Stewardship, part 3
Nautically speaking, the steward was the officer on a ship in charge of provisions and meals. Our sanctuary ceiling has always suggested to me the hull of a boat, and we are, indeed, all in the same boat. On this boat, we are in charge together of keeping ourselves spiritually fed.
In early England and Scotland, a steward was a high officer of the state, and hence became the name of “one who manages affairs of an estate on behalf of his employer.” Who is our employer? Our employer is our mission: nurture spirituality, foster compassion, engage in service. We have joined together in the employ of that mission for spirituality, compassion, and service. On behalf of that mission which employs us, we manage the affairs of this “estate.” Our affairs fall into four categories: worship and celebration, religious education, caring for each other, and being a force for a kinder and more just world. We manage these with caring and careful budgets to which we generously contribute.
We do this – we accept the role of stewards – because it is a high honor to serve together our mission; because it is such joy to be and have and make community; because the steward’s job is to protect and sustain the institution so it can be passed on to those who come after.
The need for Community Unitarian Universalist, for this congregation of ours, has always been great – and when I say “always” I’m talking about throughout our congregation’s history: ever since 1909. The need for our congregation has always been great and never greater than in these times. I am, and maybe you are, too, more deeply concerned about the trends in our country than I have ever been. The politics of cruelty, hate, fear, and intolerance is ascendant, and whether this is a dark phase in our nation’s history, a phase that will pass, or presages much worse to come, I do not know.
Threats to our air and water and climate threaten the survival of many species. Environmental degradation can lead to political instability and war. If that war extends to nations with nuclear arms, the species threatened with extinction could include homo sapiens.
Racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamaphobia, xenophobia rive the public sphere. We have been called to live into these times, to rise to these challenges, though they are not the ones we expected or asked for. The strength and health of our Community Unitarian Universalist Congregation at White Plains is essential and critical for answering that call we must answer.
The need has always been great and never greater than now for a place devoted to nurturing one another in our spiritual journey, for fostering compassion and understanding, and for engaging in service to transform ourselves and our world.
The need has always been great and never greater than now for our little counter-cultural space, our light in the wilderness, our beacon in the storm – strengthening ourselves to help strengthen others build resistance to trends of the time and build hope for a new and different day.
The need has always been great and never greater than now for this place of restoration for our weary spirits, this place of abundance amidst the reigning fearful ideology of scarcity, this place of love and honor for our family and all families.
The need has always been great and never greater than now for this place for practicing being our best selves, negotiating our own misunderstandings so as to sharpen the skills our bruised and hurting world needs us to have.
The need has always been great and never greater than now for this place of learning more about things like economic inequalities, climate change, and the insidious, pervasive functioning of white supremacy.
The need has always been great and never greater than now for this place of questioning, re-examining our assumptions, investigating our own biases, freely and responsibly searching for truth and meaning.
The need has always been great and never greater than now for our place and all places that nurture spirits and help heal our world. There are many such places, though not enough – and this one is yours. The world is counting on you to be faithful and effective stewards – to keep this place, our congregation, strong and vibrant.
Jesus' disciples were on the verge of turning away from engagement and connection -- from the possibilities of community. Jesus answered them, "You give them something to eat." And lo, there was abundance.
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This is part 3 of 3 of "Stewardship"
Part 1: The True Loaves and Fishes Miracle
Part 2: Abundance Is the True Law of Life