Reflections on Stewardship and the Reformation, by Kirk Oseid

This Temple Talk was delivered on Sunday, October 8, 2017, by Kirk Oseid.

Of course, today’s temple talk is primarily about stewardship – recognizing how our financial commitments fund the operations and ministries of OSLC and the ELCA. We also stress the value and importance of pledging – because it helps us to plan – to steward – the gifts we want to share. That is, how to get the most bang for the buck.

But this year is also a special time to reflect on Luther’s Reformation – what it means to us and how it relates to stewardship.

Growing up Lutheran I managed to reach adulthood with barely a clue about the details. For me, this 500th Reformation anniversary has been an opportunity to revisit the core beliefs of Luther. Lo and behold, after a little reading and web-surfing I now see more clearly the structure of Luther’s beliefs as they are applied to our worship services within this sanctuary and to serving others outside these walls.

As we heard last week, the nugget of Luther’s breakthrough goes beyond the point that we are saved by grace alone, not works. (Did you watch the wonderful documentary “Martin Luther: The Idea that Changed the World?”)  Since we are saved by grace through faith, we are freed from slavishly performing works in hopes that the scale of our sins and our works balances toward God’s favor. We are now free to perform works with vigor – and joy.

Two years ago I spoke about 1 Corinthians 13:1:

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.”

Paul was urging the Corinthians to continue their generous support of their brothers and sisters in Jerusalem, which may have been suffering from droughts that plagued the region at that time. Corinthians is chock full of verses that we use over and over during stewardship campaigns. (This ELCA Stewardship placemat illustrates 10 of them.)

Luther often repeated his own principal of “gospel alone, faith alone, scripture alone.” Luther paid particular attention to Paul’s words to the Corinthians. In fact, Luther’s 43rd thesis was:

“Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better work than buying indulgences.”

Which is another way of saying our faith and God’s grace has freed us to serve others.

Stewardship PostcardHow do we want to act out this principal of Christian faith? Recently we have reflected on “God’s Work, Our Hands.” There are many ways to serve God and our neighbors. A postcard that was mailed to you recently (credit to Nancy Vogele and Susan Ferraro) celebrates some of these ways. All of you have contributed to these ministries with your own unique offerings of time, talent and treasure (the Holy Trinity of Stewardship).

To Luther, gospel is primary, vocation is holy, stewardship is integral. During stewardship season we are asked to consider and reconsider how each of us individually can best support our ministries. Needs are ever changing and our own situations change, too. Prayerful consideration is required each year, over and over, in order to make good decisions about our contributions. Luther said:

“People go through three conversions: their head, their heart and their pocketbook. Unfortunately, not all at the same time.”

If you are like me, you need a reminder and a little reinforcement to make the effort to commit – Luther’s words are helpful in this regard.

Each of us are asked to perform such an exercise this fall. Think of it as a personal re-affirmation that you make each year – a personal, ongoing reformation of how you plan to love others as Christ first loved us.

Pilgrims who begin the El Camino de Santiago – The Way of Saint James – are often told that “everyone has their own Camino.” The Camino has a powerful attraction – and effect – on everyone who walks it, unique to each of them. I’m sure our own faith journeys and continuous reformations of faith are also unique. But we look forward to meeting one another at the end – and helping each other along the way.

Thank you for your consideration and generosity this Stewardship season.

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