Today is the umpteenth who-even-knows-anymore day of the Season of COVID, during the weeks of protests for racial justice, in the days following the heart-rending, history-revealing passing of the honorable John Robert Lewis, civil rights leader and U.S. Representative from Georgia. Rep. Lewis died at the age of 80 after 65 years making “good trouble” for the sake of equality, shining light on racial injustice, and fighting tirelessly for “liberty and justice for all” people.
John Robert Lewis significantly raised the standard for what it means to be declared “good and faithful servant.” Not without human flaws, and with strong personality and unwavering principles, Lewis lived out his faith and fulfilled his life mission consistently over 65 years. At the end: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
Fall brings the season of national election
Fall brings the season of church stewardship programs
“Stewardship” – n. – a biblical/practical concept that we pastors employ, especially during a fall “stewardship program” designed to encourage the members of our congregations to make a deeper commitment to the church, with particular emphasis on financial giving. More comprehensive stewardship programs will spotlight time, talent, and treasure.
The biblical concept of stewardship (oikonomia) refers to management of the owner’s household or estate by the (non-owner) steward. Implied, and essential: while the owner was out of sight, the management decisions are driven by the owner’s priorities, not the steward’s ideas, whims, or excuses. A steward, fulfilling his master’s agenda, gets to hear upon the master’s return: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”
For the person of faith, stewardship is a faith statement: It all belongs to God.
Musically: “This is my Father’s World”
Liturgically/prayerfully: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Stewardship programs remind us that we have been entrusted with God’s valuables: our very lives (time), our talents, and the fruit of our time and talents (money). How will we invest these in God’s agenda? And what about taking care of God’s agenda itself?
John Lewis’ life and work revealed a new-to-me thing about “good and faithful servant” stewardship: stewardship of the ideal. Along with the to-do list and the keep-it-going tasks and the don’t-fritter-it-away warnings, the master shares the Ultimate Dream with the beloved servant. The master entrusts the servant with the Big Picture. The good servant keeps things going; the faith-filled servant will move the ideal forward.
In this season of political polarity and partisan strife, where are the stewards of respect and responsibility?
In this season of police violence and non-mask-wearing violence, where are the stewards of life?
In this season of staggering inability to be a nation that guarantees food, shelter and safety, where are the stewards of “the greatest country on earth”?
In this season of 1000 deaths a day from COVID-19, who will be the stewards of “the (scientific) truth will set you free”?
Ideals are easy to recite and hard to take on.
For God servants: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”
For the patriotic: “With liberty and justice for all”
John Lewis et.al.: “The beloved community”
Even good people who don’t consider themselves particularly religious or patriotic understand the ideal of “common good.”
People will fight to keep Lord’s Prayer words and Pledge of Allegiance words in place. We all seem to know they are important words for us, but, oh how slippery they can be to hold onto as our everyday marching orders.
John Lewis was a steward of the ideal. He held onto Holy Love and worked for “a more perfect union.” For him, there was no excuse for the ideal not becoming reality. John Lewis demonstrated that a person could cross a bridge when others would block a bridge. He showed respect to opponents while using political savvy to decimate their unjust policies. He spent good quality time on God’s own — i.e. anyone in his sphere. Ever a servant to the ideal, he was not deterred by “the way we’ve always done it,” “going along to get along,” and “I don’t have the time or energy.” With gratitude, we remember.
President Barack Obama’s eulogy for the Honorable John Robert Lewis:
“The life of John Lewis was, in so many ways, exceptional. It vindicated the faith in our founding. Redeemed that faith. That most American of ideas, the idea that any of us, ordinary people without rank or wealth or title or fame, can somehow point out the imperfections of this nation and come together and challenge the status quo. And decide that it is in our power to remake this country, that we love, until it more closely aligns with our highest ideals. What a radical idea. What a revolutionary notion.”
Rev. Sharon M. Temple is a United Church of Christ pastor living in Austin, TX. She is a contributor to the RevGals book There’s a Woman in the Pulpit and blogs erratically at Tidings of Comfort and Joy.
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