Benediction Online

Friday, May 19, 2006

I came back inspired and a little overwhelmed after the diocesan Stewardship training. Like most of us, I suspect, I have tended to think of stewardship as part of our spiritual life and perhaps something of an add-on. Now I am seeing it as fundamental to our lives as disciples of Christ, and fundamental to our life in the body of Christ as we live it at St Benedicts.

Terry Parsons from the national Church office led one day for clergy as part of our annual clergy conference, and then a second day when we were joined by lay people from all over the diocese. Part of our legacy at St Benedicts is a focus on ‘abundance thinking’ and Terry gave us seven concrete steps to living in abundance, and making stewardship the very basis of our corporate life.

1. Pray
Ok this seems obvious, but often it’s what we do when all else has failed. We are creating the opportunity to meet together to pray (this Weds, May 24th at 5pm) and we also pray on our own. Often it seems almost impolite to pray for money. But that’s what we need to do God’s work here. Let us pray regularly and urgently that God will meet all our financial needs and will open our ears to hear the Spirit’s call to us.

2. Engage the Gospel
This means spending time together and individually reading the Scriptures and asking What is God saying to me/us? What is God calling me/us to do? We have been meeting on Sunday mornings at 9:30 between the services to read and discuss some sections of the Old Testament. We’ll complete this study on May 28th. Since we’ve been having a really good time doing this, and since it’s step 2 of this process I’m going to suggest we start again in July, looking at a different area of the Bible.

3. Rebuke scarcity.
That’s strong language. Let us make the very best use of all that God has given us and refuse to allow each other to engage in ‘cup half empty’ thinking. There has been much talk of ‘burnout’ recently; we will not burnout when we do things that bring us joy and energy and when we encourage one another to do the same. When we find ourselves thinking in terms of lack and scarcity let’s remember there’s another way to see it, and ask God to show us that way.

4. Embrace Abundance.
That’s similar to #3 but not the same. Embracing abundance means opening our eyes to what we have. It means using what we have and knowing that as we make the very best use of it, God will bless us with more. St Benedicts is a generous congregation but in our awareness of how much needs to be done, sometimes we forget how much we have. One of the first things Jesus told the disciples to do in the feeding of the 5,000 was to see how much they had.

5. Forget the Budget; Nurture Holy Habits
When we focus on how much we need we’re likely to dip into scarcity thinking. The budget is only a plan for using our financial resources. When we encourage one another to develop habits of prayer, engaging the Gospel, keeping Sabbath and tithing then the money will come for that which we are given to do.

6. Say thank you every chance you get.
Let us learn to be truly thankful to God and to each other. Thanking and being grateful to God are holy habits that can change every situation. When we pray let us remember to thank God for everything we have, because after all, it isn’t ours - it is God’s. And let us remember to thank each other for all we do and appreciate each other for who we are.

7. Never forget you can’t sell soap if you don’t take baths.
In other words, walk your talk. Practice what you preach. This program only works if we do it. I’d like us to start thinking in these terms so that our life together becomes one based on these seven principles of stewardship and abundance.