Because the Sacred has gifted us all that we have in our life, we must use our gifts, abilities, and skills responsibly in this world. It is our responsibility, as stewards, to create positive change that brings the experience of compassion, peace and justice.
Avengers: Civil War
Tony Stark is seeking additional help for his side of the Avengers disagreement. He has seen videos of a spider-boy doing amazing things on YouTube. Tony visits Peter Parker...
In Peter’s room:
Stark: Why are you doing this? I got to know what’s your M.O.? What gets you out of that twin bed in the morning?
Peter: Because I’ve been me my whole life, and I’ve had these powers for six months. I read books. I build computers. Yeah, I would love to play football, but I couldn’t then, so I shouldn’t now.
Stark: Sure, because you’re different.
Peter: Exactly. But I can’t tell anybody that, so I’m not. When you can do the things that I can, but you don’t, and then the bad things happen, they happen because of you.
Stark: So you wanna look out for the little guy, you wanna do your part? Make the world a better place, all that, right?
Peter: Yeah, just looking out for the little guy. That’s what it is.
Stark decides to bring Spiderman on, temporarily, as an Avenger, changing Peter’s life. Spiderman: Homecoming begins after Peter’s experience in Avengers: Civil War concludes.
Stewardship invites us to use our skills and abilities responsibly
Peter Parker, for being so young, has a very mature understanding of his super-powers. He recognizes that “with great power comes great responsibility” (to quote Uncle Ben, Peter Parker’s uncle, from the Tobey Maguire spiderman series, 2002).
Peter has all these powers that have suddenly appeared in his life. He is different than he was 6 months ago. He could have easily shown off and used his powers to create wealth, instead of (as Tony Stark put it) being a dumpster diver to acquire the beat-up old electronics he currently had.
But, as he tells Mr Stark, it would not be right to use these powers to show off for personal gain — “I would love to play football, but I couldn’t then, so I shouldn’t now.” Something inside Peter knows that these are gifts given to him to create change, to help others, to do good.
So, he uses his powers to help others — to be the friendly neighborhood Spiderman. This is Spirit’s invitation to us — to use our abilities to help others.
Even in Spiderman: Homecoming, after he saves his classmates in the Washington Monument and is the talk of the school as Spiderman, Peter keeps his identity secret. Ned, Peter’s best friend, asks Peter in the school hall…
Ned: What is it like being famous when nobody knows it is you?
Peter: Crazy dude.
Ned: Crazy. Should we tell everyone its you?
Ned: Can I tell everyone?
Peter: No, dude. That is not a good idea….
If Peter Parker had told he was Spiderman and used his power for his own personal gain, he would have lost his soul. This is the concept that Tobey Maguire’s 2007 Spiderman 3 was exploring. Self-aggrandizement serves nobody but you. It brings no change, only heart-break, loss, greed, corruption, hatred, divisiveness, and more negative consequences.
President Carter vs President Trump: How we use our abilities...
It is the difference between President Jimmy Carter (humble servant-leadership) and President Trump (self-aggrandizing narcism).
President Jimmy Carter has used his life, his gifts, his abilities to transform the world. He has created a powerful legacy. He is the President who cared more for the lives of the hostages than his re-election campaign. We know him as the past President who still, at the age of 93, continues building houses for Habitat for Humanity. We know him as a person of faith, who stands in integrity and authenticity, working to create justice and peace in all that he does.
President Trump. We know him as the President who thrives off of bullying, especially through Twitter; who makes governing decisions that serves his own interest, cutting programs aimed at helping those in need. We know him as a disrespectful womanizer and belittler. His gift so far to this country is that of divisiveness and hate.
Spirit’s invitation is to use our spiritual gifts and abilities to create positive change! All that the Sacred has blessed us with in our life is at our discretion to use to help others, to transform the world, to create justice, to grow compassion, to invite peace and harmony.
This is God’s call, for each and everyone of us: to use our skills and abilities humbly in service to the Sacred. This is how the Sacred creates transformation in the world — through us, through our willingness to work toward justice and offer compassion.
How will you use your gifts and abilities responsibly?
What does that look like in your life?
What changes do you need to make to be a better steward of the Sacred’s gifts to you?
Where are you engaging this world to create justice and compassion?
Stewardship means experiencing everything as gifted to us by the Sacred. Everything! This includes our skills, abilities, talents, spiritual gifts, qualities, financial resources, Land, food, shelter, community, family, friends, blessings, abundance, hopes and desires, goals and accomplishments. All of it has been gifted and supported by the presence and work of the Sacred. Stewardship invites us to engage life as custodians of these gifts.
When we begin to create a stewardship lifestyle, this is key. We are care-takers of what the Sacred has given to us.
