April 4 - 10, 2005
It seems the world will happily tolerate all manner of religious sheep in wolves clothing, but outspoken and prophetic and popular champions of the oppressed pose such a threat, the world must silence them.
An overstatement? Perhaps, but certainly the examples of Jesus, Mohandas Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. support the idea.
This week we remember one more martyr to social justice and truth: Oscar Romero, Archbishop of El Salvador, who was assassinated 25 years ago as he celebrated Mass. (Check out this week’s Gleanings for remembrances and histories of Romero.)
Interestingly, just three years before his murder, it appeared Romero was destined for a long life, a natural death and no significant mention in the pages of history. Romero had been a pious, bookish bureaucrat, traditional in his theology, suspicious of radical liberation theologians and serving his church without controversy.
But 1977 brought the murder of a friend, Father Rutilio Grande, in retaliation for his work on behalf of peasant farmers who wanted to organize into cooperatives, a move that threatened wealthy landowners. The murder of one of his priests – and the failure of authorities to investigate it – opened Romero's eyes and transformed him.
The archbishop became a voice for the poor and an advocate for justice. In sermons and addresses broadcast by radio, he rallied the Salvadoran people. He used his position and church resources to document and decry human rights abuses and the work of shadowy death squads that had killed thousands. As Romero's popularity grew, so did his threat to El Salvador's power structure.
An assassin’s bullet struck him dead on March 24, 1980, as he celebrated Mass. In 1992, a United Nations Truth Commission concluded that a Salvadoran leader and ex-military officer had ordered Romero’s murder.
As with the stories of Jesus, Ghandi and King, the best way for Christians to memorialize Oscar Romero is not merely to revere his name but also continue his work of speaking up for God’s people who live in oppression by the forces of evil.
Stewardship involves not only how well we use our money for God's purposes, but how we use all of our life energies and resources for God's purposes. In this, Oscar Romero was a model steward who can inspire all of us.
I’ll give Romero the last word – something he told a reporter two weeks before his death:
I have often been threatened with death. If they kill me, I shall arise in the Salvadoran people. If the threats come to be fulfilled, from this moment I offer my blood to God for the redemption and resurrection of El Salvador. Let my blood be a seed of freedom and the sign that hope will soon be reality.
-Rob Blezard, editor and webmaster
New this week:
What are principles for year-round stewardship? How do you staff a stewardship committee? How do you build a stewardship program? These and other basic questions are answered in a handy, free, resource. Click here for Year-round stewardship. >From the Episcopal Church School for Stewardship.
God pushes us beyond our own paltry goals
"God often pushes us in a direction that is different than where we would go. It is not merely because of some task God wants us to accomplish or some gift God wants us to give, but because in the doing we become. God is working on all of us." Click here for the Rev. Dana Reardon's weekly column on stewardship.
Common Excuses for Not Preaching on Giving
"Pastors know better than anyone else how crucial congregational giving is for the survival of the church. So why do we hear so few messages on the subject of Christian giving or biblical stewardship? Here are some common preacher objections and our answers to them." Click here for the article. Good reading from Moneyandfaith.net.
A step in walking the way of Christ
Jesus did tell his disciples to pay their taxes to Caesar; rendering to him the coin that has his face on it, but giving to God what is God's. I guess that raises the question: what part of your life belongs to God? Have you given it all to God, or just part of it? Is Jesus the ruler of your life, or someone you follow on Sunday from 10:30 to noon?" Click here for Tithing. By The Rev. Dr. Walk Jones, pastor of Northminster Presbyterian Church, Pensacola, Fla. This week's Recycling Bin feature.
When last year's hurricanes extensively damaged a Florida church, the congregation was spared from disaster because it followed two key stewardship rules. Your congregation can learn them, too! Click here for this insightful column by Tuck Aaker, writer for ELCA Stewardship Resources.