A Lay Stewardship Witness - Jim Blum, Episcopal Church of the Nativity

Sermon given by Jim Blum, Episcopal Church of the Nativity, Phoenix/Scottsdale, December 11, 2011.

I would like to begin with my favorite morning prayer that I think is very apropos for our Stewardship Campaign this year and our goals and dreams for taking the Church of the Nativity well into the future: 

Let us pray:

Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves; when our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little; when we arrived safely because we sailed too close to shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of the things we possess, we have lost our thirst for justice and the water of life.

Stir us, Lord, to dare more boldly, to venture on wider seas, where storms will show your mastery; where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars.

We ask you to push us into the future in strength, courage, hope and love.  Amen!

Annie and I were very fortunate to have been invited to join the organizers of Nativity in the summer of ’06, and we feel that the last 6 years have been the most meaningful in our spiritual journey.  It just seems like yesterday that Susan was holding her business meetings in Starbucks and that we were worshiping in the living room of Mary and Alastair Longley-Cook.  And now we are about to close on our very own new church property.  How exciting!

Annie and I feel  strongly  that by giving to the best of our abilities, not only do we personally feel enriched by our giving, but also we know that we are making a difference in many lives.

Before we get into the true meaning of Stewardship, permit me to say that we are very aware of these tough economic times.  No one has escaped them.  We are very thankful for your past support for Nativity and your never ending volunteerism for Nativity and its many Ministries.  We are also aware that we are following right on the heels of our Capital Campaign.  

But let’s not get too well pleased with ourselves and let us not dream too little.  Let’s dream big, huge dreams!

What is Stewardship?  Stewardship is:All that we do with our lives after Baptism.  Personally, I was particularly moved and thrilled recently when the Bishop confirmed/ received me into the Episcopal Church with several others.  It was another important step on my spiritual journey.

Stewardship is also the proper and generous use of our time, talent and money, and it’s about joyfully returning to God a portion of all the gifts God has generously bestowed upon us.

Two weeks ago, Gayle Jameson delivered a powerful message about what Stewardship and Nativity meant to her and her family.  What Gayle found at Nativity was unconditional love, Christ’s love in our faces and actions.  For her, Nativity is a place and community of comfort, forgiveness, healing, hope and love.Very powerful!  And last week, Paul Jensen articulately testified that for him and his family, giving to Stewardship was not a scary thing; it was a great opportunity to give to the whole church and all of its ministries.

Let us not arrive safely because we sailed too close to shore.

And how do we do that here at Nativity?

By carrying out our Mission, which is to transform lives with the love of God in Jesus Christ.

And we accomplish this Mission by carrying out our Ministries of Evangelism, Worship, Fellowship, Teaching and Reaching out to others in service.  You will find more detailed information on the Ministries in the Narrative Statement of Mission that was recently mailed to you with my letter and Commitment cards.

Yes, we really are transforming lives here at Nativity, whether it be benefitting Habitat for Humanity, the Navajo Nation, Phoenix Rescue Mission, St. Mary’s Food Bank, our Military oversees and many other Outreach organizations.

Let us lose sight and safety of land, so we shall find the stars…And speaking of stars…

Think of our beautiful music led by Ilona and our fabulous choir that we get to enjoy every Sunday.  What a delight!  Many people enjoyed the fantastic Christmas concert that they put on for us last Sunday evening.

We ask you to push us into the future in strength, courage, hope and love.

Nativity has been particularly successful with its children’s and family ministries, youth Sunday school and Teen Youth Group.  I believe there were about 25 teens that were confirmed or reaffirmed with us 7 adults a few weeks ago by the Bishop.  The fact that we have one of the strongest Youth programs of any Episcopal church in the Arizona Diocese bodes very well for attracting additional youth and their families to our new location.  I am confident with these successful programs and the number of homes that surround our new location that our growth there will be exponential.

What an exciting time for all of us…the Nativity Family!

Another great reason to take a look at Narrative Statement of mission outlining our Ministries is to look for an opportunity to get involved if you aren’t presently involved.  I firmly believe that the more you get involved and participate with our Nativity Family…the better you and your family will feel.  Is it not better to give than to receive? I would like to end by sharing a story that speaks to the value of COMPASSION, because I think our Nativity family exemplifies compassion.

It seems that a woman who lived a Tao-centered life, a very simple and peaceful life as outlined in the Tao Te Ching, the  ancient Chinese  book of wisdom that has been translated more than any other volume except the Bible.  Now please picture this wise woman sitting by the banks of a running stream in the mountains somewhere in China, and there she came across a precious stone and so placed this highly valued item in her bag.

The next day, a hungry traveler approached the woman and asked her for something to eat.  As she reached into her bag for a crust of bread, the traveler saw the precious stone and imagined how it would provide him with financial security for the remainder of his life.  He asked the woman to give the treasure to him, and she did, along with some food.  He left, ecstatic over his good fortune and the knowledge that he was now secure. 

A few days later the traveler returned and handed back the stone to the wise woman.  “I’ve been thinking” he told her.  Although, I know how valuable this is, I’m returning it to you in the hopes that you could give me something even more precious.  “What would that be?”  the woman inquired.

“PLEASE GIVE ME WHAT YOU HAVE WITHIN YOURSELF THAT ENABLED YOU TO GIVE ME THAT STONE.” 

That woman was definitely living her life from a sacred place of COMPASSION.

That’s what the Episcopal Church of Nativity is all about.

Please join Annie and me in giving as generously as you can this year.  There is no gift that is too small, particularly if it is given compassionately.

Thank you.   God Bless you.