During this time of the year when we get together as a parish family and celebrate God's bountiful generosity to us, when we direct our attention to the issue of our stewardship of our time, our talent and our treasure, it is good to be clear about why stewardship is so very important to us individually and to our parish collectively. Regarding the latter, it is quite simple -- the work and the ministries of St. Andrew's are both completely dependent upon the sacrificial stewardship of its parishioners.
It is not the case that St. Andrew's funds its ministries through endowments. We don't. Like most churches, we fund our ministries primarily through the pledges of our parishioners. This is why pledging is so important. Non-pledged giving simply can't have any serious place in the budgeting processes of the parish. It is by definition – unexpected. It is also not the case that St. Andrew's and its ministries are floated by the extraordinary giving of a few extraordinarily affluent families. It is true that we are blessed as a parish and that a number of our families are particularly blessed, but in fact it is the responsibility of all of us to give sacrificially of our time, talent, and treasure. That my gift or your gift couldn't approach the magnitude of the gift of some other parishioner of much greater affluence is completely irrelevant. Remember the widow's mite. God sees our gifts in terms of how sacrificial they are. For this reason, we have as our goal at St. Andrew's that there would be 100% pledging by our membership. Stewardship is truly for all of us.
It is also not the case that our ministries are accomplished primarily through our clergy or those on the staff of the parish. No, the bulk of the ministry of St. Andrew's is accomplished through its people, through its volunteers, through those who are prepared to step out there and give generously of their time and talent toward the building up of the kingdom. God calls all of us to identify our gifts and then to use them effectively in the context of the body of Christ. This is at the very heart of discipleship. This is at the very heart of a dynamic and authentic parish life. So in terms of our collective health, the stewardship of our time, talents and treasure is fundamental.
But our faithful stewardship also is terribly important to us individually, as followers of Christ, as disciples of the one who did not even hold back his life on our behalf. From time to time it is good to get a spiritual check up -- to see just how well the old heart is ticking, to see if there is health below the surface, at the very center of our being. Why does the doctor order blood work and various diagnostic examinations even when the patient looks and feels fine? To be sure that appearances correspond to reality. Do you and I truly love God with all our heart, soul, mind? Do we love our neighbors as ourselves? A good way to find out is to examine how we use our time, talent and treasure. There is no better way to understand our true passions, our true values, our greatest priorities than to do an inventory of our use of those gifts with which we have been entrusted by God -- time, talent and treasure.
How much time are you prepared to volunteer for a ministry? How does that amount of time compare to how much time is spent in front of a television? Is it more? Is it less? Is it sacrificial? How sacrificial is your pledging? How does your pledge compare to how much you spend a year at a Starbucks, at restaurants in general, to the amount spent on vacationing, etc. etc. Is it more? Is it less? Is it sacrificial?
How prepared are you to identify your spiritual gifts and to use them boldly in the service of the kingdom? Are you prepared to dare to try something in the way of ministry which you have never done before?
How does the amount of bold daring in ministry compare to the same in the area of your vocation, your professional life? Is it more? Is it less? Is it sacrificial? Stewardship is important to us as a parish.
Stewardship is important to us as individuals who aspire to live authentic lives of daring and contagious discipleship. Let us embrace the challenge of this sort of authenticity and let us embrace it with gusto. After all, everything we have, everything we are comes from another.
"All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee" (I Chron. xxix.14).