Monday, November 14, 2011

"Stewardship" Revisited

A new (or old!) kind of stewardship letter:

As you may know, we are in the throes of our “not-a-stewardship-campaign campaign.”  I wanted to take an opportunity to write to you, in addition to the communication we’ve been doing in the Sunday service, to talk about our campaign. 

Our central text for this year is Mark 10:17-27, the story of Jesus’ interaction with a rich young man.  The man asks Jesus what he must do to be saved; a question that we all ask ourselves with regularity!  But far from talking about faith in God or dependence on Jesus, Jesus talks to the man about his money.  The man who wants to know how to be saved says he’s been keeping the commandments (you shall not murder, commit adultery, steal, bear false witness, defraud…and you shall honor your father and your mother) since his youth.  He’s basically telling Jesus that those things are easy!  Child’s play!

So Jesus says, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”  Mark says that the man was shocked to hear this, “and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.”

Often, churches want to talk about stewardship during this time of year, and suggest ways in which you, the member, can be a good steward.  Many churches use the “tithe,” or 10% of income, as the standard of “good” stewardship.

What is important for us is that Jesus doesn’t ask this rich young man for 10%.  He doesn’t ask him for 25%.  He doesn’t even ask him for 50%.  He asks him for everything!  Apparently, for Jesus, the standard for “good” stewardship is nothing less than every stitch of clothing on your back and every stick of furniture in your house.  You can’t claim to be a good steward until you’ve given everything away to follow Christ.

We might well echo the disciples, who, upon hearing this, whispered to one another, “Then who can be saved?”  Who can be good enough?  Who can be a good steward?  Jesus’ response contains some of the most comforting words in all of scripture:  “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

As you look at your pledge form and think and pray about your support for your church, remember that it’s not about maintaining your good standing with God.  If it was, the only acceptable pledge would be 100%!  I don’t know about you, but I’m going to come up short of that standard.  It is impossible for us to be good stewards! 

That’s why we’re calling this a “not-a-stewardship-campaign campaign.”  We’re not trying to be good stewards.  The standard is too high.  So with the pressure to be good removed, think about what you actually want to give.  Think about the programs of your parish that excite you.  Think about the proclamation of the Gospel and the great things that the Good News can do for your community.  Think about the support your friends and family there provide.  Pray about God’s leading in this area.  Just know, as you consider your giving of your time, talent, and your treasure, that your relationship with God is secure in the gift of Jesus Christ, not in the size of your pledge. 

“For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

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