I’ve been dreaming about writing a sermon. I doubt that’s a common dream for most of us. Perhaps many of us, myself included, don’t quite know where we would begin. This sermon just sprang forth in a dream which is now coming true. It is about our Ministry in Stewardship.
You heard the story this morning about the famous wedding at Cana where Jesus was in attendance. The host ran out of wine. You may know the term: Wine Steward. In a fine restaurant, the Wine Steward, selects wine, samples it from a little cup called a degustation and then gives a taste to the primary guest and hopes he or she will say “wonderful, you may serve it”. On this wedding day, though, Jesus was the ultimate wine steward. He turned pitchers of clear plain water into fine wine. This feat saved the day and impressed the guests as typically fine wine, we are told, was served first and the cheap stuff was brought out only when guests were too inebriated to notice the switch or care. The host’s reputation was saved on this important wedding day.
Stepping back into this sanctuary, imagine Jesus here with us. With the intentional giving packages just released to members, the time has come to have a sit-down with … Jesus. It’s a personal conversation to be sure. I don’t think I’ve ever done an adequate job of praying about this, but I will this time. You see, since I volunteered to be Stewardship Coordinator, I’ve noticed a shift in myself about money for God’s work.
This is where I feel: if only we could have a good old fashioned conversation with each other about this subject – open the door to ideas and ways of seeing money - as something precious we are giving back to God. It’s not easy, though, is it? We New Englanders are pretty private folk. It wouldn’t surprise me, if we were brave enough to have such a chat, a lot of excellent perspectives and ideas would come from it and our stewardship generosity would undoubtedly be embraced differently than simply “giving a portion” back to God.
Stewardship, we all know, is not just about financial generosity. In an email from Rev. Mary, she counseled me that, indeed, “we are called to turn water into wine in the church by: responding to one another, to mission, and to service by being generous participants in its life.” Further, she said, “This will look different for each one of us, according to our spiritual gifts and our decision about what amount of giving we decide upon.
Then Mary said: “We are called to that extra step – when the wine is about to run out, as it were, the CELEBRATION we call the CHURCH depends upon our ingenuity and generosity to keep the wine flowing.
Money, predictable, dependable, promised pledge money has value beyond measure – especially when your promise and mine join together for our shared vision and mission.
God’s gift of money given thru you to this amazing church, our church, reaches within these walls to bring us rich spiritual training and support through Mary’s grace-filled sermons, through George and Marion Blomster’s thought provoking probing study of the Holy Bible every Tuesday noon. Church folk and community friends feel it when they come through the doors for weddings, communion, baptisms, membership, funerals. Parents and children feel it when they feel safe and enjoy Church School and Vacation Bible School here. Parish Helpers enjoy fellowship, fun and philanthropy back to the church! Weight Watcher folks, Girl Scouts, String Band all bring the community inside these walls. The space is sacred and you know it when you go up the steps and feel the welcome of our congregation – people of faith, all on a journey together and alone.
Every person who comes thru these doors and sits where you and I sit, takes a value away.
It’s hard to quantify, but I believe in my heart it is CUMULATIVE. Every experience feeds me, comforts me, challenges me, changes me.
And beyond this precious building, so in need of attention, we have an unknowable reach in being Good Stewards of God’s word. Visitors come back, vacationers faithfully swell our numbers in summer, travelers walk over from the Wakefield Inn and are given the gift of welcome – a warm and spirited welcome.
The church at Rufimiso, the orphans of the FOOT program, the school children in Dzika, know our love. A minister in Zimbawbe now gets from place to place on my dear sister, Elizabeth’s, bicycle instead of on foot. They will never meet, but the reach is clear.
Folks in need of nourishment find it at the Wakefield Food Pantry – a place many of us volunteer and more still support it with donations of food and money.
Then there is the Feddern /Diaconate Discretionary Fund. A hand up and a bridge, not a hand out. And the Good Shepherd program provides volunteer drivers to doctor appointments and is organized within this congregation. The reach of being a Good Steward goes far beyond our members and leaves the mark of warmth and acceptance.
No surprise to anyone, we are a generous people. I submit that we are good Stewards of money given. I am excited by the visionary plans each Ministry has developed and are now reflected in the proposed budget you have just received.
I am hope-filled that you will have a conversation with Jesus this week. Discern what you will give back to God and write it on your Intentional Giving Card. And remember, you are loved and valued beyond measure. Be a Good Steward. Honor and Live the Legacy to keep the generosity … and wine flowing.