Over the years I have heard many things said about stewardship and the practice of stewardship described in various ways. Most often, I have heard stewardship being brought out of the closet and dusted off for the annual giving campaign. It is time once again for people to re-up their pledge to the parish so out comes the idea of stewardship to make an appearance in sermons, parish announcements, newsletters, letters from annual pledge drive committees and so forth. During that season of stewardship, we often hear about something called a tithe and perhaps that the Biblical standard is a 10% tithe. Is that 10% of the gross or net, of earned income or all assets? I let all that wash over me without wondering if anything I knew about stewardship was correct.
Most fundamentally, stewardship is how we respond at all times to God’s gracious gift of all we have. Yes, those gifts include our money and our time and our talents. But that is not everything. It also includes the people in our lives, our relationships, our own being, the things in the world around us, and all else we can imagine. Stewardship is about embracing all that God has given as unmerited gift and then responding to that deep understanding with the greatest degree of gratitude possible. As gifts given, as unmerited gifts given, we are challenged to use those gifts in response to God’s love for us. A grateful person, one who embraces the fact that all they have is the product of God’s grace, is one who gives freely and generously, not calculating percentages or the difference between gross and net income, nor thinking solely in terms of time, talent, and treasure. Knowing that God is the source of our gifts, and trusting that God both has provided and will provide again, should be sufficient to overcome fears that if we are generous in giving we will not have enough for our own needs. The truth is that when our hands are tightly closed around the gifts we have received we can neither share those gifts as they were meant to be shared nor can we receive the more that God is always pouring out upon God’s people and all of creation.
We are a parish that has been given much and with grateful hearts gives generously to support this church and its many, many ministries. The words of scripture tell us that having been entrusted with much, much more will be asked of us. I invite all members of this parish to reflect in this post-Pentecost season of growth on the gifts they have been given and how they express their gratitude for those gifts. Developing an attitude of gratitude and increasing our generosity now will prepare us for the time when much more will be asked of us.
With gratitude for the gift of you,