I find myself reflecting a lot on stewardship, recently.

Partly, because part of my job is to help ensure the financial health of this congregation. But also, of course, this is because of our preparation to participate in the UCC’s Mission 4/1 Earth: 50 days of earth-care and eco-justice between Easter and Pentecost.  When we consider the marvelous complexity of this world around us, it must necessarily be heartbreaking to see it be so thoughtlessly damaged.  Whether you believe that God literally created this world, or you believe that it evolved to become the world we know, it matters little: I know few people who have not experienced the divine in the power of nature.  Caring for the earth keeps us in relationship with that divine presence all around us.

Recently I heard Rev. Mike Piazza, a UCC pastor in Virginia, suggest that the pollution of environment is an indication of the abdication of the church to teach covenant and stewardship.  In other words, the church is not keeping us from acting selfishly.  We are not being reminded of our sacred responsibility to be in covenant – that relationship of mutuality, of shared values and of holy promise.  We are not being reminded of our commitment to stewardship, in the literal sense of that word – the commitment to care for something which is not ours, yet which has been entrusted into our keeping.  We treat the earth as we treat so much of our lives: as though we were in sole control, as though we owned it, as though we had the privilege of treating our possession in whatever way felt pleasurable or convenient at the time.

We behave as though we were nothing but consumers – of material goods, of the earth, of God.

We behave as though God’s gifts to us demand nothing in return, as though God’s love and grace justifies our own self-interest and corruption.

We behave as though the covenant were made only with us, the privileged, the materially-blessed, and we do not heed the injunction to be, in turn, a blessing to others.

For the most part, the church has, indeed, declined to raise its voice against this trend.  In this age of church-hoppers and the “spiritual but not religious”, we try to make churches easy, comfortable places to celebrate God’s presence.  We try to be a loving community, while ignoring the fact that sometimes love is uncomfortable, and demanding, and hard.

I dare to think that, as sweet as this sounds, we want our church to be better than this.  We want to be convicted.  We want to hear that God loves us – yes!  us!  flawed, difficult, stubborn, near-sighted us! – enough to keep a covenant with us.  Enough to give the most precious gifts into our clumsy care.  Enough to trust that, even when we fall down, we will keep trying to be good stewards, good babysitters of God’s gifts.  I dare to think that we want a church that will not only reassure us, after we fail for the hundredth time, but that will give us the courage to get up and try again; to never stop giving everything we have to this relationship with the divine.

I dare to think that, as much as we are trained by our culture to be consumers, we would rather be the ones consumed  – swallowed whole by God’s extravagant love.

I dare to think that we want this church to be a church of the Gospel, a church of God’s covenant, a church that looks upon pollution, and corruption, and exploitation and says, “Enough!”  A church that practices what it preaches, even to the point of being ridiculed for its countercultural stand.  A church that represents the one who ate with lepers, blessed prostitutes, gave the Word to the illiterate, died for the sake of love.

We might be one church – one small community in one small state – but we have the power to live into the covenant.  We have the power to say, “Enough!” And in these 50 days of Eastertide, we have the power to raise our voices, with other churches in other communities in other states; to be one Church living one Gospel as stewards of one Creation.  We have the power to be responsible for our end of the relationship of mutuality and shared values to which God has called us: to choose relationship, to choose stewardship, to choose love.

We have the power to be the church we want to be.  Praise be to God!

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