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Stewardship in Church and Life

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by Chris Andreas

The following sermon has been provided by the Department of Stewardship Ministries of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

Stewardship: how often we hear this word within the Church. It is referred to both directly and indirectly throughout Holy Scripture. But do we really know what it means, what it entails? Clearly, it involves faith in Jesus Christ and following His teachings. Once we understand this, however, what is our next step? Do we sit here and say to ourselves, "It is enough that we do understand this,"? This falls far too short of true stewardship. Stewardship means faith and living in Jesus Christ. In truth, genuine faith in our Lord consists of this "living" in Christ as our faith is expressed through our actions.

In referring to Abraham of the Old Testament, James the Just (also known as the Brother of our Lord) asks in his Epistle, Chapter 2:22, "Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?" He continues in verse 24 saying, "You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only." If good works are not there or if evil works are there, then we can only assume that there is something wrong with our faith to begin with, for he closes in verse 26 saying, "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also."

What are the works that we refer to here? We may find the answer in whatever it is we do to express that love which we maintain for our God, our Church, our families, our neighbors. We are reminded by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to love our God with all our heart, with
all our soul and all our mind and also to love our neighbors as ourselves. Whatever works we do as a result of this love are works of life in Jesus Christ. All of this is related to our personal stewardship which is the very life we live in Jesus Christ.

In Ex. 19:5-6, the Lord says to Israel, "...the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation,". Everything that is in the world is the Lord's, but in His plans for us and for our salvation He has placed into our hands the care of all things. This is our great test. Do we follow Him with faith and works as good and faithful stewards of all that He has given us? Or do we utilize all for our own benefit? Regarding the Holy Orthodox Church, what is our role within this priestly kingdom and holy nation? This is a compelling question!

In her biography of St. Seraphim of Sarov, Mme. Valentine Zander relates this story of the blessed saint: "The care of the two churches was entrusted to Helen and Xenia (who were two nuns). `Everything to do with the church' the Staretz (Seraphim) told them, `is like an inner fire enkindling us, and looking after it is the best work of all. The humblest job, be it only to clean the floor of the house of God, is a nobler work than all the others. Everything you do in the house of God should be done with love and reverence. You must do nothing trivial there, only necessary duties. For where else could you find greater joy than in the place where our Lord is dwelling, surrounded by cherubim and seraphim and all the heavenly spirits!'"

Later in the narrative, the nun Xenia realized that the flame in the lamp "burning before the icon had gone out and there was no more oil for relighting it, neither was there any money with which to buy some. She began weeping: `If we are without oil even now, what is going to happen later?' And she started doubting Father Seraphim's words concerning his promise of prosperity. Then, as she left the church, she saw a peasant coming up to her: `Are you the sacristan?' he asked her. He gave her 3.00 rubles for the lamp in memory of his parents. She recounted later: `During Father Seraphim's lifetime the pilgrims always brought us enough money for the upkeep of the church: they even sent magnificent bells from Nijni-Novgorod and patens and chalices from Moscow.'"

These are only two important examples of what our stewardship should mean to us and require of us. It is not enough to say of the Church "I'm a member in good standing," and then walk away from the responsibilities that Almighty God has placed into our hands. It is solely through our love and commitment to the Holy Trinity expressed in both faith and action that salvation can be ours. From generation to generation, He has given us a legacy which we must comprehend and comply with. All that we have belongs to Him, and we must do all we can to express unreserved love emptying ourselves and following Him always.