Stewardship is everything I do, after I say, ‘I Believe.’
There is a difference here, I promise. Though functionally through the years, stewardship and the annual pledge drive have become best friends in many congregations, I hope we, people of Hope, can embrace our lives of stewardship with a much fuller imagination.
Let’s be honest, filling out a pledge card doesn’t often seem exciting. It gets mailed to our home like the bills we pay (a necessity in these COVID times) and when returned to the church office can seem like a transactional task to cross off our “to do” list. Filling it out isn’t hard, and it’s easy to check the box that says, “no changes” or to fill in the same numbers as years past. Who’s ready to join me in this exciting task! Not yet... Stick with me here, because I believe filling out your annual pledge card can be exciting, a momentary faithful reflection of our whole lives of stewardship. So what exactly is stewardship? Good Question!
Christians have long held two important convictions about creation and our very lives. The first is God created everything and we are stewards of what surrounds us. Scripture is quite direct helping us understand our relationship to the earth. Genesis 1:26 declares humanity has dominion amidst living things, not in the spirit of “plunder and subjugate” but as an ability and power to influence. Taken alongside the human responsibility in chapter 2:15, “to care for and keep it [Garden of Eden/earth/soil],” we realize our role is as caretakers or stewards. Historically, stewards ran the master’s household, which included the family’s economy, kitchen, business affairs, and more. It was the steward’s responsibility to care for and keep the whole health of the enterprise. Similarly, we are stewards of what God has entrusted to us, including our whole selves, our neighbors, our gifts, talents, and treasures.
The second, is that even our very lives do not belong to us. (See Romans 14:7-9) Our lives now belong to Christ who has chosen you and redeemed us, “not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death.” (Apostles Creed, Luther’s Explanation of 2nd Article) Because of what Jesus has done, we respond in thanksgiving! This life lived in thanksgiving is a life of stewardship, as Pastor Jerry Protextor reminded me often, “Stewardship is everything I do, after I say, ‘I Believe.’” This means our many vocations at home, work, school, and community is stewardship. This means our worship, mission, and ministry at Hope is our collective stewardship. As stewards of God’s abundance, graciously given life in Christ, we respond joyfully in gratitude for all God has done.
So how does the annual pledge drive fit in? As we take stock of the life-changing ministry God has entrusted to us as people of Hope, we are invited to discern how we plan to engage this work with our time, talents, and treasures in this coming year. This is good and exciting discernment, knowing we have and continue to faithfully walk alongside young people in our community, minister to the sick, dying, and marginalized, enrich the lives of each other and our neighbors, and touch lives all around the world as the living and breathing body of Christ! Your pledge is one small part of your stewardship of God’s gifts and helps Hope’s leadership plan our mission for the year ahead.
I invite you to enter this discernment with a renewed Spirit and imagination for what God will be up to in and through us in 2022. Look for a mailing early in October to invite you to take this opportunity to dwell on these matters and discuss them as a family. We will have an ingathering of our shared discernment, celebrating all that God has done, is doing, and will continue to do among us on Sunday, October 24 in worship! Bless you all, for in your whole life you steward all that God entrusts to you.