Why Do I Give? Reflection by Stewards and Care-Takers
Daily Lenten Meditations Personal sharing from people of St. Paulâ€™s
Meditations for Lent 2012-- # 2
A gift from your Stewardship Team St. Paulâ€™s Lutheran Church, Minnetonka
A Message from the Stewardship Team Holistic stewardship was identified at our annual congregational meeting as our ministry focus of the year for 2012. Your stewardship team (Eric Campbell, Vince Jacobson, Tom Larson, Mike Mikulay, Pastor Louise Mollick, Howard Rand, and Eric Reishus) will be working throughout the year to give voice to our stewardship ministry and to lift up all of the facets of stewardship. Our intention is to help the congregation live out our stewardship ministry by encouraging people connected to this community of Faith to offer generously their time, talent, and financial resources in support of the work of the Church and to provide the means through which that support can be given, including: Annual pledge program Education about where offerings are used Gifts identification Expectations of those who make up this community of Faith Special giving opportunities Time and Talent surveys Ministry support opportunities These devotions, the first initiative from the stewardship team, are testimonials and stories shared by people connected to this community of Faith who were invited to answer the question, “Why do I give to the church?” They are offered to the congregation for daily devotions during the 2012 Lenten season.
Foreword – by Howard Rand In the church year, Lent has traditionally been a time for personal reﬂection. We discover again the wondrous gift of grace. We draw back. We look for spiritual renewal. We ask deep personal questions: “Why do I give? Why am I involved in our church’s life and mission? How might I express my convictions to others?” In his spiritual classic Reaching Out, Henri Nouwen comments, “Questions about the ‘why’ of love, marriage, giving, any basic life decision, may lead to stuttering and shaking of shoulders. The questions are important. But the answers are too deep, too close to our innermost being, to be caught in human words.” Yet we need to try, with our words. That is why, in behalf of our new Stewardship Task Force, I offer a profound thanks for those who share these meditations. We would hope that these beginnings might arouse others in this spiritual Family to express their own feelings within an added set of meditations later in Lent. The reﬂections in this resource are interspersed with brief quotations from others across the ages. Note the theme of gratitude throughout the quotes.
Day 1 â€“ by Mary Hromatka To answer the question, â€œWhy do I give?â€? I first must ask myself what do I give and how do I give... Personally I feel that we are from a plentiful land. Our children go to bed at night with full stomachs; they have the right and privilege to a strong educational experience. Religion and it's beliefs are practiced with a lack of restrictions. We do not have military shelling in close proximity to us as part of our daily lives. Medical care is available. We even have healthy drinking water that comes out of our faucets in our homes. At St Paul's I have found a place that allows me to fulfill some of my values without too much effort. Our family tries to share our financial harvest through monthly offering donations. In addition we support, physically and financially, the ministries that place strong emphasis on children and their preservation. We feed the hungry with sustenance, both spiritually and with life's necessities. We open our hearts and home to those who are in need of respect and caring. It's all pretty simple really. I also give through payroll deductions to several community organizations that promote programs that support many local children and their families. This method of giving is painless, as I never personally handle the money, so it doesn't have a great deal of impact to our household. We also give to enhance the birth communities of our children. They were gifts given to us by very loving and caring birth families. I think it is important to share what we have with them. It's not as easy as giving within St Paul's or by payroll deduction; many times it's very frustrating. However, the rewards are immeasurable.
As I try to become worldlier, I realize that my daughters could have had life effecting experiences had they not had the privilege growing up as they have. I give to organizations that try to better a young woman's opportunities in life. Sometimes the giving is financial, and sometimes it is the gift of time. Giving can sometimes be as simple as; supporting or sponsoring letter writing campaigns, working directly with local and federal government officials to propose legislation that has young women' health, safety and welfare in mind or my personal education on the use of US products that promote healthy living for girls worldwide. So why do I give? I think it is because we still have people who are hungry, thirsty, afraid, searching for safety and answers to their questions. As I think of what I give, I realize that I give to enhance life. I seem to divide my "giving values" into four areas.
In thanksgiving for the gifts that were very graciously given to me. To enhance young women's lives throughout the world. For children who often don't get a healthy second chance. Because I believe that I can make a difference.
Day 2 – by Sheri Brenden St. Paul's Lutheran is a place where I find tangible ways to reach out to others. It creates avenues for feeding the hungry and welcoming those who have been scorned. None of these things could I do alone. It is with the help of my church community that we provide fruit, salad, hot dish and chocolate and skim milk to homeless people every month and deliver meals to shut ins. Together, we have created a space where teenagers struggling with their sexuality have found a support network. Our church has created a voice, a presence that waves a rainbow banner of welcome and hospitality. “All the believers lived in a wonderful harmony. They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met. They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home. Every meal was a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God.” Acts 2: 44-46, the Message
Day 3 â€“ from Lamentations Lamentations 3:22-23a "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning." "It is sheer coincidence that my hunk of the creek is strewn with boulders. I never merited this grace, that when I face upstream, I feel a spray of mist on my cheeks and lips. I hear a ceaseless splash, a sound of water tumbling live about. I never merited this grace, that when I face upstream I see the light on the water careening towards me, inevitably, freely, down a graded series of terraces. My God, I look at the creek. It never stops. The creek is the one great giver. It is, by definition, Christmas, the incarnation.
