So now I bring the first of the fruit of the ground, that you, O Lord, have given me…set it down before the Lord your God and bow before the Lord… [Deuteronomy 26:10]
How shall I repay the Lord for all the good things he has done for me? [Psalm 116:10]
For the essential question is not, “How shall the Episcopal Church grow?” - but rather, “How can the Episcopal Church be faithful?” For that is the heritage worth sacrificing for - worth passing on to our children and grandchildren. God forbid that they should come to a time and place unashamed of the Gospel, but ashamed of us. [Former Presiding Bishop John Hines]
*The Season of Creation originated in the Anglican Church of South Africa and was formalized in 2008. Designed for us to explore our faith from a Creation perspective, we use Biblical and other readings pertaining to the specific theme for each of the 7 weeks. Alternate readings used are posted with asterisk.
Click here for more information about: Season of Creation ~ In The Beginning
Week Vs Theme is: Our Role as Stewards
We also hear of Stewardship as an element to church growth. Our past Presiding Bishop Hines wrote that while he would rejoice at a multitude of conversions, his hope was for a witnessing community of unquestioned integrity. Further, he says (to imagined groans from the Finance Chair), that the essential question is not, ‘How can the Episcopal Church [insert other denomination or faith community here] grow?’ but rather, ‘How can the Episcopal Church [other denomination] be faithful?’ He tells us that if we want our heritage passed on to younger generations they should come to a time and place unashamed of the Gospel [emphasis added]. We do not want them ashamed of us for creating an exclusive place only for wielding power and influence and losing our way to Christ.
The Rev. Eric Law, in his book Holy Currencies: 6 Blessings for Sustainable Missional Ministries, shows us a different way to think about the flow of currencies in our lives. Within the usual offerings of time, talent, and treasure is contained a breadth and depth of re-imagining and discovering our personal gifts for ministry that take us well beyond the scope of a seasonal directive. Stewardship ~ Missional Ministry ~ is not merely a specific program for a specific time of year, but rather it is a way of life through which we continue to fulfill our Baptismal, Confirmation, and/or less formal vows to be faithful to God.
As John Wesley said, "Not, how much money will I give to God, but how much of God's money will I keep for myself?" And that equation works equally well with the other two elements of the stewardship trio: time and talent. I don't know what tomorrow will bring for my community, my country, or this world, but I will pray without ceasing for the faith, the energy, mindset, to be a continuously generous person, to be the Church [capital "C"] as a Christian in the world with many stewarding roles. A faith community builds us up and sends us out and needs our support in every way. The CHURCH is not inside a building, it is in whatever we do together and on our own, to be true, faithful witnesses as part of the Body of Christ by every thought, word, and action. That said, the physical church is a place to gather and be spiritually refueled to take on all that is outside and it does require ongoing sources of funding as well as other resources for all of the seen and unseen support it provides.
Jesus reminds us, that through faithful endurance, in giving and receiving, we will gain the strength of our souls to ensure our eternal bounty.
**Reading #2: A Reading from Former Presiding Bishop John E. Hines:
LET US, GOD’S PEOPLE, PRAY
Leader: ~ O Lord our God, re-awaken us to the bounty of Your Creation, the miracle of this earth and its treasures. Let us, and all who reside among us, celebrate and offer ourselves as grateful stewards of this sacred trust in times of plenty and also in time of hardship.
~ O Lord our God, we lift up our prayers for all who lead this World, this Country, and this Community by election, fiat, or inheritance. Implant in their souls a deepening hunger for unquestionable integrity, global and local peace, and justice tempered with mercy for all the people everywhere. We pray especially for: add your own petitions
~ O Lord our God, nestle the aching, the fearful, and the desperate in Your loving embrace, and revitalize all who support their needs. We now join our hearts to pray aloud for those in need… add your own petitions
~ O Lord our God, grant us a foretaste of the joy, as the Heavenly gates open for our beloved, who now live in glory in Your Eternal land of milk and honey. We pray especially for…add your own petitions