The sermon, indeed the whole service, on Sunday was on the subject of stewardship – stewardship of our money, stewardship of our time, stewardship of our talents. A very thought-provoking service that set me a-musing. No, not amusing, but amusing (though some of my musing was quite amusing, I have to admit).
I felt quite comfortable, in an uncomfortable kind of a way, as we were asked to contemplate our own stewardship and our plans for 2010. Strangely comforting, for me who used to question the sanity of those who said God spoke to them clearly, to find that God was speaking to me clearly. You may not agree with what I type here, but I am at peace with God over it, and you can come to your own place of peace which may be at total odds to mine, but that’s fine.
We were given a sheet of paper, a “personal stewardship plan for 2010” upon which to jot down our thoughts during the service. Some times in my life this kind of thing has been useful. For a moment yesterday I felt guilty and uncomfortable for feeling resistant to it, but then I realised that it was not because I felt forced into making a commitment, but that I felt it might force me to restrict my commitment – to concentrate on the tenth that I was being asked to focus on rather than the 100% and more (more? Yes, it feels like more) that God has given me to use for his service. I realised I don’t need to feel guilty for not tithing, because I don’t actually believe in tithing. Was this a selfish thought or was God at peace with it too? I believe the latter… and I realised why I could feel happy in that thought. I did an hour’s shift at work before church, came home and had a nap, and overslept. I had time to get myself ready and then drive to church, or to go as I was and walk. And as I deliberated, I had a clear thought. “You don’t need to get changed – you were with Me while you were in work as well as in church so those clothes are fine. And you don’t need to sort out your bag so that you’ve got your glasses, pen and diary as today is not the day for making commitments that you put in writing. The sleep has done you good – now just come and be with Me.”
After the service I walked into an argument.. well, not an argument, but someone holding forth at the minister that we are given eight hours to work to earn the money to fulfil our needs, eight hours to sleep to revitalise our bodies so that we are able to work, and eight hours of leisure which we should be tithing, and that nobody should be spending more than eight hours working, sleeping or at leisure. I resisted the temptation to say “twaddle”, but it set me thinking even more. Time, talents, money – they’re not distinguishable gifts but all interlinked. For me, what God expects of me is that I accept these gifts with love and gratitude and that I use them, not only for my own wellbeing, but to serve him and others. Not 90% for me and 10% for Him. Not even 10% for me and 90% for Him. But Him in me… and 100% for us both.
So how do I count the work I do, to which I truly believe I was called by God? It takes my time. It really takes my talents. It takes my money (seeing as I had to take a major income cut to take the job). In earning the money to keep myself and the boys going, I am still serving God and my neighbour in the work I do and my attitude to it. So I am expected to be humble and to serve; to be amenable even when I feel grumpy and industrious even when I feel lethargic; to share my faith through my actions and sometimes even through my words; to willingly do not only my fair share, but more than my fair share, without complaint or seeking thanks or praise or reward. And how do I use my leisure time? That too involves my money and my talents as well as my time, but not only in what I volunteer to do within my community, but the presence I have with those around me, the care I take of my environment, my awareness of the presence of God and my conversations with him as the day goes by. Do I use my time positively or negatively? (I feel an embargo on Bejewelled Blitz coming on) Creatively or passively? With God or ignoring God? Do I do my best for my family and strive for their wellbeing, or do I put myself first? The assertive congregant at church claimed that caring for your family was part of your leisure as having children was what you chose to do and caring for them was pleasure. I disagree – my children were a gift from God – both of them – and in caring for them I am serving God as well as doing what I can for those I love dearly and getting that warm feeling inside that I am promoting their wellbeing.
The service and the sermon were incredibly helpful to me. My reluctance to write down my commitment for 2010 was not that I felt threatened by it, but that I felt restricted. God has given me so much, but it’s all on loan. He has fulfilled my every need, and more besides, and given me the opportunities to share in fulfilling the needs of others. We were asked in the service to name some of the blessings that we had experienced in the previous week. Hardly anyone spoke, me included. But not because I couldn’t think of any. Because I had so many that it was impossible to pick just one. And I guess many people felt the same.
So this is my prayer for 2010, my stewardship commitment for the coming year.
I am no longer my own but yours.
Your will, not mine, be done in all things,
wherever you may place me,
in all that I do
and in all that I may endure;
when there is work for me
and when there is none;
when I am troubled
and when I am at peace.
Your will be done
when I am valued
and when I am disregarded;
when I find fulfilment
and when it is lacking;
when I have all things,
and when I have nothing.
I willingly offer
all that I have and am
to serve you,
as and where you choose.
(excerpt from the Methodist covenant service)