Jesus summed up the lifestyle God wants us to live a few words; "The first commandment is this: Hear, O Israel: The Lord your God is the only Lord. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these" (Mark 12:29-31).
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, whose love created and sustains the universe.
To avoid faithful participation in the life of the Church because we are too busy should be evidence to us that we are simply too busy. To avoid tithing because we think we don’t have enough is to underestimate how bountifully God has blessed us and is evidence that we are living both materially and spiritually beyond our means.
Loving God with all our heart, and soul, and mind, and strength, 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 of each one of us.
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.
St. Martin's has a heritage of expressing God's love through generous hospitality and inclusiveness. Even during this pandemic, that work goes on. All who have been the beneficiaries of that generosity want to be sure that it continues into the future when this strange season is over.
This Sunday, October 4, we will come together in the parking lot and online to renew our commitment to faithful and generous stewardship of the treasure entrusted to us in the coming year. As we approach this day, let us be mindful of God’s bountiful love and care. We’ve experienced it for ourselves and we want to help others know the same blessing.
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 tangible 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's not a bell 'til you ring it.
A song's not a song 'til you sing it.
Love in your heart wasn't put there to stay.
Love isn't love 'til you give it away!
Bountiful blessings for you and yours!
The Very Rev'd Ron Pogue
St. Martin-in-the-Fields Episcopal Church