July 28, 2011

Abundance and Enough

Filed under: Financial Commitment,Lectionary,Time and Talent — by Lisa Meeder Turnbull @ 6:04 pm

OK, Stewardship Committees, listen up!

Take a look at this week’s Gospel reading from a financial stewardship point of view (aka, annual commitment, pledging).

Jesus has just had some bad news. John the Baptist is dead. This is a personal blow—he’s lost his cousin—and probably a blow to his ministry. He needs to go off by himself and think. He needs some space.

But the people can’t leave him alone. They crave him. They crave his presence, his spiritual feeding of their hungry souls. They crave his practical ministry of healing and hope. Jesus is a resource and scarcity thinking demands access.

Jesus responds from abundance. He models the very ministry that our stewardship programs seek to emulate and inspire.

His first response is compassion; he is simply present to the people who seek him.

How much easier would the Stewardship Committee’s job be if all our members first gave the gift of paying attention? Instead of tensing up, shutting down, avoiding the phone call, or dodging the visit… What if the first response to the financial stewardship season was, “Talk to me.”?

Jesus’ second instinct is to share an inner resource, in this case the gift of healing. In truth it could be any practical, hands on gift of time or talent: he looks at the crowd, assesses the work at hand, and gets to it.

My mother died on a Saturday in late January of a classic Great Lakes winter. I didn’t even see our neighbor slip into the house, there was so much coming and going. When my dad and I were finally able to settle down, we discovered that the master bedroom had been aired, the bed linens were changed, and the laundry hamper had mysteriously disappeared. The gift of “doing” had been given.

I suspect that many Stewardship Committees would do well to take Jesus’—and my neighbor’s—example: After people give their first gift, the gift of paying attention, look next to their gifts of doing. How do you invite, encourage, indeed welcome the gifts and ministries in your midst?

And then we get to the big finish: The feeding of the 5,000.

What strikes me in reading this from a stewardship perspective is not so much what Jesus does, but what he doesn’t do. He chooses abundance over scarcity. He doesn’t sit down and do the math, figure out how much food they need, conclude that they don’t have enough, then make a big speech about how much people need to give. There’s no giving-to-budget approach.

Instead, he asks for what they have. In an elegantly simple gesture, Jesus shows us what happens when God and the congregation work together to bless, break, and share from the people’s abundance.

Is it realistic? No.

Is it practical? Hardly!

Is it sustainable? Probably not.

Are we called to be partners with God, to bless, break, and share from our abundance? Absolutely.


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