I have the EXTREME pleasure of being a pastoral intern at two different churches in North Dakota. One of my congregations is a fairly large congregation, and the other is a small, mission start congregation. I absolutely love them both, and am learning SO much. The job is also far more fun and fulfilling for me than I ever thought possible. As a part of my internship duties, I get to write an article for the monthly newsletters. They're usually titled "Trish's Topics," but this month, at the bigger church, my supervisor (The Administrative Pastor) said I could write the front page article regarding stewardship. The seminary asks us to focus a bit on stewardship during our internship year, so this is a good thing. The following is my "Stewardship" article.
November Newsletter Article (Big Lutheran-Front Page-Stewardship)
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” -1 Corinthians 12:12.
Stewardship; a word that can strike fear and dread into the hearts of Christians everywhere. Stewardship is often thought to be about how people in the congregation give money, often out of a feeling of obligation. However, stewardship is SO much more than giving TO the Church.
When we embark on “stewardship campaigns,” we do so with ministry in mind. And so, when discussing stewardship, it helps us understand the importance by thinking about it in terms of who God is. With that being said, I think it’s important to point out that people do not give TO the Church. Instead, we give THROUGH the Church.
YOU are the Church. We are many members, and yet one body. When we give of our time, talents, and possessions, we don’t merely do so in order for the building to stay open, for kids to be taught, or to listen to special music, the liturgy, or the preacher. We give through the Church to embrace our callings as children of God in Christ Jesus. We give AS the Church, THROUGH the Church, for the sake of the Gospel of our Savior and Lord. Giving is an act of grace; a response to God’s grace first given to us.
Your giving of time, talent, and possessions takes the Gospel in words AND actions to people here, as well as all around the world; people God loves and redeems. Lutheran Social Services, missionaries, Lutheran World Relief, World Hunger, and countless other programs are supported by YOUR giving. The quilters’ actions help keep people warm with the sending of their quilts. The confirmation youth help the community and the congregation in many ways with their service projects. These are all Gospel acts of love and mercy. This means that people are being fed, clothed, housed, warmed, and loved through you! The Gospel is being acted out, and not merely being given lip service THROUGH you!
A little over a month ago, I was introduced to Chuck Suchy. Drawn to his mellow sound, I discovered an appreciation for his music. Pastor Jack loaned me one of his Suchy CDs the other day, and so I have had it spinning in the CD player and in my mind. I noticed a verse in the song, “The Pleasure of Her Company” that says, “Too many live in drudgery/Closed to possibility/Never waking joyfully/Living all they’re called to be.”
People of God, you are called to be the Church. You are called to “preach the Gospel at all times, using words when necessary.” (St. Francis of Assisi). May your giving and your receiving of grace be done with minds and hearts flung wide open to the surprising wonder of God’s love for you. Live in joy instead of drudgery. God is with you and God is with “them.” Let us nourish the body, trusting that Christ’s presence and love is with us here on North Dakota’s prairies, and also on China’s rice paddies, India’s slums, and Africa’s deserts. God is THAT big and our response to grace can make MUCH difference.