This morning for the first time I processed up the main aisle and on to the altar, and then stepped up to the lectern in front of my fellow parishioners at the 7:30am Mass at St. Christopher’s Church in Somerton to present the first reading from the Old Testament.
The selection was from the 1st book of Samuel, one of the ‘Historical Books’, and told the story of how a barren woman named Hannah prayed to God for a son and promised that if the Lord so gifted her she would turn the child over to the priesthood. God granted her desire, and she kept to her promise after weaning Samuel as a small child.
God had given Hannah a gift, and Hannah responded in kind by sharing her gift with the Lord. It was this very gifting process that led me to the lectern on Sunday morning through a ‘Stewardship’ program beginning to spread through the Catholic church and other Christian denominations as well.
Stewardship is the process of realizing that all that we have and all that we are is a gift from God. This makes us ‘stewards’ of these gifts in that we manage them on behalf of the Lord during our time here on earth.
In managing these gifts we are not only encouraged but are expected to share them with the body of the Church. In evaluating exactly how each of us can best share our gifts we should examine in our own lives the opportunities that we all have to give of our time, our talents, and our treasure.
The first opportunity, to give of our time, can take on many forms. The very least amount of time that we should be giving is that 1 hour each week to attend Mass. The normal 7-day week consists of 168 hours. God only asks that you come to His house for one of those. The very least you can do is give Him that hour and keep holy the Sabbath.
Of course what we are really talking about in Stewardship is giving more than the minimum. So more than the minimum of your time might involve some other activity on behalf of the Church. You could volunteer to help clean the church building prior to Christmas or Easter. Every parish or church community has volunteer opportunities ranging from smaller commitments to larger ones.
Another way to increase your Stewardship would be to share your talent. For some that might be a physical gift. Perhaps you are good with carpentry or plumbing and could volunteer to help your church in those areas. I am a police officer and a teacher with a great deal of public speaking experience, thus my decision to become involved in sharing that talent as a lector.
Not everyone is cut out to be a lector. Many people have a fear of speaking in front of large crowds, or just simply are not very good readers, or both. Neither of those has ever been a problem for me. But where tools are concerned, I’m lucky that I can even screw in a light bulb. Every one of us has some type of talent or career experience that we can share. Again, your individual church will have opportunities available for you to help.
Finally, you can share your treasure. This means exactly what it sounds like it means – money. You can do this through direct giving, increasing even slightly the amount that you place in a church envelope or collection, for instance. It could also mean bequething property or valuables to the church on your passing.
There are many skeptics when it comes to giving money or valuables to what they perceive to be an entity as large as the Catholic Church. Keep in mind that every individual parish runs largely on it’s own resources. Your directed gift or increased contributions will go directly to help the church that services your very own communities spiritual needs.
You don’t have to do anything. You can just keep going along the way that you are right now. Many Catholics and other Christians, and members of other faith systems, have drifted away from church almost entirely. Many Christians joke of becoming ‘Chreasters’, where they attend services only on Christmas and Easter. Others say things flippantly such as “I’m good with God, me and Him talk directly to one another.”
Jesus turned to Peter and told him that he would be the rock upon which “I will build my church, which will overcome all the evil forces arrayed against it.” Jesus also taught that “Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” In these specific but in many other example of his teachings and his living he showed the importance of gathering as a church community.
Personally, I have decided to begin with the small steps of volunteering with my church Lector Society to do the readings at Mass. My wife and I have decided to slightly increase our Sunday collection offerings. I am going to begin to look for other opportunities, and we will continue to build our own stewardship role with our church over time.
God calls each of us to the role of Stewardship, the sharing of those gifts which He has given to us in this life. It is up to each one of us to more closely examine our lives and our abilities, to get in touch with our own church, and to find an opportunity to present and share those gifts of time, talent, and treasure in honor of the Lord.
NOTE: This is the final ‘Sunday Sermon’ entry of 2009, a regular series of which all previous entries can be read by clicking on to the label below this posting at http://www.mattveasey.com