Monday, November 23, 2009

Sometimes it is best to get out of the way, part 1

I give thanks for the great blessings of the lay folk who have offered up their reflections and testimonies on stewardship to the church these past two months. Here are their offerings, with permission:

When Father Marshall asked me to speak to you today about Stewardship, he said, “Talk about how you got here. Your transformation.” After I left, and the panic subsided, I thought -- What did he mean by “here”? Did he mean how did I get “here” to Trinity, Matawan? Did he mean how did I get “here” in my spiritually? Or did he mean how did I get “here” to this point in my stewardship journey? The more I considered these questions, the more I realized that I couldn’t separate them. My journey, like all of yours, has been a series of joys and sorrows, trials and tribulations, of turning to God, and turning away from God. The individual you see standing before you today is the culmination of all those experiences.

I’m not going to try to tell you all the transformations that have taken place in my life. What I will tell you is how I got “here”.

When God directed me to Trinity, you welcomed me with open arms. Denise pulled me in and made me a part of the Vestry as the Outreach Chairperson. I became an acolyte – and eventually took over that responsibility. Trinity became my home. I am here.

My spiritual journey is one of realizing that there is a big difference between my religion and my spirituality. For me, my religion is the outward practice of my beliefs and traditions in the Anglican community. My spirituality, however, is my inward, personal relationship with my God. The more I came to know and love God, the more I came to realize that God’s love for me knows no end. I have, over the years, developed a dependence on God. Being able to depend on God, to turn over to God those things that I am not able to deal with at any specific moment, brings me a sense of peace, serenity, and the absolute knowledge that I am not alone – ever. As I developed and enriched my spirituality, I came to realize that just being thankful for my life, for those people in my life, for the good, bad, and ugly parts of my life, was enough to keep me going. My prayer life is basically prayers of thanks to God. Thanks for those little, important things in my life that I sometimes take for granted – family, friends, health, a roof over my head, food on my table, a car to take me where I need to go. I think you know what I’m talking about. When I want to focus on someone or something specific, I ask God to surround that person, or their family, with the love, strength, and courage that they need. I try not to ask for specifics from God. Who am I to know what is best for me or anyone else?

In the Gospel today, before Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, he lifts up his eyes and gives thanks to his Father. If it’s good enough for Jesus to give thanks to God, then it’s good enough for me!

My stewardship journey is also one of continuing development. During my younger years (and I won’t tell you how long ago that was), I can always remember having an envelope to put in the plate – whether it was in Sunday School – or in church. In the mid-80’s, I became a member of the Vestry and ultimately, the Clerk of the Vestry in my previous parish. It was at that point, that I learned what it took to create a budget and run a parish. Wow! What an eye-opener! For anyone that hasn’t served on a Vestry, I suggest you try it. You will see that part of being a member of a parish is the responsibility of stewardship. For me, that stewardship means contributing financially to the upkeep of the parish – as well as sharing my talents – both of these to the best of my ability.

In June when Ed stood up here with his charts and told us how far we were behind, I made the conscious decision to raise my weekly contribution. Which I did. A few Saturdays ago, when I received an e-mail from Erold with his letter and the pledge form, a figure popped into my head. Over the years, I have learned to listen to messages that come to me through those voices in my head. (No, not necessarily all of those voices! Just the ones that I think are good for me.) I immediately printed off the form, filled it in with that figure, and put it in the collection plate the very next day. I knew that if I took the time to think about it, I would probably lower that figure. I’m here to tell you that it’s going to be a stretch for me to meet that figure every week. But, it is my sincere feeling that it is my responsibility as a child of God and a member of Trinity to make that effort to give more than I think I can.

A few weeks ago, we heard Father Marshall talk about the rich young man who asked Jesus what he must do to enter the kingdom. The response from Jesus was to give up everything. Everything! Personally, that sounds like an impossibility. However, it is my hope that if I continue to give to the best of my ability, it might just be acceptable to God.

We recently heard about Bartimaeus shouting to Jesus and Jesus, hearing him, asks “What do you want me to do for you?” I thought about that question for myself. What I want Jesus to do for me, is to continue to bless me. For that, I am most grateful.

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