Jesus summed up the lifestyle God wants us to live a few words; “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets’ ” (Matthew 22:37-40).
The call to be faithful stewards of God’s bounty is the call to a lifestyle – a way of life – that acknowledges that everything we have belongs to God and that we are managers of a sacred trust. We fulfill that vocation through the spiritual disciplines of worship, proclamation, teaching, presence, fellowship, service, and offerings. We commit ourselves to offer God the very best we have in the confidence that when God receives our offering, joined with the offering of Christ, it will be pleasing to God and accomplish the things God’s heart desires to accomplish through us. There may be no vocation in the universe that is greater or more of a wonder than the vocation of stewardship. It makes us unique among creatures. It makes us human. It is an expression of our creation in the image of God.
Loving God with all our heart, and soul, and mind, and loving our neighbor as ourselves involves giving the best we have, devotion to this shared way of life, and an understanding that the life God wants us to live demands faithful participation. A parable that has been told from thousands of pulpits for who knows how many generations gets to the heart of the matter:
A small village was excited to discover that it would soon receive a visit from their beloved King. Community leaders immediately began planning for the great event. Everyone agreed that they wanted to present a gift to the King that would represent their appreciation for his benevolent supervision and management of the realm. But the village was poor and couldn’t afford a gift worthy of a King as great as theirs.
Someone suggested, “We have wonderful vineyards and produce the best wine in the land. Let each of us bring the best wine from our cellars and create a great vat of wine to present to our beloved King!” The people embraced the idea with enthusiasm. Over the next several days, they brought bottles of their best wine and poured it into a large vat that would be presented to the King upon his arrival.
It occurred to some of the townspeople, however, that with so many people contributing wine to the large vat, their own contribution would not make much difference. “With so much wine,” they reasoned, “my failure to contribute will neither be noticed nor missed.” So people brought bottles filled with water instead of wine.
The day of celebration arrived. The village leaders proudly made their presentation of the town’s best wine to the King. They raised their glasses in honor of His Majesty and tasted the best wine their village had to offer. To the abject horror and humiliation of the entire village, the “town’s best wine” was nothing more than water. Everyone had thought the same thing; their personal contribution would not be needed nor missed. Although they all wanted to honor the King, they had failed to understand the necessity of their own personal participation.
Loving God and our neighbor is the essence of how God created life to be lived. It is not meant to be simply an abstract theological concept to which we give intellectual assent. It is meant to be carried out in tangible ways. It is meant to be the driving force in the life of the community of God’s people. It is meant to be central to our witness to others that God will always give us enough to be generous.
So don’t hold back! Give God the opportunity to use your life and all the blessings that have been entrusted to you in ways that become evidence of your love for God and for your neighbor. And, through the miracles that God will perform in your life, you will see that it is also the best way of loving yourself.
The night before one of his musicals was to open, Oscar Hammerstein pushed past Mary Martin, his singing star, in the soft red glow of the semi-darkness of the curtained stage and pressed into her hand a slip of paper. On it were these words, which later were to become the basis of one of the hit numbers in the uncut version of “The Sound of Music.”
A bell is not a bell until you ring it.
A song is not a song until you sing it.
Love was not put in your heart to stay.
Love is not love until you give it away.
I’ll see you in Church!
The Very Reverend Ronald D. Pogue
St. Andrew’s Cathedral
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