- Susanne Hayman
Dear Family and Friends of St. Paul’s,
Some of you have heard me say that I was last in line to receive a vestry assignment and am stewardship chair because it was the only job left (it has a popularity problem?). At the time I felt God’s often ironic (sometimes seemingly wicked?) sense of humor. Stewardship, proportional giving, tithing, planned giving…such big left-brained words. And all these are associated with that uncomfortable, socially impolite word: money. Stewardship was not the assignment I would choose if given my way.
It was time to dig deeper. What did I know about stewardship? Right away I thought of my grandfather who was an exemplary steward of everything he owned, his time, his talents, his treasure. I used to tell him in jest that if something didn’t move it got painted. His tools were always clean and sharp. He freely maintained the churchyard of his boyhood church for over 60 years, even after the church was torn down in the 1960s. The churchyard was always immaculate. I remembered my childhood mite box and how good it felt to present it on Easter morning full of coins. Then there is the old apple tree in my yard and how much I enjoy canning applesauce from the tree’s fruit. I couldn’t really find anything uncomfortable in my own experiences of stewardship. Actually, there seemed to be an uplifting common denominator: love. A shift happened from the head to the heart.
“Mr. Webster” tells us that “stewardship” means quite simply the management of someone else’s property. Scripture proclaims everything belongs to God: “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” (Psalm 24:1).
Nothing we have in this material world, including our bodies and spiritual gifts, is really ours to begin with. In the processes of worldly living we get confused and lose sight of our roles as stewards. We emphasize accumulation. God emphasizes distribution. We emphasize ownership. God emphasizes stewardship. Our role is to manage what is God’s, to the glory of God. This includes not only “our” material assets and possessions; it’s also about giving our time and talents. It’s about volunteering for ministry and mission. It’s about reaching out to others from a perspective of abundance as opposed to scarcity (consider the loaves and fishes).
Jesus teaches us in Matthew 6:21 that “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Interestingly, in the context of Jesus’ words, “money” loses its negative connotation and gains something holy. (Yes, even money can be holy if we manage it as God wishes). In a modern, worldly context my checkbook ledger hints at being a theological document because it tells me who and what I love.
I enjoyed greatly Father Sam’s expression “ain’t we some lucky.” After being assigned the stewardship job, the last job I would have chosen, I’ve moved from grumpy to “ain’t I some lucky.” It has been a joyful shift from head to a more generous heart. Now please stay tuned to St. Paul’s 2015 stewardship program and information in the coming weeks about November 1st, Commitment Sunday.
Yours in Christ,