This Lenten season, we are focusing on Holistic Stewardship, which is:
the good management of financial/material resources and our time, energy, and talents to care for, love, and serve our neighbors, all people, and the entire creation for the sake of God’s realm that is here, near, and not yet fulfilled (see 1 Corinthians 4:1-2).
Temple Talk (Sunday, March 31):
We have been discussing Holistic Stewardship which is the management of our financial means, time, energy, and talents for our stewardship of humankind and creation.
The idea of stewarding people may seem odd, especially if you do not supervise others in your paid or volunteered vocations.
But, we are continually called to care for, love, and serve all people by using our resources, time, energy, and talents to do so in word and deed, big and small. It might be donating food, clothing, or items for those in need. It might be feeding hungry people or seeking shelter for the homeless.
But, do we use our resources, time, energy, and talent to do so?
I was pondering a song, which speaks of helping our fellow humans when we have more time. One concluding line is “Funny how I think this sitting in my Lazy Boy”.
How can we manage our resources, time, energy, and talents for the sake of all people?
Mid-Week Service (Wednesday, April 3):
Holistic stewardship, again, is not limited to managing our financial means, time, energy, and talents for our own sake but for the sake of all humankind and creation.
The Torah is often translated as ‘law’, although more accurately ‘teaching’.
It is the first 5 books in the Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament, which are:
Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy.
As the years, decades, and centuries have continued to march forth, religious leadership had and continue to build a defensive ‘fence’ around the Torah to protect it from becoming profane, ordinary, or vandalized by our transgressions (or sins).
In essence, they did not want God’s precious teachings to be vulnerable to human error, misuse, and abuse. Additionally, the defense would permit a buffer zone between human imperfection and the teaching and enable those who honored the fence to be “blameless” before God and neighbor.
It sounds reasonable, secure, and perhaps wise.
But, such defensive measures only separate us from the Torah, God, and neighbor a like.
We all build defenses to protect our most vulnerable self, but we all know a person or several who seem to effortlessly tear down those defenses.
For example, I have an old flame with that innate ability while I am attempting to further fortify my defenses. As I shared this with another friend, she asked if it would be such a ‘bad’ thing for those defenses to come tumbling down. My reply was yes and no.
Yes. Who wants to be vulnerable? Who wants to be exposed for potential heartbreak?
No. The defenses only serve the purpose to separate and divide.
Similarly, the defense of the Torah protects and separates.
Jesus and his rebel friends were often accused of ‘breaking the law’, but the truth is that they were intentionally demolishing the defensive system that separated all people, the “blameless” and the sinner, from the Torah, from God, and from one another as neighbors.
It was for the sake of humankind, but particularly those Jesus refers to as the ‘least of these’ in our Matthew text. Jesus is warning us that we are expected to see, to bear witness to, to love, and to serve ALL people because Christ is within ALL people despite: their need for food, clothing, shelter, and companionship, but also their race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, gender identity, sexuality, politics, socio-economic status, religion, creed, their past, or etc.
This teaching was and remains quite offensive to many persons, but especially those who understand themselves as the “keepers of the law” or the “blameless” who accept the demonization of the ‘least of these’ and the lie these can ‘contaminate’ them.
Another example of this teaching is the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
The ‘law-abiding’ religious were fearful that such association would jeopardize their relationship with the other ‘law-abiding religious’ and God.
BUT at the moment of Jesus’ death upon the cross, the curtain in the Temple which separated the Holy of Holies (where God resided) and the people (or world) was torn in two. Thus, the defensive barrier between God and people was no more.
Our Romans text, however, reminds us of one defense system that continues to exist within and around the Torah… Love.
“Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law”.
So, let us be honest. It can be a challenge to use our finances, time, energy, and talents to tear down the defensive walls. And in the words of Garth Brooks (Thicker than Blood):
Why can’t we see the walls we can’t see through?
May our eyes be open to the walls we cannot see and cannot see through.
May we tear down said walls.
May we see Christ in ALL people.
May we reach out in love to ALL people, especially the “least of those”.
May we serve ALL people, again especially the “least of those”.
May we reflect Christ and God’s love to ALL through word and deed, big and small.