Then we your people, the flock of your pasture,
will give thanks to you forever;
From generation to generation we will recount your praise.
Dear Friends and Members of Lake of the Isles Lutheran Church,
“What is stewardship?” People often consider stewardship to be a form of fund-raising. For others, it is simply the way congregations turn to their constituency each year to ask for the funds necessary to run the programs that the congregation has decided are important. Still others believe that stewardship is nothing more than the managing of user fees and dues. There may be a bit of truth in all of these views, but I think there is something more.
For me, stewardship is a matter of faith. Stewardship is my disciplined response of praise and thanksgiving to God for all that he has entrusted to my care. Perhaps the most impassionate definition for stewardship is this “Stewardship is about the growth in your relationship with God through the use of the gifts he has entrusted to you.”
As we prepare for Stewardship Sunday on November 16th, the day in which we offer our stewardship and financial commitments for the new year, I would like to challenge you with a few thoughts drawn from this definition of stewardship.
1) Stewardship is returning to God a portion of the gifts he has entrusted to you first is an act of faith. This is a biblical call to offer the “first fruits.” Many people, however, wait until they have covered all their desires and necessities, and then they may turn over a portion of what is left to God. Truthfully, we never really grow in faith when we only offer what is left to God. Faith is nurtured and grows when you begin by offering a portion from the very beginning. In this way, you learn to know God’s providence. You learn to trust that he will provide all that you will need. In this way stewardship becomes a way of knowing God and growing in a relationship with God by leaning on him. And you become more daring as God’s servant.
2) Return to God a portion of your gifts is more than simply giving money. In many churches, we define gifts as time, talents and treasure. They are all important. The kingdom of God needs your time. God desires your worship and praise. He knows that your presence in worship is important for your spiritual growth. It is where you come into contact with his word. Your talents are needed to touch the lives of other believers struggling in their journey. In the ELCA, we say, “God’s work. Our hands.” You and are needed to be the human touch of God’s mission. And yes, gifts do include your treasure. Jesus speaks about money more than any other topic in the Bible. People are always trying to hold onto their treasure, and keep it for themselves. And Jesus is always reminding them that it can be doing so much more- if they would simply return it to God’s service. Giving gifts is a part of the spiritual discipline which allows you to grow in faith.
3) Stewardship is a reminder that God has created all things, and that you and I are merely entrusted to take care of these gifts. That may surprise you. From our first years of childhood, we learn to say, “It’s mine” and “That’s yours.” It would be a different world if we learned to say, “It is God’s and he has entrusted it to me.” That is ultimately what we believe and hope to be our everlasting future.
My friends, God entrusted to you many gifts. What will you embrace as yours, and what will you dare to return to God? Stewardship is an act of faith which will allow you to grow in your relationship with God.
Peace, Pastor Arden Haug