I haven't written about stewardship in some time, and I find it shows. I had quite a struggle with this. I still can write easily and clearly about why we should give, and how we need to think of more than just money in our giving; about how we are called to give the first of our time and our talents, as well as our treasure. But there is a problem. This is the wrong audience. This isn't a congregation far more devoted to the money in its investment accounts than to our Lord Jesus. This isn't a congregation so mired in the theology of scarcity that they cannot give more than lip-service to trusting in God to provide. I can still compose the messages that that congregation needed, but didn't want, to hear. But what can I say about stewardship to a congregation that is already pretty much doing it right? To a congregation that actually trusts each other and trusts in God?
We know that stewardship isn't a season. Looking at the liturgical calendar, we find no dollar signs in the weeks preceding Advent. We know that the obligations of our ministry and our building last the entire year. We know that our worship and our ministries cannot take place without the giving of our time and our talents. Most importantly, we know that we are the stewards of the ministry of St. Michael's. If we don't do it, no one else will. Others can help, as the diocese has been helping to sustain us, but that help has been offered only because there is a dedicated community of the faithful here to carry on. The faithfulness of those of us here brought that helping hand that has given us the chance to continue. Those in the diocesan office, and the other congregations of the diocese cannot carry out the ministry of the Church here in Lincoln Park. Only we can.
St. Teresa of Avila famously taught “Christ has no body now on earth but yours.” We are the hands, the feet, the eyes, the ears, and the speech. Through the Tuesday Club, the Kiddie Karnival, the Trunk or Treat party, the Hay Ride, the Adult Dinner Group, the Mud Hens games, Lincoln Park Days, the Bible study, and on and on, we are Christ's body in this place. We both serve Jesus in those who are in any sort of need, and we represent Jesus to them. We know we can't do that by only giving money. It takes a direct interaction of one person to another.
I have been twice blessed to have found the company of truly loving communities of the faithful. Eight years ago, while struggling as a leader of a church that was literally tearing itself apart, and nearly destroying my faith in the process, I found a small congregation of people who truly cared for each other, with no taboo secrets, no habits of sabotage, and no sacred calf. There, my service became one of joy, rather than just an understanding of duty. Just over two years ago, when my family situation brought me Downriver, I was stopped at the light here at Fort and Champaign, and out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the Episcopal shield. I didn't know there was an Episcopal Church here. A quick look on the website of the Diocese of Michigan gave me information, and I was here the next Sunday. Here I found the same feeling of love and welcome I knew at the church I was leaving. A red light brought me here. The rest of you, sharing the love of Jesus, made it clear I was meant to stay. That is my reason for being a proud steward of the Lord's Church in this place, and to serve as my gifts will allow. Deep inside, we each know why we are here, and why we answer that call in this place. “Christ has no body now on earth but ours.”
October 25, 2015