Faith Presbyterian Church, Baltimore, MD
June 23, 2022
Faith Values: Stewardship
I follow Corey Booker on Instagram, because of course I do. In addition to being a US Senator from New Jersey, Booker is on a run streak – up with the dawn every morning to run at least a mile, this is a thing that people do. I’ve never done it – but some people do. After his early run, Booker often will post a reel with an inspirational quote or thought for the day. The other morning, he observed that often, when his alarm goes off at 4:45 in the morning, all he wants to do is roll over and go back to sleep. Then he remembers a question that dogs him. Do you want to do what you want right now? Or do you want to do what you want MOST? And he gets up. And runs another day.
It’s impressive. And a good question, one that might help us make better choices about what we do with our time and how we work towards the goals we set for ourselves.
This past Monday evening, members of your session and diaconate met together. We shared lasagna and ate ice cream sandwiches at long tables under the trees out on the South lawn. We laughed and reconnected, and then we came upstairs and thought and talked about our congregation. We asked a question connected to Cory Booker’s question: what do we value? What is most important to who we are and how does that inform what we are called to do in the world?
I believe it’s important to return to these questions regularly – in part because we’re Presbyterians, which means we’re a confessional church: in times of upheaval and change, we reflect and reaffirm who we are and what we believe about God and the world. That’s reflected in our book of Confessions.
These are questions to consider also because it’s fun to envision future possibilities and make space for the Spirit to shape our collective imagination about what might we might do and be together.
And finally, it’s important to consider our core values because the world around us has changed – is changing rapidly. Politics and pandemic continue to convulse our country. We are bombarded with devastating news of war in Ukraine, drought in the west, an earthquake in Afghanistan, and the threat of famine; higher than ever CO2 levels in our atmosphere. Now almost half the states in our union are not safe for women, or for people who want fewer concealed guns on our streets like police officers and Presbyterians. The ways we form and build community are evolving – patterns of attendance and participation are shifting, too; as are the needs of the neighborhood around us. It is a lot to hold, to carry, to try to find our way through.
In yoga, in strength training, and even in running – the teacher or coach will often tell athletes to connect to their core, or to brace their core: the muscles that wrap around our trunks to support our lower back and abs, and stabilize our pelvis. Connecting to your core in a yoga pose helps with balance, in running it prevents injury. And when attempting a heavy lift, your core can be a powerhouse of strength. Breathe out, right now – and connect to your core. Feel those muscles that protect your back and inner organs! Brace yourself – and now relax.
Reconnecting to what is core, foundational to who we are: as Christians, and as a community of faith – is a way to maintain balance in a turbulent world, to protect ourselves against the unraveling of our sense of connectedness, efficacy and purpose as individuals and a congregation. Shoring up and bracing our core helps us tap into our strength as God’s people.
And it’s not hard to do! We just need to look around, and look inward – what brings us here, week after week? What do our building and grounds say about us as a congregation? What does our public witness say about who we are, and the world we want to be part of creating? How do we spend our time? What does that tell us about what matters to us?
Our Faith Value theme for this morning is stewardship. The term stewardship conjures up pledge cards and pleas for money. But that’s not exactly what I mean – at least, that’s not all I mean when I name stewardship as a core value. This past Monday night, after the lasagna and the ice cream sandwiches, around the tables in the Woodmont Room, we named and prioritized some of our church’s core values. In part of our discussion, we explored what exactly it meant to name stewardship as a core value. We landed on the definition that stewardship is how we tend to what we have: our faith, our congregation, the practices and property that we’ve inherited as a church. Stewardship is also how we use the gifts we’ve been given: time, talents, and resources. It’s investing ourselves in God’s work through Faith Church.
Good stewardship means showing up to support one another: by marching in Pride, like a group of us did yesterday; visiting one another in the hospital and sharing meals in hard times; standing together to proclaim that Black Lives Matter and to advocate for love and justice in the world. Good stewardship also means stepping up to lead and serve, to teach and sing, and more, because we need the gifts you, and sometimes only you, can offer. And, good stewardship means making use of our building and the surrounding property – to support our ministry as we’re doing now in worship, to serve our neighbors, to host our partners, and to reflect our values.
I’m hard pressed to find a passage of scripture that speaks more clearly to good stewardship than this section of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome. He writes to a church he intends to visit, but has not yet met in person; a church wrestling with conflict and working out how best to live together in community. And he offers instructions to guide their common life, as they attempt to be church together.
Consider yourselves living sacrifices – that your whole lives might be a testament to the goodness and glory of God. All that we have and all that we are belongs to God – so we are called to live and give accordingly.
If together we are the body of Christ in the world, and individually we are members of it – each with different gifts to bring and offer – good stewardship is knowing what we have to offer, what gifts we’ve been given, and finding a way to give back… or to receive when that is needed. We don’t have to do everything, because we have each other: for encouragement and support, different parts with a variety of gifts to carry out God’s work in the world.
As we move forward, the session and I need your help and input to shape and inform our understanding of who we are as Faith Church: what are our core values? How do we live them out?
Here are each of our 10 core values as discerned this past Monday. Come forward, get one of the values that speaks to you. And write on it one way you’ve seen it lived out in community, or a way you’d like to see it come to life. And in the spirit of stewardship: you can also make a commitment to help carry out one of these values in the months ahead.
There’s also blank paper if you want to add another value that’s not listed here.
As the music plays, come, help us strengthen our core!