By Rev. Matthew Kieswetter
I don’t know about you, but I find that I go through periods where a certain part of the liturgy sticks out for me.
These days I find myself more attuned to the scripture verses that are said after the preparation of the altar in the Book of Common Prayer Communion liturgy: “Blessed be thou, Lord God of Israel, for ever and ever. All that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine. All things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee.”
This is at the core of our theological thinking regarding the stewardship of our time, talent, and treasure: we give back to God (especially through the Church as an agent of God’s workings in the world) out of a spirit of gratitude for the abundant blessings that God has given us. There is enough to go around for all of us. We give with joy because God joyfully gave first, starting with our very lives.
For a contemporary take on a distorted view of stewardship, watch the second season of the HBO show The Wire, which depicts dock workers and fire fighters in an unhealthy rivalry to one-up each other through their donation of stained glass windows to the local church. Neither group wants their window tucked away, out of sight, in the rectory. Rather, they want it displayed prominently in the nave. This is stewardship — if we can even call it that — not out of a spirit of gratitude, but with strings attached. These competing groups in The Wire want the church to be indebted to them, and they want their donations to attract attention.
In her book Grateful (New York: HarperOne, 2018), Diana Butler Bass writes about the selflessness of gratitude: “we are all beneficiaries and, in turn, we are all benefactors to each other…. [T]o live gratefully is to liberate ourselves and humanity from the slavery of payback and debt, of entitlement, privilege, and superiority” (p. 187).
In recent days I have witnessed example after example of lives touched through gracious giving. (I write in the week leading up to Christmas.) A number of weeks ago I reached out to nearby schools, informing them of my church’s food cupboard ministry. This resulted in more than just an increase in people availing themselves of our ministry; more than that, it started a cycle of gracious living that motivated one of the schools to donate to us several surplus boxes of non-perishables from their food drive! As good stewards, we are feeding one another! Like St. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 8, we are each meeting a need by sharing from our own abundance. I hope those characters from The Wire are taking notes.
“Blessed be thou, Lord God of Israel, for ever and ever. All that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine. All things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee.” Amen!
Rev. Matthew Kieswetter is a member of the Diocesan Stewardship Committee,
and Priest-in-Charge of St. Andrew’s Memorial Church, Kitchener.