This old rock planet gets the present for a present on its birthday every day." (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard)
Day 4 – by Howard Rand “Why do I give?” At heart it is grace and gratitude. Yet the question arouses my own personal response: Why do I give? Our answers will converge and differ within each of us. My answer begins with the year I was born: 1929. The stock market crashed. My father died 3 years later, just after my sister was born. My mother was generous...And frugal to a fault. For Social security did not exist. She died at 103. She passed on to me her gift of wonder...And her frugality. Stewardship was foreign to us. We paid our “church dues.” In Seminary I discovered “stewardship”...Care-taking. That sounded like an awesome concept: Maybe, sometime...Not relevant personally. I graduated. Only then did I change. To begin four congregations, we received partnership support by our wider church. In each mission we had stewardship counseling after organizing. “Steward” became a word to be used reverently. God help us when it is manipulative. A steward learns to act one’s self into a new way of thinking. It helps me to get beyond frugal, cautious anxiety. A steward gives as an act of worship. Within each mission community, we were inviting people in these young churches to arouse a question: “Why do I give?” Our “koinonia,” our partnership in the Gospel, became a focusing for commitments. It became a deeper focus across my ministry, as I led “stewardship campaigns” in other congregations. I told our daughter we were creating meditation booklets for Lent. “Members are writing, Why do I give?” Her immediate
answer: “Lent? Are you having a pledge program in Lent? Why? Isn’t Lent a time to draw back into ourselves?” In a year for a holistic stewardship focus, Lent is our time to discover in a personal way, what stewardship of our lives can mean in our own present time and our unique place. I deal with my outmoded frugality. It becomes my concerned, procrastinating, money anxiety. I need to focus on the Grace at the depth of my being: To accept my acceptance. So I share my peculiar inner fears. (We each deal in our own way with these) You, my colleagues, are a part of my gratitude. Thank you for your diverse and for your personal answers to “Why do I give?” I pray that we may continually learn to act ourselves into new ways of thinking. We need each other. I learned in Cleveland Metro Ministry how we change attitudes toward the minorities, the poor and the powerless by acting: Then reflecting. It means getting personally involved. From that formula I find a courage to change. Change becomes an unavoidable, exasperating necessity! Yet our life is, by definition, “change.” It becomes our way to live out our faith, here and now, as effective stewards.
Day 5 â€“ Gratitude A few of the expressions of gratitude that surround us each day: "From infancy we are connected to the wonder and grandeur of the universe. We are filled with overwhelming love and trust for those around us and for the marvel of creation. We see ourselves reflected in the eyes of our parents." (Spirit Matters, by Rabbi Michael Lerner)
"Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy." (Abraham Joshua Heschel)
"If the only word of prayer that fell from your lips were 'Thank you,' it would suffice. (Meister Eckhart, fourteenth century mystic)
This is the day that the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it."
Day 6 â€“ Daily Bread "Father, give us this day our daily bread." Lord, teach us to pray... Father: What a healing way to deal with the good gifts we receive from the Father's hand. We begin with gratitude for a life-time of blessings. Give us: To pray as Jesus taught is radically different from "give me." Our Lord's prayer binds us to all our human brothers and sisters. This day our daily: "Keep us sensitive and alive to the gifts of now." Bread: Bread is the interdependent product of farmer, miller, baker, distributor, grocer. Bread symbolizes all that we need, not want...And a freedom from the burdens of excess. It implies the petition, "Lord, help me not to want all those things the advertisers want me to want." The prayer makes sense only within an appreciation of stewardship: "We brought nothing into the world. We can take nothing from it." "Father, give us this day our daily bread...Grant us a grateful simplicity."
Day 7 â€“ A Joyful Noise "Though others might not hear it like this, I believe everyone has a melody within. Grace gives that melody harmony and makes it singable. Truth be told, I need a gathering like Gloria Dei, because all too often I forget my melody. Or it gets drowned out by the chaos around. Or it just plain gets stuck in my throat. They carry me in their song. They teach me parts I never knew were there. I firmly believe if not for God's grace, there would be no song. And if not for connection to others, it would just be singing in the shower, which really isn't that great. And it surely serves no useful purpose. But as it is, our music together makes up the Hymn of All Creation, which to God sounds like grateful hearts and joyful service to neighbor."
PRAYER: Gracious and loving God, give us joy in singing the song of grace you have placed inside us. Teach us to treasure your melody in others. Make our service to one another the hymn of your praise, for the sake of Jesus Christ, the Lord of all. Amen
Quotation from the meditation booklet: "TESTAMENTS OF FAITH... Written from the heart by Members of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church" in St. Paul, MN. (by Pastor John Manz)