Thoughts About Stewardship-Vicar’s Corner

Newsletter article on Stewardship written to my internship congregation Trinity Lutheran Church wherein I make a poop joke.

In this time of gathering harvest, families, and thoughts– it is good to take a moment and think about what lies at the heart and other end of gathering: giving. What do I mean by “what lies at heart and other end”? I mean that what we often take to be the opposite or other-end of a thing (gathering in, versus giving out) can often also be found deep at the very heart of that thing itself. Luther made this discovery in distinguishing between Law and Gospel, that is, the word that puts to death and the word that brings to new life. Sometimes at the very bottom of the law is written the gospel. The very thing that puts us to death can also be a source of great life.

I talked to a few of you about this very thing in our question driven pastor’s bible study. The topic was prayer, and we discovered that for Luther, prayer is all about the law given in the second commandment. This law says sternly that we are not to take the name of our Lord God in vain. This puts us to death every time we curse or swear or call upon God for our own selfish desires. But for Luther, written at the very bottom of this law is also a life-giving Gospel letter: that we should use God’s name to call upon in our every need. In short, the Gospel we find at the bottom of the second commandment, is the gift of prayer! Praying is not our fault! It is not about our worthiness, or if we have the right words, or even about getting in right with God. But instead, the second commandment teaches that it is something God wants to hear from us, no matter what. It is a place that God promises to meet us in our deepest needs, no matter who we are. God promises to listen to and hear our prayers because that is what it means for us to use God’s name well. At the very heart and other end of not taking the lord’s name in vain, is prayer. So too, I want to say that at the very heart and other end of gathering, there is giving.

Why do we gather things? We hope to share in the abundance of life. Yet, gathering without giving defeats this abundant life. It kills us more than it makes us alive. We probably know too well the stories of misers, and how they cut themselves off from the world in their hoarding. There is something fundamentally wrong with someone who gathers in and stops at just that. So much so that it bothers us, and we call it greed. Gathering without giving at its heart is a sure sign of death. It is a sign that we are cut off from what makes us human to those around us. The point is, only in giving from what we gathered do we share in the abundant life that gathering hopes to achieve. Therefore, to answer why we gather things we must also ask why we give things.

Why do we give? It is the very thing what makes us human. Giving is so fundamental to our being, it is so basic that we cannot live without it. That is why the misers in the stories so easily appear as dead shells of humanity walking. Because they are! It is as fundamental as a mother’s milk given to a baby. From the moment we are born, we cannot survive on our own. No baby can carry on living if we do not give to it milk, love, and all manner of care. So too can no Mother live without giving those things. No one can live without giving. Even our breath gathers in so that it can also breathe out. Even our food gathered in does not stay long. Try holding that in. But how much more alive does it make us when we give!

So Trinity, there is all the stewardship campaign you should ever need: check your pulse. Are you living? Are you breathing? Then that is why you should give. Because giving is what makes us alive to one another. Giving is what makes us human and not dead empty shells. Just as giving to a baby shares life with the baby, so giving to the Church shares life with the Church. Just as a mother cannot live with herself if she withholds life from her child, so too does giving to others keep you alive. Giving is at the heart and other end of why we gather; so that life may be abundant and we might be to one another as God has been to us. Amen.

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