Stewardship Sermon October 13, 2019
Mary Mordue, Stewardship Chair
In case you don’t know me, I am Mary Mordue. I have been a member of Grace Church for 20 years now, and during many of those years I have been involved in stewardship. I looked in my computer files to find I gave my first stewardship sermon in 2005!
2005 was a totally different world in many ways:
Economically, 2005 was before our world-wide financial melt-down which came to a head in 2008, and it has taken a long time for things to come back. For some people, their economic situation never fully came back. Latest number I could find is that 29.9% of people in Muncie live in poverty (2017)… I tried to search for the poverty rate in 2005; all I found was a study run around 2009 that quoted the 2005 poverty rate as 29.5—so Muncie has had harder times than much of the country.
I saw in my 2005 sermon that I talked about “affluenza: spending money you don’t have on things you don’t need to impress people you don’t know”. In other words, love of having things or toys to impress people. I have no statistics to back this up, but I feel this is less of a paradigm these days in 2019 than it may have been in 2005. Maybe it is just the company I now keep, having retired 8 years ago.
I gave that 2005 sermon just as Hurricane Katrina was hitting New Orleans—before the levees failed and it appeared the storm wouldn’t do as much damage as everyone had feared. Then we know what happened within another day…Whether you agree that global warming is driving our more dangerous weather events, you have to admit that weather events have become much more dangerous ever since.
Grace Church has also changed. I am 15 years older since that first sermon, and have a fair amount more of grey hair—and I dare say none of you have changed. Some of those who heard that sermon have moved away or passed on, and are no longer sitting in our pews, and I miss many of them.
The great news is we have newer parishioners and friends who have brought new energy and excitement to our congregation. I think also that the combining of the two services we used to have has reenergized us also—getting to know the 8:00ers for me has been a wonderful experience!
There is a lot of great news and excitement here at Grace: the new rector search, our Gathering Grace ministry; I can tell you the choir is excited about having our choral scholars; there is also the planning of the new kitchen to better serve Gathering Grace, and which will open up a variety of other opportunities for our church…just lots going on. I do have to say the excitement isn’t limited to all of this alone—we just had the excitement of replacing our church roof and our hot water heater…not all excitement is joyous.
But some things don’t change. In my mind, stewardship is one of those things. Stewardship is a concept that doesn’t depend on annual events, world events, Muncie events, events in our homes…
Last year we had inserts with our announcements, bringing to mind how much Stewardship is a part of every day life. It has to do with being willing to talk with and to listen to our friends and acquaintances—taking care of them and ourselves, both in state of mind and health of body.
And Stewardship has to do with taking care of our environment….we only have one world. If we abuse our environment, our children and grandchildren have to live with our poor stewardship decisions. This is becoming more evident and discussed daily.
This year I went to Google to look up the definition of stewardship. According to Oxford on-line, it is: The job of supervising or taking care of something, such as an organization or property. I would add that what you are taking care of is not your property, but belongs to someone else .
Stewards are people who take care of things which are not their own—it’s their job.
Biblically, Adam and Eve were given charge of the Garden of Eden. Joseph, better known to some for his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, was an amazing steward for the Pharaoh once he was let out of prison in Egypt. Stewardship biblically is a concept as old as can be.
How we do stewardship does change over the years, but not the concept. I already mentioned stewardship happens when we take care of each other. In 2005 I had not envisioned that these days I might be teaching healthy, economical cooking now and then to the former TQL/now Second Harvest poverty participants. I was touched and humbled this summer by how many people, mostly Grace Church folk, who made a point to visit me/bring me reading materials, walk my dog, and even exercise with me when I was wheelchair-bound. And we all are thinking twice now about plastics, about landfills, and about companies that may provide jobs in exchange for releasing toxic heavy metals into our surroundings.
Stewardship is also taking care of Grace Church. We all come here for a reason—we get something out of the worship service, as well as from the camaraderie and fellowship and hospitality we find here—when 2or 3 are gathered together.
All of why we come here on Sundays doesn’t happen unless we also give back to the program—bringing in donations for Christian Ministries or Better Way, or food for or working for hospitality, working or funding Gathering Grace, giving a weekly donation or pledging your financial support, which allows the Vestry to pay the heating or electric bills or in an emergency, a new roof….Helping with the Sunday services by being a greeter or reader or musician or oblationer…you all know the variety of things, as you all help to do this variety of things.
