The New Providence Diocesan Lenten Mission was held February 26th to February 28th, under the theme: “Stewardship, My Response To God.” The Missioner was The Rt. Rev’d. Harold Daniel, former Suffragan Bishop of Mandeville in the Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. |
The material from each evening of the Mission has been put into pamphlet form. This material can be used during Lent for personal devotions, teachings, presentations to parish organizations, small group discussion, etc. The bishop has asked that we make use of this material to keep the diocesan focus on stewardship for the Holy Season and prepare us for the full scale Diocesan Stewardship Initiative (DSI).
First Address: My Response To The Invitation Of The Gospel
Introduction: (two definitions of the term Christian Stewardship)
Christian Stewardship is the Christian’s response in love and thankfulness to the redemptive love of God in Jesus Christ. (The Catechism in the Book of Common Prayer, CPWI)
Stewardship is our total response to God, recognizing that our own being is His gift, and responding is our hope of glory. (Bishop Neville deSouza in the Christian Stewardship Policy document of the Diocese of Jamaica and the Cayman Islands)
Good stewardship is a basic requirement of whatever activity we engage in during the Lenten Season. Good stewardship embraces the totality of the Christian way of life. (What activities are you going to be engaged in during Lent 2012? Are these activities going to be just for Lent, or are they going to be significant parts of your Christian way of life?)
Christians as Stewards: (a few examples to consider)
Paul - His response to his encounter with Christ was:
a radical change of life
a constant sharing of his conversion story with others
being faithful to the ministry entrusted to him (1Cor. 4: 1, 2)
gratitude that God had given him a special ministry (2 Cor. 4: 1)
Peter – In 1 Peter 4: 10 he reminded his readers to be “good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” God’s grace to them included love, forgiveness, truth, strength etc. Their response to God was to share these with one another to the glory of God.
Jesus – In St. Luke 12: 41 – 46 Jesus highlights the importance of faithfulness and prudence. (note verses 43 & 48b)
What is the primary context for the exercise of Christian Stewardship? The eternal plan of God, the mysteries that God has revealed, the graces and gifts that God has bestowed. (See Ephesians 1: 9 & 10) Note how Paul sees his role as that of making “everyone see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things.”
Stewardship as response: To be a good steward one must be a good Christ-
ian. It is necessary for the Christian steward to have a personal experience of
Jesus Christ as Saviour, Redeemer, Friend.
Stewardship is response!
The necessity of Conversion: What is conversion? According to Bernard Haring it is “in every way the most utterly personal movement the restoration of the bonds of personal intimacy with God, a recovery and reacceptance of the most holy rights, the rights of a child, which have been lost until now.” See this worked out in the parable of the Prodigal Son. (St. Luke 15) Converts must know clearly where they stand, that they are for God and that God is for them, that they have turned to Christ and yielded their lives fully to him. This positive response leads one to a life of discipleship.
The Call to Discipleship: Jesus did not accommodate volunteers among his disciples. (See St. Luke 9: 57- 62) Discipleship is a response to a call. (See St. John 14: 15) David Watson in his book Discipleship sets out the following Points:
Called by Jesus – not a voluntary choice, but a definite call. “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you…” (John 15:16).
Called to Jesus – not just to follow his teaching, but to follow HIM. “Come to me” is a call to an exclusive attachment to his person.
Called to obey Him unconditionally. “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you.” (Luke 6:46)
Called to serve – See St. Mark 1: 17, also St. Matt. 10: 8
Called to suffer – “When Christ calls a man (woman), he bids him come and die.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer.) See also Paul’s account of his own experience of suffering.(2 Cor. 11: 23 -33)
The Challenge: The life of Dedicated Christian Discipleship is the key to being good, faithful and wise stewards. Are we prepared to make that kind of commitment in response to the call of Christ to us today?
Second Address: My Response In The Community Of Faith
When one turns to the Lord, when one responds to the call of Christ, when one is converted, when one is baptized, one becomes a part of God’s family, the church with all its attendant duties and responsibilities. What then is expected of us? How are we to live out our lives in the community of faith? How are we to exercise our stewardship in this context?
Example from the Early Church – Read Acts 2: 41 – 47/ Acts 4: 32 – 3
Maria Harris in Fashion Me a People: Curriculum in the church sees the Acts passages as examples of the forms of ministry that encompass the total mission or vocation of the church. She lists the elements as: community,
prayer, teaching, proclamation, service. (See also Max Warren in The Purpose Driven Church.)
John Stott in a series of commentaries entitled The Bible Speaks Today sets out four marks of the Early Church. It was (i) a learning church (ii) a loving church (iii) a worshipping church (iv) an evangelistic church.
Features of the life of the church:
COMMUNITY: The church is a fellowship of believers.
Our fellowship with God is inextricably bound to our fellowship with one another. (See 1 John 1: 3)
Fellowship must be of the quality that can deal with the unhappy and sometimes ugly aspects of life together.
The foundation of fellowship has been laid by God himself.
The common life is a gift of God’s grace that we must receive with gratitude, and endeavour to build up or strengthen.
When we are ungrateful and unforgiving and forever complaining we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow.
The secret of maintaining fellowship is love, spiritual love.
The burden of the Christian community is to become a people “rooted and grounded” in love. (See Ephesians 3: 17 – 19)
Community facilitates the sense of belonging, encourages sharing and stimulates growth.
Alienation retards active involvement in the life of the church.
To be continued in next week’s Bulletin