October 16, 2016

Pentecost – Proper 24

Genesis 32: 22-31; Psalm 121; 2 Timothy 3: 14- 4:5; Luke 18: 1-8


In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  AMEN.

What is good stewardship?

My answer is that good stewardship is simply making the most out of God has given you. Good stewardship is being intentional with our time, choosing to spend it in ways that are productive and life giving.  Good stewardship is about love and choosing to love people regardless of whether or not they choose to love us back.  Good stewardship is serving others, whether that is a meal, a listening ear, or a prayer.  

Next Sunday at St. Andrew’s, the bishop will be here at the 10:30 service to confirm and receive twenty people into the Episcopal Church.  One of the ways that we have been preparing for confirmation next week is through a series of classes for adults, and a mini retreat for youth.  Last weekend, Carissa and I met with our four youth confirmands at the Heights Interfaith Food Pantry.  

There we did a short bible study on justice and mercy, and then we volunteered in the pantry, handing out food to clients as they came by.  Because Carissa is bi-lingual, she stationed the front desk and handled intake for Spanish-speaking clients.  All four youth helped load bags with food into the push carts the clients had.  It was an experience of service during which I saw smiles on their four faces many times.  The reason they were smiling was because they were being good stewards of their time – they helping to feed other people.  It’s hard for me to find a better teenage confirmation preparation than watching a teenager with a smile on their face load green beans, rice, and beef stew into a cart for a person dealing with chronic hunger.  If that is not what confirmation and good stewardship is about, then I honestly don’t know what is.  

There is a financial piece to good stewardship as well, as we all know.   One of the volunteers at the pantry named Charlie explained to our group why the shelves of the Heights Food Pantry were not filled as fully as they usually are.  Charlie said that was because theHouston Food Bank is low on food, which is where the Heights Food Pantry purchases their food from.  If the Houston Food Bank is low, then many pantries around the city who depend on the Houston Food Bank end up being low on their items as well – it’s a trickle down effect.  You can probably guess the reason why the Houston Food Bank is low on food, and if your answer is “the economy” you would be correct.  But hunger doesn’t care about an economic downturn. 

Each of us in this church today has received so much from God.  We have received so much life, experiences too many to number of God’s grace and mercy.  But life can be scary, we can be afraid, and our fear drives us to want to hold onto all that we have.  Fear drives us to withhold our hand to help our neighbor.  Fear drives us to not share what we have with others.  But that’s not good stewardship.  Good stewardship courageously proclaims in the midst of economic uncertainty, election uncertainty, global uncertainty: BE NOT AFRAID.  It’s going to be okay.  Share what you have.  Feed the poor.  Make the most of what God has given you. 

Almost two hundred years ago lived a man named Samuel Isaac Joseph Schereschewsky.  Good strong Irish Catholic name!  Joseph Schereschewsky was born in 1831 into a Jewish family in Lithuania, and he studied to be a rabbi.  That is until Schereschewsky began reading a Hebrew translation of the New Testament.  And his reading of that scripture inspired him to convert to Christianity, and later to the Episcopal Church.  At the age of thirty-one, Schereschewsky, now an ordained Episcopal priest, boarded a boat for Shanghai, China, responding to the call of his bishop who was desperate to get some priests there.

During his voyage, Schereschewsky learned to write in the Chinese language, and during his thirteen years in China he began translating the Bible and parts of the Book of Common Prayer into Mandarin.  Later on in his life, Schereschewsky was stricken with a grave paralysis, but his paralysis did not invoke fear or resentment that often can be the result of some with this affliction.

Schereschewsky was determined to finish his translation of the Bible into Mandarin.  With heroic perseverance, Schereschewsky completed his translation.  It took him twenty years.  It took twenty years because during the course of that time he typed some 2,000 pages with the middle finger of his partially crippled hand.  Twenty years.  When he finished, he said, “I have sat in this chair for over twenty years.  It seemed very hard at first.  But God knew best.  He kept me for the work for which I am best fitted.”  

The name of St. Andrew’s Stewardship Campaign this year is “Living Generously.”  Schereschewsky lived generously, and he lived courageously.  He lived into courageous stewardship because he made the most of what he had.  So what if his body was broken?  He had one good finger, and if it took him twenty years to translate a Bible into Mandarin Chinese, then so be it.  

What do you have to offer to God?  I’ve turned in my pledge card.  And as I said in my letter to you, I’ve increased our families pledge to St. Andrew’s this year 10%.  Some clergy who do this enjoy saying to their congregation “I’ve upped my pledge, up yours!”  I’m not going to do that.  But I invite you to prayerfully and courageously respond to the call God has placed on your heart to do something powerful, to feed those who hunger, to build the kingdom of God.  Are you making the most of what God has given you?  AMEN.