As I was thinking of this list, I was thinking that Grace Church belongs to all of us, reflecting again that stewardship means taking care of each other. But Grace Church is bigger than us…it doesn’t really belong to us. When we are taking care of Grace Church and are participating in all of these things, we are doing God’s work. This is probably easiest to understand when looking at Gathering Grace, but it is true of all that we do here at Grace.
I want to talk some nuts and bolts about our stewardship campaign before continuing. Ellen Brinkman and I are co-chairs again. We will be passing out pledge sheets next week, and most of the various “jobs” to meet Grace Church’s needs are listed on one of 2 pages. We welcome you to consider participating in new ways or continue in your current ways. I say “most” of the various jobs—this is what I could think of. If you have a talent you are just itching to offer on behalf of Grace Church, please note it on the form for consideration.
The other page focuses on your financial pledge. We realize that pledging may not be your thing, even when you support Grace financially. We are grateful for your financial support however you make it. But pledging does help the Vestry with budgeting, so if you have not been a pledger in the past, please consider doing so if only for that reason. We have built some flexibility into your pledging—direct bank transfers, credit card charges, and for those of us who are at or over that magical age of 70 ½, IRA transfers—you can arrange to have required distributions on which you would have to pay income tax transferred directly to Grace, and thereby avoid paying the income tax. If you have stocks, donating them have similar tax advantages. Then of course there is always the weekly or so donation.
I feel the need this year to go further regarding talking about your financial donations than I think I have done in my past sermons. I have always hit on the biblical concept of tithing—making a habit of donating 10% of your income. In some churches there is a requirement for parishioners to do so…not ours. But it is a good goal to work toward, as far as our souls go. It reminds us that our money is not really our property—that everything we think we have is provided to us from God, and that we have to be stewards with our money as much as with our time and our talents.
In place of a tithe, last year I asked us all to consider a 10% increase over our prior year’s donations. A number of us did this, and we are grateful for the generosity shown.
But with us hiring a full time priest as well as a half-time office assistant for him/her, not to mention having to put on a new roof, etc., etc., Grace’s expenses will be well over a 10% increase over last year’s pledging….it is easily 20% if not more.
If we all actually tithed, we would meet our expenses. I also realize we are not all able to tithe.
I do ask us all, me included, to pray about our best way to proceed through this stewardship campaign. I ask that we all count the blessings this church and congregation have given us, and see how we can carry forward the great work already going on here.
I’m not being flippant in saying this, but one way to help Grace financially and not increase our pledging is to introduce a new friend or two here to Grace Church. More parishioners in the pews would help tremendously. Pray about this too!
So pledge cards will be available next week. We will hand as many out as possible so that we spend less on postage. The last Sunday of October is our stewardship dinner at 6 pm. There is a sign-up sheet in the parish hall. Please sign up—if you haven’t come to a dinner before, talk to someone who has. I think you hear it is a time of celebration of all that we have accomplished as well as a positive look forward to our life here at Grace Church.
If your pledge is ready by the dinner, please turn it in. It our goal is to get the pledges back before Thanksgiving. The Vestry will be doing serious number crunching both Nov&Dec for the 2020 budget, and your pledges will greatly help in this process.
The danger of talking about stewardship and asking for pledging in the same sermon is that it is easy to form the idea that money is all stewardship is about. I have tried here to focus on the many aspects of stewardship, money being only one of them. But to be honest, the bible focuses on money a lot as well—much more than it focuses on sex, for instance. Our readings of the gospel of Luke this summer have really focused on Christ’s harping on the evil of the love of money. Money can do much good…worshiping money, which either the rich or the poor can do, is not good for the soul.
We need to be good stewards of all of the gifts given to us by God. God also wouldn’t give us a gift and then say “be miserable and don’t enjoy my gift to you”….we are meant to enjoy our gifts. But the Christian thing to do, the good-steward thing to do, is to share our joy. That is stewardship.
Grace Church is a blessing to our community because we are a blessing to Grace Church. Thank you for sharing your blessings.