November comes and thoughts gravitate towards two things. It is the typical Stewardship time for churches and the holiday that is on everyone’s mind, Thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It is a celebration of family, of being together, of food and good fortune, and it entails no significant planning in the church. It is a time when the leaves are leaving and we are looking ahead to snow. It is a time for enjoying the family time and kicking back to watch a football game or two. It is a time to seriously take a moment and reflect on what all we are grateful for in the year past.
Stewardship Sunday however is my least favorite time of year. It involves asking for money, asking church members to increase their pledges just a little more, and talking about money and the real hard to talk about facts that go along with it. I don’t like asking for more money. I know that there are many people in every congregation that are giving the most they can afford. I know that there are many people who are on “fixed incomes”. I know that there are many people who commit time and energy in abundance because they have plenty of that and no extra expendable income.
I realize the hard truths about being involved in a church and making sure there is money to pay the utilities, adequately compensate a staff and keep the church operating. I am fully aware of the financial obligations we have which enable us to continue to be present for and in the community. And I know that we are called through the message of the Gospel to share the good news of the hope we know with others that they too might find a community as loving, accepting and compassionate as we have so that their lives might be filled with joy. Considering all of that we have an obligation to ourselves and others to participate in giving of our financial resources to the church.
But then . . . all that does is get the bills paid and keep the doors open. Is that really what we are all about here in this place?
I don’t think so.
I think we are here because the church and Hope Church specifically really means something to us. So if we are here because Hope really means something then the two November topics, Thanksgiving and Stewardship, are really about the same thing. Both are, at their very core, about expressing our gratitude. We individually make a financial commitment to Hope Church out of gratitude and thanks for its being there for us. We join efforts with other UCC churches so that so that across the country we can be there for the wider community. And we are, in a deep and meaningful way, willing able to make a commitment out of gratitude so that the impact we have on this community will go on.
Being good stewards of our lives, our world and our finances has its roots in gratitude for the world, in which we live, the resources we have and the bodies in which we dwell. Gratitude for all not to anything. We can express our gratitude by making what we have available to others.
Maybe at some time in the future we can celebrate Stewardship Sunday in the same way we celebrate Thanksgiving, with a great dinner and an awesome feeling of being close to one another.