When studying the lives of the saints, we see that there are times that, rather than learning about a saintly individual, we see a group of people who are recognized as being sanctified. Christian Orthodox Stewardship is not only rooted in the individual commitment, but also in the participation of the community as a whole, i.e. the parish!
In each parish we usually see a small number of stewards who seem to be doing most of the work. While those stewards are to be commended for their time and dedication, we must realize that we as a community are not meeting our full potential. We learn an important lesson from the writing of Aesop: "A farmer who had a quarrelsome family, after having tried in vain to reconcile them by words, thought he might more readily prevail by an example. So he called his sons and told them to lay a bundle of sticks before him. Then having tied them together, he told the boys, one after another, to pick it up and break it. They all tried, but tried in vain. Then, untying the bundle, he gave them the sticks to break one by one. This they did with the greatest ease. Then said the father: ‘Thus, my sons, as long as you remain united, you are a match for all your enemies; but differ and separate, and you are undone’."
The martyrdom of the Holy 40 Martyrs of Sebasteia is a powerful lesson in Christian faith, perseverance, sacrifice, and friendship. The story of this martyrdom begins in the early part of the 4th century when the persecution of Christians was still active. There were 40 soldiers of the Roman army who possessed sincere faith in Jesus Christ. When it was realized that they would not deny their belief in the Lord, they were brought to trial before their commander who threatened to have them discharged from the military dishonorably. One of the soldiers responded: "Do not take only our military status, but also our bodies; nothing is dearer or of greater honor to us than Christ our God." Following a number of failed attempts to torture them, they were finally stripped, tied, and thrown into a lake. It happened to be wintertime and the temperature was extremely cold. To tempt the soldiers to deny Christ, the torturers lit fires near the lake to entice them to deny Christ. One soldier actually did come out of the water and headed for the fire, but before he could get there, he died. During the night, a light from heaven came down and heated the lake and warmed these Christian witnesses. At the same time, thirty-nine crowns were sent from heaven and rested upon each of them. One of the soldiers torturing them saw this and, moved by this event, confessed the Christ as Lord and Savior and joined the others in the lake. A fortieth crown appeared and descended upon him at that very moment. In the morning, the commander was furious when he learned of the events and ordered that their legs be broken and they be thrown back into the lake. On the third day following their drowning, the martyrs appeared to the local bishop and told him to search beneath the water and recover their relics. In the middle of the night, the bishop, along with his priests, went to the lake where they found the relics glowing in the water and, gathering them together, they gave them a proper burial.
The process of our salvation is achieved by proclaiming Jesus Christ as Savior and by doing the will of God the Father. Our Christian Orthodox Stewardship is experienced in this manner; our actions must support our words of faith in Christ our Lord and Savior. This is what the Holy 40 Martyrs of Sebasteia understood and we, too, are called, not just as individuals, but as the entire assembly of believers, i.e. the Church, to give our Time, Talents and Treasure so that: "…we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God…" (Hebrews 12:1-2).
To learn more about the stewardship of the saints, click here.