June 18, 2006
At church today I was officially "sent off" to seminary, and also got to tell a little of my story as we open the preparations for stewardship season. Below is the story I told this morning- just a little snippet of my life.
Good morning!It’s already time again to talk about stewardship. Can you believe that? Sometimes I wonder if the standard for tithing isn’t 10% because we talk about it the other 90% of the year! That’s good though. Stewardship is a good thing to talk about, and I’m gonna tell you why:
My story began at All Saints about 5 years ago. I walked into these doors after having come through a painful separation from my partner. We had a two year old son and a three month old daughter. Finding myself a single parent and primary caretaker of two small children, I reasoned that I had gotten more than I signed up for.
I came to All Saints hoping that my children would find a place of nurturing and support, just like my church was to me when I was growing up. I found it. I knew after looking up at the children’s choir, with so many diverse faces, with such a wonderful message about inclusivity and acceptance, that this was a place my kids needed to be. I pledged that year- the first time I had ever made a voluntary financial commitment like that. And I pledged because I felt like I had to. It was an obligation because my kids were going to use the services of the church, and I felt like it shouldn’t fall on someone else’s shoulders to pay for those services.
Shortly after pledging, I was invited into the Covenant program. It was an answer to a prayer, because while I knew this was the place for my kids I still felt an emptiness inside. An emptiness I had felt ever since experiencing the exclusion of the church when I came out as a gay man. But entrance into the Covenant program changed all that. As I moved through the Covenant I program, and later through the Covenant II program, I began to change the way I thought about my relationship with God. I began to trust God. I trusted that God would send my life in a good direction—on a journey, if only I would choose to take the first step. If only I would listen to the call, I could end up following a path. I realized in fact that I had not gotten what I signed up for at all- but much, much more.
In fact, this past Friday in preparation for Father's Day my four-year old daughter showed me a wall at school where her fellow preschooler's had placed some posters they had prepared for their fathers. Most of them said things like "I love my daddy because he dresses me in the morning," or "I love my daddy because he helps me bathe," or other necessities of life when you're four years old. But there, place firmly for all of Arcadia Episcopal Preschool to see, my daughter's poster said "I love my Poppa because he loves me every day." I truly have gotten more than I signed up for. And I thank God for it every day. I have gotten this far only because I learned to let go of what I thought I had to have and I learned to trust that God's path is better.
In that trust of God, I began to realize that all the things around me are a gift from God. My children, my home, my friends, my church, my relationships—everything. And I began to realize that only in trusting God can all of those things prosper. I began to understand that my stewardship of my children—working to do the best for those precious gifts of God—is what is best for those wonderful resources. And it is so with all the gifts I have been given.
And that is why several years ago I began to tithe. I tithe no longer because it is an obligation. I tithe because it is the best use of the resources entrusted to me. The money bestowed upon me by the grace of God is best used when returning a portion of it to the community—reinvested in the community from which it came. It is this trust in the full cycle of the Holy Spirit which keeps me going—not only in my financial dealings, but in all of my dealings. Tithing is but one small part of the trust I place in the God of abundance. I believe that trust is a large part of what is required of us in our baptismal covenant, which asks us if we “put [our] whole trust in [Jesus’] grace and love.”
Wherever you are in your journey of faith, whether your next step forward is into tithing or into increasing your pledge in trust, I hope you will begin thinking now about what that next step forward is for you- about how you will remember those baptismal vows when you pledge. And Ed would be upset if I didn’t say he hopes it will be tithing!