Stewardship Sermon: Consecration Sunday
As we centre on stewardship today at the end of our stewardship campaign, I want to focus on gratitude.
Firstly, I want to say thank you, and express my gratitude both personally and on behalf of the Board, for your rich contributions to the life of our church family. And I mean that in terms of the gifts and time you share, the talents that you share, the monetary contributions that you make and for you sharing you. There is so much that you do to contribute to the life of our congregation, many things might seem small and unimportant, but everything is important in the grand scheme of things. So, thank you!
Almost all of the stewardship resources say—and in my opinion has become a cliché—that stewardship is “what we do after we say we believe.” I believe this to be passéand old school thinking. It belongs to the old paradigm or way of thinking in the church that suggests that belief is the most important thing about being part of a church community. It followed an old pattern of believing, then behaving appropriately, and only then belonging.
When I was a youngster, we did what we do today—as children we stayed in church for a few minutes and then went to Sunday School. I used to sneak away from Sunday School and go back into the sanctuary to see what was going on. It felt like what was happening in the sanctuary was more important than going to Sunday School—I wanted to belong to the church and participate with the adults. And especially at communion; I wanted to take communion because that seemed important and I wasn’t allowed. It felt like this was what church was and I wanted to be part of it. Fourteen was the age of confirmation for us then. I was 13 and I begged my father to allow me to take confirmation and join the church. He relented much to the chagrin of my older sister who was 14; she didn’t want her younger brother to be with her. It was a big deal to me to get it right, to take confirmation, to join the church officially and to be able to take communion. I felt like I belonged.
I’m not saying that what we believe today is unimportant, but in today’s world, this “believe, behave, belong” has been turned on its head to respond to the desire for belonging. Belonging is important. People are yearning for communities of resistance, communities of peace and hope, communities of love and compassion. People are yearning for communities that speak about something beyond ourselves, something that says, “It’s not just about me.”
Jesus challenged power and this powerful story in John’s gospel contrasts two ways of viewing the world, one about domination and power-over and one about compassion, love and participating in something mystical beyond ourselves. Jesus’ way was one of vulnerability, of tearing down fences that separate people from each other, of creating communities of resistance and love. Jesus embodied this way of being and embodied the resurrection that invites us to centre on life, love and abundance.
As we say in our Church Vision Statement—the statement that will guide our thinking around building and programs, “At Nelson United Church we affirm that we are created as whole beings. We will gather to encounter the mystery of the Spirit and celebrate God’s gift of life.” Today, we celebrate our effort at being a community of light, love and compassion.
There was a lovely statement at the gratefulness.org website; it was made partly in reaction to Black Friday—2 days ago—as a counterpoint to the rampant consumerism of our Western world. The statement was made also partly because of what is believed by Brother David Steindl-Rast and his group. The statement was this
‘Let gratefulness overflow into blessing all around you…’ Allow the great fullness of your heart to be moved by the teachings, inspiration, vision, and impact of grateful living, and offer this work the blessing of your support. Your gift matters and your partnership makes a meaningful difference.
This statement was made as part of the gratefulness.org annual appeal for gifts, but it works for us, too, as we say thank you for your gift to Nelson United Church. And while Brother David didn’t say it on his website, part of our understanding of being followers of Jesus of Nazareth is that Jesus valued people and the importance of all having a place in God’s KinDom of love.
Stewardship is about how we align our values—both as a church community and as individuals within society—with how we spend our time, share our talents and gifts, and give to charities. It is about wholeness and how we want to live our lives. Again, from gratefulness.org, they said this, which I can’t say any better, “In a world that can break our hearts every day, the practice of grateful living supports us to live and act courageously with greater compassion, generosity, and kindness. Ever connected to the wellspring of our core values, we are moved to engage with life—and others—with our hearts wide open and full-blown, protecting what we cherish, nourishing what we appreciate, and taking a stand for the justice and peace that emanate from the bright light of love.” We are followers of the One who turned upside down notions of power and hope; Christ calls us to express our values in what we do in life together and apart.
So, thank you for all you do here at Nelson United Church and also in the many other areas of your life where you share yourself as one who follows Jesus’ Way and embodies God’s love. I’m grateful for you and for this church community. I’m grateful to be in leadership with you and I’m grateful that we together can be a beacon of “peace and justice that emanates the bright light of love.” In a few moments, we will bless our pledges and commitments and even if you haven’t sent anything in, it is a blessing of all the work that we do in the name and power of love and of Jesus the Christ.