Downton Abby: Season 1
Lady Mary, the eldest daughter, struggling with the fact that she will not inherit Downton, walks with her father as he explains:
Lord Grantham: If I had made my own fortune and bought Downton for myself, it should be yours without question. But I did not. My fortune is the work of others who labored to build a great dynasty. Do I have the right to destroy their work, or impoverish that dynasty?
I am a custodian, my dear, not an owner. I must strive to be worthy of the task I’ve been set.
The Sacred gifts us:
Our Sacred Scriptures, reminds us of this:
After creating all of creation, God creates humankind and then, “God blessed them (humankind): “Prosper! Reproduce! Fill Earth! Be responsible for fish in the sea and birds in the air, for every living thing that moves on the face of Earth.” Then God said, “I’ve given you every sort of seed-bearing plant on Earth, and every kind of fruit-bearing tree, given them to you for food. To all animals and all birds, everything that moves and breathes, I give whatever grows out of the ground for food.” (Genesis 1: 28-30)
“If you start thinking to yourselves, “I did all this. And all by myself. I’m rich. It’s all mine!”—well, think again. Remember that God, your God, gave you the strength to produce all this wealth so as to confirm the covenant that he promised to your ancestors—as it is today.” (Deuteronomy 8:18, The Message)
Stewardship: Using all we are given responsibly
This means living our life with the mindset of Lord Grantham: “I am a custodian. I must strive to be worthy of the task I’ve been set.”
The Sacred has given us all that is within our lives, therefore we must strive to be powerful custodians. This does not mean laying around and doing nothing. It means working to protect and grow what we have been given.
The parable of the talents, in Matthew 25: 14-30 tells us just that. In this parable, Jesus tells a story about a land owner who gives his slaves money before going on a trip. The slaves are to keep the money and be responsible for it while the landowner is gone. Two of the slaves work to increase the money they have been entrusted with, and are rewarded upon return. One, fearing his master, hides the money to keep it safe, returning what was entrusted to him when his master returns. His master is not happy that the slave did nothing to increase what he was given.
The Sacred entrusts us with a great deal of skills, abilities, resources, gifts, qualities throughout our lifetimes. It is our job to, in gratitude for the Sacred’s blessings, work to grow, expand, strengthen, build them; to share them out in the world; to use them to transform the world for the better.
How are you strengthening what the Sacred has blessed you with?
Where are you offering your gifts in this world?
How are you engaging the world, using your skills and qualities, to bring about justice?
How are you being a good steward of what the Sacred as entrusted to you?
Stewardship is a word we throw around every Fall in churches. We talk about stewardship at the time of the year when we are creating our church budgets and asking people to pledge their giving for the next year. We have narrowed stewardship down to dollars. Because of that, often times we do not want to think about, talk about, learn about stewardship, especially if we feel like we do not have the financial resources to support the church the way we want to.
However, stewardship is so much more.
The Oxford Dictionary defines stewardship like this:
stewardships (plural noun)
the job of supervising or taking care of something, such as an organization or property.
"responsible stewardship of our public lands" · "he resigned his stewardships at Westminster Abbey and St. Martin's" · "systemic failures cannot be ascribed to the stewardship of a political party" · "Pennsylvania's forest stewardship program”
Stewardship is about all aspects of taking care of what we are given.
When we reflect theologically on this: Stewardship broadens to be about taking care of all that the Sacred has given to us, which is basically everything in our life — our abilities, our time, our finances, our Land, our prayers, our worship, our love, etc. The list is endless.
Stewardship, theologically, is a way of life for me. One of my mentors talks often about, “praying our life and living our prayer.” This to me is true stewardship. If everything we do is reflected as prayer, as our way of honoring the Sacred, then we are truly being good stewards, good caretakers, of our lives, our world., our faith, God’s call to Compassion and Justice. If everything we do is reflected as prayer, then we are reflecting fully the Light, Compassion and Justice of the Sacred, and that is the highest form of stewardship we can offer.
When we are in our fullest reflection of the Sacred:
That is just a few ways stewardship is expressed as we align our hearts, minds, bodies, spirits fully with the Sacred.
For it, the more aligned I am with the Sacred, the more natural the sense of stewardship is, it flows freely, calling me to hold myself and others accountable to the Sacred’s call.
This month at St Paul’s UCC in Rio Rancho, NM we will be diving into a well-rounded discussion of stewardship. Our worship will reflect on various aspects of stewardship each Sunday. This blog will continue to dive into stewardship, exploring all the ways it is expressed in our lives. Come and join us for worship at 10:30am on Sunday mornings!
As we begin this month of reflection, what does stewardship mean to you? What questions arise as you reflection upon, contemplate, wonder about stewardship?
Pastor Jocelyn Emerson weaves together her training as a Light and Energy worker, Reiki master, spiritual director, and Pastor with her life experience as a mystic and contemplative to offer a space of trust, safety, and honesty to support you on your life's journey.