Monday, October 9, 2017

What Kind of Stewards Are We?

Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. Francis Episcopal Church, Goldsboro, NC, 8 Oct. 2017, Proper 22

Year A RCL: Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20; Psalm 19; Philippians 3:4b-14; Matthew 21:33-46

The kingdom of God will be given to people who produce the fruits of the kingdom.
What are the fruits of God's kingdom? Love. Joy. Peace. Justice. Mercy. Unity. Wholeness.
Notice these fruits in the 10 commandments in our reading from Exodus: One God: unity; sabbath rest: peace; honor parents: love; no murder, adultery, stealing, lying: justice & mercy; no coveting: wholeness & joy.

What do you notice about punishment? [People at both worship services search the text & discover...] There is NO mention of punishment! [….except re God not acquitting us for misusing God's name].
The 10 statements, as they are also called, as the term Decalogue indicates1 & as the Jewish Study Bible notes, are about right relationships.

When we focus on relationship with God, other relationships can be positive. Our unity & wholeness reflect the Unity of God the Holy Trinity.
In our Gospel, we see people fail in relationship. Jesus shows us the essence of God's kingdom is deeper than just following rules.
Living the statements in all aspects of our lives is a form of stewardship, keeping our day-to-day living centered on God.

Jesus tells this parable to teach people [who think they have it made & are comfortable ignoring needs of other people] that relationship with God is part of all aspects of our lives. 
Think how familiar we are with electric lights. We may not think much about them, as Sermons4Kids points out. 
My husband & I are more aware now because we have so many where we live now & have broken some.2 We don't fret. We get another bulb.
This wasn't always simple for people, as this story about Thomas Edison tells us:3

Edison's inventing the light bulb required a team working 24 hours to create just one bulb. When finished, Edison “gave [the bulb] to a young boy to carry upstairs. Step by careful step he carried it, afraid...he might drop this priceless piece of work.”4 He reaches the top step & drops it! It takes the team another 24 hours to make a new bulb.
Tired & ready for a break, Edison is ready to have this new bulb taken upstairs to test. He gives it to the same boy!
What forgiveness!
What opportunity to redeem a mistake!5
What grace!
God offers us this kind of forgiveness.

Edison shows the difference between our living in the dollar-for-work-kingdom & our living in relationship in God's kingdom, where Love, Joy, Peace, Justice, Mercy, Unity, Wholeness, are gifts God gives us.
We don't earn them like we earn when we sell our time & skills in the workplace.
Offering a person such grace is a form of stewardship.
Our relationships are to be honest, open, God-centered in all aspects of our lives, including our $. God calls us to be a people who produce fruits of the kingdom.

Our financial contributions & stewardship of our assets are essential to producing fruit.
Like the young boy facing a challenge, we are a young congregation without a large financial endowment to offset cash shortfalls. We do see this challenge in our Vestry financial updates. We do practice good stewardship here, caring for our physical & financial assets.6

Living in wholeness means I have to be like a monk in an article I read7 & frankly ask for money for this Body of Christ at this time of our annual giving campaign, which helps us have a sound financial plan to live by in 2018.

Unlike congregations which have been around a long time & have strong legacy funds to rely on in a shortfall, we are young & have fewer years of building up financial resources. In our 53 years, we have been responsible & wise caring for our assets.

Our stewardship requires wisdom, discipline & trust to meet practical expenses for lights & water & light bulbs, & support of our Diocese through which we serve Jesus beyond our county lines.
Stewardship helps us deepen our relationship with God.

What price do you put on your church?8 What value do you put on your relationship here? As the monk asked, I ask you: 
“Please pray to God, &
between you & God figure out 
what is right for you.
Thank you."

Coats, James. “God’s Economy.” Accessed: 6 Oct. 2017.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Harper’s Bible Dictionary. General Ed.: Paul J. Achtemeier. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1971.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Howard, Ken. “An Experiment: Year Round Stewardship”. Accessed: 6 Oct. 2017.  Accessed: 6 Oct. 2017.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society Tanakh Translation.New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Last of All He Sent His Son”. Accessed: 5 Oct. 2017.
Levenson, Jon D. Sinai & Zion: An Entry into the Jewish Bible. Minneapolis: Winston Press. 1985.
The New American Bible for Catholics. South Bend: Greenlawn Press. 1986.
New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocrypha. Herbert G. May, Bruce M. Metzger, eds. New York: Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 1977.

1 Jewish Study Bible. P. 148.
2 Idea from “Last of All He Sent His Son”. Accessed: 5 Oct. 2017.
3 Ibid.
4 Ibid.
5 Ibid.
6 Note: Influenced by James Coats article, “God’s Economy.” Accessed: 6 Oct. 2017.
7 Ibid.

8 Ibid. Paraphrase.

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