St. Paul's Episcopal Church
October 20, 2013
Stewardship...Count our Blessings… This has been the theme around our annual pledge drive for the past couple of years.
Counting our Blessings can mean many things to different people. We find our blessings in…….
· Our Families
· Our Accomplishments & Fortunes
· Our Community
· Our Church
Today is the day we count our blessing on how St. Paul’s has enriched our lives in so many ways.
The meaning of today’s parable is to never quit praying. A widow kept coming to the judge with a request. After refusing, the judge finally gave in because the widow kept bothering him. And the Lord said “God brings justice for those who cry out to him day and night.”
This story teaches persistence, faith, and prayer with a promise of God’s ultimate justice. Since I received my letter from the Stewardship committee I have been reflecting on my blessings. I know it sounds cliché to consider my church a blessing, however St Paul’s has turned out to be something bigger and better in my life than I ever imagined.
I learned a lot about persistence and prayer from my aunt. She was famous in our family for telling a story of a little red Volkswagen. There was a girl who every night would pray to God and ask for a little red Volkswagen.
· “Pleeeese God! I really, really want a little red Volkswagen.”
· “God, I will do anything for a little red Volkswagen.”
After praying every night, she finally got the little red Volkswagen. Before going to bed, she prayed to God and said “God, thank you so much for my little red Volkswagen” And God replied “your welcome dear, but if you left it up to me, I would have given you a gold Cadillac.”
My aunt’s story and today’s gospel remind me to keep patient. That God is faithful to hear us and answer us, providing blessings to us everyday.
When we were asked about speaking on behalf of stewardship, I immediately thought Why us? How can I get up in front of my friends and church community and ask them to give more MONEY. Without hesitation, I responded, “Sorry but I can’t do it.”
It wasn’t until I began to realize… Maybe, they asked us because we’re an everyday family…
· Three Kids
· Busy schedules with school and extra-curricular activities
· Work Commitments that have me traveling the majority of the time
· Volunteering as Girl Scout leader’s, Baseball coaches, Room Mother..
Maybe it’s because through all this we still find the time for the church….
I’m not really sure, but what I did realize it’s more than just about the money. It about the positive influence St. Paul’s and this community has had on me and my family.
I am grateful for those things and that’s why we continue to find the time… not only for what we give to the church, but for what we get back.
We are not, or this is not unique… I bet in some way shape or form, each of us has a St. Paul’s AH-HA moment when we realized how important this place is to us.
We became members of this parish 14 years ago. Ray and I were one of those couples that came to this beautiful building because we were looking for a place to hold our wedding ceremony. I believe that praying for direction from God brought us to St Paul’s.
Over the next several years we turned into the “occasional Sunday worshipers” We didn’t fit into that cute label of 8 o’clockers or 10 o’clockers. We were the couple that showed up sporadically. And it went on that way before we had kids and even after. We would come to any service we could get to with our little ones in tow.
Stewardship campaigns approached and we filled out the card without much thought. We just went through the motions, quickly filling in a pledge and signing our name.
I’m embarrassed to say that this ho hum attitude went on for a few years. And then something clicked. A bell went off. I’m not sure if it was because of the social activities that we started attending such as the pancake supper or coffee hour. Or the way I felt after my first experience volunteering when I learned how to make palm crosses. Maybe it was the newsletter I read stating that less than 140 pledge cards are returned every year.
Perhaps it was the fact that I started looking around and noticing other parishioners. These people were just like Ray and me. They went to work during the week, they had the same faith, the same love for their family, and they really cared about the people sitting around them. Whatever it was, that was when I felt connected to this parish. It was then that I proudly told people that I was a member of St Paul’s church.
After that moment, everything else felt easy. Joining the altar guild, co-chairing the holiday fair, volunteering to teach a rotation during Sunday school. And the most recent, becoming a member of the vestry and learning to chalice. The last 2 experiences I just mentioned were the biggest for me because I felt I had to really put myself out there. It’s a huge responsibility to be a part of the vestry and to be honest, every Sunday that I am on the schedule to chalice I still get butterflies in my stomach. But as a dear friend of mine always says, “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change..”
Jesus challenged us in many ways, encouraging us to care for one another and to take stock in our lives and our priorities. In the 21st verse of the 6th chapter of the gospel of Matthew, Jesus reminds us:
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be”
What we treasure, desire, love, reflects who we believe we are, and what we draw from our life. The passion and the commitment that we exhibit over various things could be quite remarkable. We give it the best that we have, because to do less would be not to treasure it.
That’s why we should continue to keep giving back. It’s about the treasures that giving back provides. In order for this parish to continue its course, for it to continue its positive influence within our community it needs you to give back.
What can you do to help… Get involved, offer your time, bring new people into the parish. Pledge!
There is that word.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t tell you that the parish needs your contribution.. We understand that giving is a privilege, not a burden.
None the less last year St Paul’s recorded:
136 pledges equaling $212K, averaging $1560/pledge. To some, this may sound like a lot of money, but the reality is we continue to be 10’s of thousands of $ in the hole each year… dipping into reserve funds year after year. When you make your annual pledge, you participate in the vitality of the church. We have so much to anticipate in the year ahead such as:
· The director of Christian Education bringing new enthusiasm to our Sunday school program.
· The changing of our worship schedule for the convenience of busy families to participate more
· A service trip to Nicaragua
· The new Godly Journey program for 7th-9th graders.
· Growing our music program
· A variety of outreach activities.
With your energy, enthusiasm and finance can you imagine how this parish can grow and provide positive influence on all of us?
Hopefully you’ll reflect on what you’re most grateful for in your life at St. Paul’s
Again.. For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.
We have met amazing people at St Paul’s and have built extraordinary friendships with many. Our 3 children are comfortable at church and have developed special relationships with both adults and other kids. Each person we have connected with here I count as another blessing.
If you feel like you are just going through the motions. I suggest finding something. Something that clicks something that is going to ring that bell in your head. Literally something that is going to make you feel “connected”. Once you feel that something, the stewardship campaign will feel like so much more than just what you write on your card. This church, this whole community deserves so much more than that and so do you.
Yes, Ray and I did find a beautiful building to hold our wedding ceremony. But we also acquired so much more over these last 14 years. I would say we got our Gold Cadillac.