Dear Parish Faithful,
The last few meditations or reflections that I have shared with the parish have been concerned with Baptism, as we are celebrating the Lord’s baptism in the Jordan. We need to be mindful that in and through Baptism we become members of the Church – the Body of Christ. This is a gift, and an unmerited privilege; and that means that it also entails a great responsibility for each of us. That responsibility can be summarized by the biblical term stewardship. The Lord has given us the responsibility to take care of and nurture His Church. The Church is protected and preserved by God until the end of time. The “gates of hell” will not prevail against the Church. We believe this “promise” from Christ Himself. And yet there is a human – even institutional dimension – to the Church that we must care for. There exists a concrete, practical side to the Church that cannot be ignored. Beyond that, we bring the Gospel to the world in and through our stewardship of that gift. And we do this on a local, parish level. Here is where our stewardship “kicks in” and in the process we reveal just how much we do care about the well-being of the local parish that we attend, worship in, are educated in, and raise our children and grandchildren in; by the extent to which we are willing to assume our share in supporting the parish financially.
As we continue to explore the many dimensions of Christian stewardship this year, I came across two very challenging paragraphs written by Fr. Anthony Scott, found in a book entitled Good and Faithful Servant – Stewardship in the Orthodox Church. Fr. Anthony has spent years trying to develop an Orthodox approach to stewardship, so that the faithful of the Church will begin to practice stewardship with an enlightened mind and a generous heart. These two paragraphs are taken from his essay “Orthodox America: Philanthropy and Stewardship.” As I said, these paragraphs are challenging – even blunt – in how they impel us to think of our priorites and the “important things” in our lives:
Stewardship is not about raising money. Stewardship is a powerful tool to engender personal spiritual development. Similarly, capital campaigns are not about constructing a hall or new church or establishing an endowment; capital campaigns are really about community spiritual development. People care about what they give to. When people give meaningfully, they care meaningfully. Conversely, when people do not give at all or when they give minimally, they do not care at all or care minimally.
The Lord understood human nature so very well when he taught: “Where your treasure is; there is your heart” (MT. 6:21). Jesus did not reverse this and say, “Where your heart is, there is your treasure.” Who, having purchased stock in a company, bought a home, or acquired a car, does not monitor the stock regularly, attend to repairs in the home, or take the car in for regular maintenance? After a person had made a meaningful charitable investment in the life and mission of the parish, that church suddenly becomes my church. Those who have made personally significant gifts to the church tend to read the bulletin more assiduously, visit their investment more frequently, and listen more attentively when people talk about the church. Interestingly, most will tolerate no unjustified criticism of the church, because, after all, it has now become their church.Good and Faithful Servant – Stewardship in the Orthodox Church, p. 203.
Again, something to think about.