For three weeks, I've been preaching a series on stewardship. We talked a lot about sharing the gifts of time, talent, and treasure that God's shared with us, and I encouraged our community to share these things not just with the church, but to cast a wider net and steward God's gifts to all those in need.
Today, I received two calls at the church today looking for some type of assistance. I've a confession to make. Though I know in my head that responding positively to these kind of requests is inherent to our Christian faith, and though I'm convicted in my heart that this undoubtedly the right thing to do, I still dread these calls. Not because we don't have the resources to share. We've set aside a monthly budget to help those who come to us. Not because I'm afraid of what people will do with the resources or time that we share. Not only do we have multiple safeguards in place to ensure that we're providing help, but more importantly, Jesus' command to give to those who ask didn't include any caveats.
I can't even pinpoint exactly what it is that makes me uncomfortable here, though I know at least one of the reasons is that every time I respond to these requests, I do so on behalf of the church. It's not a personal sacrifice for me to say "yes" because the resources don't come out of my bank account. Sure, we already tithe at CLC, and will continue to grow in our stewardship. But when these calls come to me, I respond not out of my own generosity, but out of the sharing of our entire community.
Perhaps this is a good thing, namely the anxiety. While at the church, I respond to benevolence requests as the pastor of our community. But when someone on the street asks for some lunch money, I can't give out of the church coffer. As I'm convicted to be a good steward of the gifts we share together as a community when a need arises, I should be just as convicted to share out of my own abundance when asked personally.
I realized this morning that stewardship sermons, and perhaps all sermons, are just skeletons. Foundational for life together as the church? Absolutely. But without the sinews and vessels and muscles of flesh to help us live the sermon, then they remain only a skeleton. As the Body of Christ, we're called to build up one another, helping each other to live out the life of Christ here on earth, to become the hands and feet of Christ in the world. To put flesh on the teaching of the Gospel just as God put flesh on the heart of the Gospel in Jesus Christ. This is something we're blessed to do as church communities, and someone we're called to do as Christian individuals as well.
Today, I'm thankful for the anxiety that's reminded me I'm called not only to be a steward of this community, but a steward of myself as well.
Simultaneously a sinner and a saint.