by John Adams, BRIDGE/Stewardship Committee

Our message to the parish for the 2012 Stewardship Campaign is to “Think of the Possibilities!” Now that we have successfully completed our Renew & Reclaim capital campaign, we're seeing the results of your generous giving. Many of the funded improvements have been completed or they're in process. With this strong foundation in place, the Church is poised to increase our ministries and efforts as disciples of Christ. Increased giving by our members in 2012 will truly allow us to continue and expand initiatives that make a difference in the lives of those within our parish and our community. Join us in exploring the possibilities!

This is the third in a series of six reflections this fall inviting us to reflect and discuss stewardship principles and practices based on the Gospel readings from Matthew for each Sunday from October 2 through November 6, All Saints Sunday.

Reflection #4: Matthew 22: 34-46

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind…

Too often it seems that rules and laws are what make the world go ‘round.  This was as true—if not more so—in Jesus day.  So there is a certain comfort I take in having the Great Commandment as a core principle to help put things in right order and perspective.  Still, loving God with all I’ve got and loving my neighbor as myself is at once simple and complex and it shows forth differently for each of us.

At my parish we have the custom of gathering in a circle around the altar to receive communion.  It is a joyous moment as we move together toward the center of the sanctuary to partake in this great feast.  Little children break free from parents to get close to the altar; elders make their way slowly with their walkers; young couples hold hands as they wait for the bread and wine to come their way.

About two years ago we noticed one gentleman who quietly slipped into the sanctuary after worship began, stayed through the sermon and Nicene Creed, and the Eucharistic Prayer, and when the time came to gather to receive the bread and the wine, he would hand the deacon or acolyte an envelope filled with his offering gift and then leave.  He never spoke a word.  And he never put his gift in the offering plate when it came around.  And he never stayed to

receive communion.

In other words, he didn’t follow the “rules”.

This went on for about a year and a half.  I learned the man’s name was Jason and I’d see him around the neighborhood doing things that no one else seemed to care about doing—like picking up trash on the sidewalk; opening doors for people as they entered shops and office buildings.  Jason didn’t have a paying job.  His “job” seemed to be caring for his neighbors and his neighborhood.

One day about six months ago, Jason put his offering envelope in the plate on the altar and stayed for communion. Our Great Thanksgiving was palpably different that day.  Jason is a man of few words and his developmental difficulties mean we may never know why he does what he does but we continue to learn from him just the same.  We don’t understand why he delayed receiving communion or if his receiving the sacrament was in any way linked to his giving.  But there was something about his desire to give and care for others before receiving for himself that touched our community.

Jason reminded us of what it means to practice proportional giving in our stewardship.  No matter what our employment situation, or income, or station in life, faithful stewardship is about remembering and loving God first and loving our neighbors as ourselves.  As a community, we seek to work toward and beyond the tithe in all we do and Jason reminded us of what “first fruits” living is all about.  There are plenty of “rules” about giving and supporting the work of the church but what happens when the first rule—the only rule–is simply showing up and giving to and loving others without expectation of reciprocity?  How are we changed when that Christ-like way of living is shown in our very midst?  It might be as the hymn goes, “If our love were but more faithful, we should take him at his word; and our life would be thanksgiving for the goodness of the Lord.”

The Rev. Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows
Rector, Grace Episcopal Church
Syracuse Episcopal Chaplain, Syracuse University
The Episcopal Diocese of Central New York

Reflection Questions:

1. How is the Great Commandment expressed in your life? In your community?

2.  Do you experience The Offertory in the Eucharist as an expression of  loving God with all your heart, soul and mind?

3.  How do you experience giving as worship?

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One Response to Feasting on Gratitude: Oct. 23

  1. Dick Corbet says:

    Janis, this is one of the best church websites I have visited. Very friendly and easy for even a novice visitor to follow.

    One suggestion: Could you include a “Print” button on each of the articles intended for printing out – such as this one on “Feasting on Gratitude”. This way we would only print the story (which is 2 pages) and not the headers and side banners which adds another 2 pages to the printout. This would also help in our Greening efforts.

    Thanks for what you’re doing.

    Dick Corbet