October 23 Sermon

So You Thought Stewardship Was Done?
A reflection by Rev. Dr. Thom Bower
For October 23, 2016, the30th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Based on Luke 18:9-14

Jesus contrasts two characters in this parable. Tax collectors were the ultimate outsiders. They were collaborators with the Romans and because of their frequent contact with Gentiles were very often ritually unclean and therefore frequently unable to participate in temple worship. The Pharisees, on the other hand, dedicated themselves to the purity laws and temple worship.

Last week we collected and dedicated pledge cards. But that’s that the end of stewardship: stewardship is so much more than a few weeks each fall. Stewardship is how we use any and all of our resources in service to the church to promote God’s realm of love, justice, mercy, and grace.

Stewardship is how we use our church building and land. Stewardship is how we use our homes and business places. Stewardship is how we use our automobiles and bicycles. Stewardship is how we use our computers and cell phones. Stewardship is how we talk to one another. Stewardship is how we greet one another. Stewardship is how we challenge one another.

Stewardship is how we pool our resources for the good of all. Stewardship is how we work together. Stewardship is how we invite others to work alongside us. Stewardship is how we worship. Stewardship is how we invite others to worship with us. (In worship, a video about inviting others to church was played. You can see it here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=lzrP1DNd0L0 ).

Stewardship is how we imagine the church should be. Stewardship is how we make decisions together, which means stewardship is how we conduct our politics. Stewardship is how we vote and, perhaps more significantly this year, Stewardship is how we talk about politics. A colleague from seminary[1] has been preaching a series “How to be non-toxic in a toxic election year.” I wish I thought of that.

I will gladly talk politics with you, but you have to know one of my ground rules: before we begin we must both commit that when the conversation ends we will continue to love one another in the name of Christ and pray for one another’s well-being, no matter how much we disagree.

Last weekend Nayna, Wilma, and I attended to fall meeting of the FVA and CMA. The keynote speaker was Father Michael Flagler. Father Flagler said he was surprised one day during his morning prayers to hear himself sincerely thanking God for this year’s presidential campaigns. God can use anybody for revelation, and God has been using this year’s candidates to reveal America’s hatred and greed and malice and suspicion and systemic injustice and systemic abuses and ways our cultural patterns systematically benefit some and penalize others – all of which are things that we as a culture have been trying to ignore.

Stewardship is how we pray for our enemies and how we pray for our friends. Stewardship is how we love one another, especially when we disagree. Stewardship is how we allow our attention to be grabbed, directed, focused – which means stewardship is about the television shows we watch, the music we listen to, the websites we visit, the books and blogs we read, the advertisements we linger over, the restaurants we linger within, the celebrities we linger upon.

Stewardship is how we dream about justice, and stewardship is how we act in order to make the world more just. Stewardship is how we manage all of our resources – the physical resources, the emotional resources, the financial resources, the relational resources – in order to promote God’s realm of love, justice, mercy, and grace. So, even though we have collected and dedicated this year’s pledge cards, stewardship is hardly over. Stewardship is how we live.

[1] Don Wallick

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