This message also appears in the October 2015 Chimer, our newsletter.
Dear St. John’s,
It’s finally fall! I’m so glad to be here at St. John’s to share it with you. Though I know some of you are missing the hot and steamy weather already, I am not sorry to see it go. Fall brings crisp air, brilliant colors, fresh cider, crock-pot cooking, and the increasingly ubiquitous flavors of pumpkin spice.
In many congregations, fall also brings stewardship season and money talk. Say the word “stewardship” and many church people cringe, since talking about money in church is often an uncomfortable and awkward task. The reality is that while congregations like ours rely on contributions from members and friends to make ends meet, stewardship is a spiritual practice that offers us a way to grow in faith as individuals and as a church community.
Though the immediate connotations of the word “stewardship” may be “church fundraising,” the word itself refers to caretaking, carefully nurturing and protecting something that is not our own until the time comes to return it to its owner. As Christian stewards, we believe that all of creation belongs to God, but we also know that God has entrusted us with skills, talents, abilities, and the resources that sustain our lives – including money. Stewardship points to the bond of trust and love between God and us. God knows we are imperfect, but God trusts us enough to make our own decisions about the use of our resources. Throughout the Bible, God and Jesus call us to serve others even at great cost to ourselves, but while they urge God’s people to support those in need with our resources, they leave it up to us to make the connection between our free time or our bank accounts and the disadvantaged in our cities, our country, and our world.
For the first three Sundays in October, we will spend some time talking about stewardship during worship. We will read stories from the Bible that help us to see how God’s people have engaged their faith and their resources. The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) shows us the people’s practice of offering the first yield of their crops to the altar of God and requires that farmers avoid harvesting the corners of their fields, leaving some food available to impoverished gleaners. In the New Testament, Jesus talks about money more than almost any other topic, offering comfort to the poor and challenging the wealthy to use their resources differently. The book of Acts and some of the epistles give us a window into the lives of the earliest Christians, who pooled their resources and collected contributions to support people in need. The collection of an offering was one of the earliest components of Christian worship.
It is not easy to talk about our money and what we do with it. Our choices are highly personal. Still, they affect us as people of faith individually and communally. This October, I invite you to join the St. John’s community in thinking more deeply about stewardship as our joyful response to God’s abundance, not as a burden or obligation. Sometimes, you will find affirmation or reassurance; at other times, you may find the conversation challenging. Above all, we will celebrate God’s harvest, the great bounty of time, talent, and treasure of which we are stewards.
Pastor Linnéa Clark