February 20 - 26, 2006
Ash Wednesday: When stewards take stock
What's it really all about? What are we living for? Are my values Godly values? Is the way I spend my precious, finite minutes of life really the best? And what does God want from me, anyway?
For me, Ash Wednesday answers all these questions. Specifically the part of Ash Wednesday when the pastor makes two swipes of a dirty thumb across my forehead and says, "Remember, Man, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."
The words and gesture express our lowly condition as human beings: Time will and destroy us, despite the defensive ramparts and barricades we construct with our money, our fame, our beauty, our power, and so on. So if death and dust are inevitable, Ash Wednesday asks us, why do we human beings build our silly defenses as if, as if they will protect us? Why build defenses when instead, we can use our time, our wealth, our creativity and power for God's purposes?
Ash Wednesday reminds us that all of us are guilty of the great sins of failing to love the Lord Our God with all our being, and loving our neighbor as ourselves. Lent calls us to repentance and self examination. And exactly this is the meaning of repentance -- to turn away from sin and turn towards God.
How we use our lives and what we are living for are, ultimately, issues of stewardship. Ash Wednesday dramatically condemns us, all of us, for being poor stewards of the bountiful lives that God gives us. Ash Wednesday reminds us that we are "dead people walking" and sets the tone for our Lenten self examination.
Of course, Ash Wednesday isn't the end of the story. That will come 40 some-odd days from now, and we'll discuss that later. For now, meditate on these words: "Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return!"
-Rob Blezard, editor and webmaster
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New This Week:
Stewardship as a Lenten discipline
Take on a different discipline this lent -- stewardship! "Our theology of stewardship suggests that being good stewards is another way to describe how we act as disciples or followers of Jesus' way of being. In relating stewardship to discipleship, then, perhaps we might learn ways to become better stewards through a Lenten discipline" Click here for "Stewardship as a Lenten discipline" from United Church of Canada.
Good stewardship means letting go
"We profess that it all belongs to God and we are just the caretakers. And yet instead of seeing what the best use is for what we have and how it can benefit the most people, we hang on as if it really belongs to us, as if only we could best utilize it, while in truth no one is benefiting and none of it is being used for any good purpose." Click here for this column from pastor Dana Reardon. Click here to read other columns.
7 Ways to Increase Giving in Your Congregation
Here's a handy, concise guide for pastors and congregational leaders looking for fresh wrinkles on an old problem. "Work smarter instead of harder at stewardship. Here are seven things you should be doing if you're serious about increasing giving from your members." Click here for "7 Ways," from The United Church of Christ Stewardship Resources.
40 Days of Generosity: Free online Lenten devotions
Here is a wonderful resource for disciples and congregations alike -- daily Lenten devotions exploring generosity. Online resources also provide prayers, activities and more. Click here to go to the index for 40 Days of Generosity. It's a 2005 calendar, but can easily be adapted for this year. From the ELCA Division for Congregational Ministries This week's Treasure Chest offering.