore different ideas, all this whilst keeping your closeness as a community.
• I am grateful for being a part of a community which cares generously for people: people nearby and people on the other side of the world - people we will probably never meet. I am inspired by your generosity with time, money, and encouragement, as you respond to everything from the needs of the Food Bank, to support for African Grandmothers. Your admirable actions contribute to making God’s ongoing dream of a fairer, more just world, a reality.
• I am grateful for the ministries of our church and for the clergy God has lovingly placed in our midst. These people continue to inspire, support, and strengthen me in ways I find it hard to describe or understand, I can only experience and give thanks. I am also grateful for our liturgy, music, and scriptures, and that through them, God speaks to, strengthens, and guides me.
• I am grateful for the vision of the people of St. A’s, and the courage, hard work, and generosity that that have led to the development of our Kid’s Programme, the Memorial Garden, the ‘magical’ transformation of the annex, the beautification of our lower hall, and many other things.
• I am also grateful for our beautiful sanctuary, being in it is like reaching an oasis of tranquility, a holy space. I am thankful for the focus and comfort this brings and the way it opens my mind and heart to experience God.
• I am grateful for those who volunteer, who by their incredible gifts of time and skill, enable our parish to fulfil its role. I am also grateful that your generosity extends to gifts of money, which also enables our parish to serve God and care for God’s people.
• I am grateful that God has led me to this community where I am confident of being supported and loved, even during times of tragedy or calamity.
All these things and many more gifts, strengthen and inspire me as I try to do my part in growing God’s Kingdom here on earth. I thank God for this support, and I vow to use my thankfulness to the glory of God and in service to God’s people. Happy Thanksgiving Val McCormack
Next Time: A look at what we are doing to collaborate with God in building the Kingdom! What do we need to continue doing this? Could we do more? How can we all help? Remember! Parties, social events, hospitality and having fun are part of the Kingdom too!