July 31 - Aug. 6, 2006




Who is up to the task of stewardship?

"People today are wimps," said a senior member of the congregation, now in her 80s.

Her comment came on the hottest day of the year. The temperature soared to 102 in the shade. We were sitting around a conference table in our air-conditioned church office and talking about how early we needed to turn on the sanctuary A/C to have the church cooled in time for Sunday service. That was when the youngest member of the committee, a guy in his 20s, thought for a second and asked her, "When you were growing up, what did the church do for services when it got really hot?"

"We sat through it," the member said, a surprised look on her face. "There was no such thing as air conditioning, so everybody was used to the heat." That's when she grinned and said, "People today are wimps," She said it with a smile, but I knew she meant it,. And I knew that she was right.

Today middle-class Americans make more money than anybody ever dreamed, and our lives are incredibly luxurious when compared to the rest of the world --  or even our own recent past. Check out how big new houses are. Drive through a new subdivision, and then visit older developments built in the 50s and 60s. You'll see plainly what the statistics show. The average American home in 1950 was 930 square feet, but by 2004 it had swelled to 2,349 square feet, reports architect Susan Susanka in her book, "The Not So Big House." And bigger houses mean more A/C, more furnishings and more upkeep. Which means money and energy.

Universal air conditioning? Increasing size of houses? The list could go on -- the number of cars in the family, the size of vacation homes, the cost of weddings, etc. All of these things have skyrocketed in recent decades. And as norms have risen, the money and effort required to have an "average" life in America has also risen dramatically, along with expectations. 

But as a people, are we happier, more fulfilled or more connected to one another than we were a generation ago, when our grandmothers were children and had to endure church in a sweltering sanctuary? Indicators such as road rage, persistent political polarization, the high divorce rate and the ballooning use of mental-health-drugs all point very much to the contrary. 

Here churches have an ideal opportunity to teach stewardship. Against the deceptions of our self-absorbed culture, churches proclaim the Gospel truth of God's Reign breaking in all around us every day. God's Reign happens whenever the promise of God's love and salvation is proclaimed, heard and believed. The Gospel alone has the power to transform hearts from greed to generosity, to reorder our priorities and clear our vision. The Gospel declares us truly rich by virtue of God's favor, displacing the lie that we are rich because of our wealth.

The Gospel frees us from the need to have an enormous house, a prestige car, the latest electronic gadgets. And as we say no to the lure of the marketplace, we can give away more of our money, time and talent to further God's Reign, and in the process we find happiness and joy and fulfillment that eludes us in material wealth.. And THAT is hardly a task for wimps.

--Rob Blezard, Webmaster and Editor
Permission is eagerly granted to publish the message for local, nonprofit use. Please drop me a line at rcblezard@earthlink.net to let me know you're using it, and be sure to publish it with the following notice: 
(c) Copyright 2006 by the Rev. Rob Blezard, webmaster for the Stewardship of Life Institute, archive.stewardshipoflife.org. Used by permission.

New This Week:

Martin E. Marty: The joy of stewardship
In this essay, the esteemed theologian looks at the philanthropic partnership of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. " 'Giving back' is just about the highest theologically based motive.  Sorry if that's a cliché, but it has become so for having been stressed so frequently in the scriptures and traditions. " Click here for "The Joy of Stewardship," from Sightings, published by The Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago.

  Gifts in Action: Asset-based stewardship
 Here is a wonderful primer on asset-based stewardship, as well as workshops to explore the issue with the leaders of your church. "Asset-based stewardship begins with gratitude for the gifts God has given us. God gave us those gifts for a reason, and we are called to use them." Click here for "Asset-based stewardship," from the United Church of Canada Stewardship Resources.

The real miracle at the feeding of 5000
"There are all kinds of miracles going on in the story.  Often people want to focus on just one. They want to point to the miracle of being able to feed so many people with so little. That is what a real miracle is about isn't it? Doing what is impossible?" Click here for this weekly column from Pastor Dana Reardon. Click here to peruse columns from her archives.

 Douglas John Hall: Stewardship as a Human Vocation
With the world facing crises on many fronts, now more than ever it is time for people of faith to embrace their God-ordained vocations as stewards. From Douglas John Hall, one of North America's most prophetic theologian, an essay given as a lecture last year at Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary. Click here for "Stewardship as a Human Vocation. (PDF file requires Adobe Reader.) This week's Treasure Chest offering.