As our season of stewardship begins to draw to a close, it seems only right that the Lectionary would invite the topic to come full circle. We began on Easter 2 with Jesus and his disciples in that upper room. They were afraid, doubtful, needy. Jesus offered them shalom and his Spirit. As I preached this text, I brought to mind the words of King David in 1 Chronicles:
"Yours, O Lord, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. Riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might; and it is in your hand to make great and to give strength to all. And now, our God, we give thanks to you and praise your glorious name... For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you."
And now we have Paul in front of the Areopagus, preaching to the Athenians about his God, "The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth..."
If we believe that God made the world and everything in it. And if we believe that our God is not served by human hands. And if we believe that our God does not need any thing from us. Then stewardship (and anything else we speak of in the Church) is never a matter of desperation (we'll never make it without...), but rather a matter of gratitude (a response to the gifts given to us by God).
In a parish where money is tight or where membership is dwindling or where leadership is embattled, it can be hard to stay away from desperation, but when it is your key motivator, when everything you do is done to perpetuate "what has always been", well then you are doomed to fail. Desperation is the thing of unknown gods. Hope and life are the gifts of our God.