Living as the the holy people of God


Bonnie Anderson, president of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church, calls on all Episcopalians to take up their high calling to be stewards of God’s mysteries. “Each individual’s, family’s, congregation’s and diocese’s giving takes on immeasurable significance in these tough times, calling us anew to unimagined opportunities to live as the holy people of God,”

Being stewards of God’s mysteries

by Bonnie Anderson in Episcopal News Service online

“This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God” –I Corinthians 4:1.

On the autumnal equinox just a week ago, as the earth was tipping on its axis, congregations all across the Episcopal Church were hoping to tip themselves into the black by preparing for their annual stewardship campaigns.

In the Episcopal Church, the fall stewardship campaign, or “pledge drive,” is as predictable as the rising and setting of the sun. Even though the stewardship-campaign ritual continues as usual in congregations across the church, this year the situation is different. All across the globe, people face new and significant economic challenges. Unemployment rates are at all-time highs, funding for public education is inadequate, and public services are on the chopping block. Too many people are unable to earn even a subsistence income, and too many children and seniors suffer too much.

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Gregory Orloff
Gregory Orloff

"Perhaps we are being called to revisit our concepts of success and wealth, and invent a lifestyle that reflects the Christian values we profess to hold."

That is a truly fitting and insightful way to frame the real issue at hand during this economic turbulence.

What if we took seriously Psalm 24:1's assertion that "the earth is the Lord's, and everything in it"?

That ultimately all belongs to him, because he is the one who brought it into being, and nothing would exist without him?

That whatever we have is on loan from him while we are temporary guests on this earth of his, and that in gratitude for his hospitality, we are to offer part of what we receive back to him?

That Christian living does not consist of "storing up treasures on earth" for ourselves (Matthew 6:19), but in "being content if we have food and clothing" (1 Timothy 6:8), and giving of our surplus over and above those basics to those in need? ("Whoever has two shirts must share with anyone who has none, and whoever has food must do likewise," Luke 3:11.)

And that, in approaching life, success and wealth in this gospel fashion, we do it with the attitude that we are doing nothing special, but that "we are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty" (Luke 17:10)? For truly, as King David prayed to God at the founding of the Jerusalem temple back in Old Testament times: "Everything in heaven and earth is yours... Wealth and honor come from you... Who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand" (1 Chronicles 29:10-20).

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Today there is a big chasm between being "Stewards of the Mysteries of God [from Gk: mysterion; L. sacramentum; OE. pledge]" and stewards of "our" natural and human resources, "my" time, "my" talent and "my" wealth and their mystical or sacramental sign "$".

I do not think it is any longer possible in a "pledge drive" that St. Paul can be heard.

In the Church today,"Pledge" = "Budget" = "$". And as that is the first thought (how do WE raise it-- not the Mystery of the Cross, but Money), and from and by that, our last thought-- we measure our Pledge Drive's [and usually the clergyperson's] success.

In the Spirit, in "the Mysteries of God," "Blessed are the Poor, but Woe to the rich." Rich churches CAN only give; poor churches must, of necessity share.

Rich churches with rich budgets have nothing to share; the poor churches and the poor in the Spirit, have everything to share, God alone...they rely only on the Mysteries of God which can only be seen in the Crucified-as-Risen Christ, living in real flesh and blood in our midst.

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