Let me introduce this stewardship season with just these few words: Let’s get ‘er done!
As they say on public radio, the sooner we get through with our pledge drive, the sooner we can return to our regular programing. It’s Epiphany’s regular programming that brings us here, and that is what I feel moved to speak about today: specifically, what this programming teaches us about treasure.
“For where your treasure lies, so there also lies your heart.” You must have heard these words of Jesus from Matthew many times. They are not in today’s cycle of scripture readings, but I invariably think of them when I hear the word “stewardship.”
I have always understood these words to mean that wherever we toss our dollar bills, our hearts go scrambling after them, like children grabbing candy from a busted piñata, that our hearts “follow the money.” But Jesus must have meant them as though he had flipped the words and said, “For where your heart lies, there also lies your treasure.” Material treasure, the treasure meant in this context, has no heart and no will. It must lie where our hearts decide to put it.
Stewardship season seems a good time to ask what we think about our treasure and where our hearts are putting it. What is our treasure, and, what do we do with it?
For sure our treasure isn’t only dollar bills. It isn’t only a nice home full of nice stuff or more cars than can fit in the garage. Lots of people in Houston can tell us that kind of treasure can quickly end up by the curb as a pile of moldering garbage. It isn’t only an investment portfolio. A handful of crooks on Wall Street can leave you holding pennies.
Anyone who’s been intimate with death, either the death of a loved one or a personal close shave, knows that our greatest treasure is the life we live now, here in the bodies we’re walking around in. This treasure is the life of our bodies and brains, but also the warmth of our hearts and depth of our souls.
It is also, the skill of our hands, a good head for numbers, a green thumb, the gentle manner in which you speak to children, the habit of a sincere smile, your grit and gumption. In short, our greatest treasure is every quality and scrap of consciousness that makes us who we are.
And who we are is the treasure God has given us. All the material comforts we accumulate and every success we achieve flows from the life of abundance first given by God. They are the derivative extras, cherries on the whipped cream, the compound interest on a principal supplied by God. God is the primary stakeholder in our lives. To use the metaphor of Isaiah, we are the vines planted by God. We are his vines and so are all the grapes.
So what do we do with this treasure? Maybe the question to ask at stewardship time is not how we spend our money, our derivative treasure, but how we spend our greater treasure. How do we spend our lives in a way that is pleasing to our primary stakeholder?
A steward, remember, cares for something belonging to another. Are we good stewards of these lives we commonly call our own? If in truth we belong utterly to God, we are only stewards of our lives.
We should also ask whether we adults are good stewards of the bodies, minds, and souls of our children. Children belong only briefly to their parents but eternally to God. Therefore we adults are charged with caring for everyone’s children. In the Kingdom of God, every child is our child. In the Kingdom of God, we are all stewards of each others’ lives.
So how do we be good stewards? What is the best way to spend God’s treasure we call our lives?
I think God expects us to keep giving ourselves away to each other. We are meant to be good gifts to others, and gifts must be given away. How else can God bless us?
Isn’t it true that many of the things we count as blessings come into our lives through some person or human agency? Were you blessed by parents who filled your home with books? A wealthy family’s foundation that sponsored your college scholarship? A friend who put in the good word that got you the good job with stock options?
If you wonder if God really does depend on mere human beings to do the work of his Kingdom and be instruments of blessing, just recall that to carry out his work of salvation, Christ had to become the human being Jesus.
God depends on us to pass the good along. Water that doesn’t flow becomes stagnant and nothing we would want to drink. So how do we learn to spend well our treasure and let God’s blessings flow? How do we train ourselves to care for others who belong to God as we would have them care for ourselves?
We are not born knowing that we belong to God. Or if we are, a necessary veil quickly dims our understanding. The knowledge that we are God’s can’t be hard-wired into our consciousness. We must choose to acknowledge that we are planted by God in his vineyard and that we are his. We always must choose God. God never insists.
Let’s say that the good news that we are all God’s beloved treasure is in fact Epiphany’s regular programming. Don’t you think that is the message the world is dying to hear?
When we meet here to worship and pray and study and mutually bless each other, Epiphany becomes a powerful signal broadcasting love and welcome and kindness and compassion and service.
So let’s keep that signal strong and the channel clear. Let’s bless the world by blessing our church, which is really us, a community seeking to conform our lives to the will of God.
Certainly let’s bless Epiphany with a good portion of our material abundance. We on the stewardship team hope that Epiphany is at or near the top of your list of charitable giving each year.
Let’s also bless this church with our lives. Let’s worship God here together and teach Sunday School and mentor the youth and iron altar linens. Let’s study scripture and creation and C.S. Lewis. Let’s pray for those reeling from life’s disasters and send them comforting notes and flowers and a simple meal. Let’s give so that others can receive, and receive so that others can give. Let’s spend our lives with extravagant generosity, knowing that we are planted here in God’s vineyard and that he is expecting the good grapes of justice and righteousness.
How we spend our lives, where we let our hearts lie, there sufficient dollars are sure to flow. So let’s give our hearts to God and to each other in this church and let our treasure flow abundantly into the world.
1. What or whom do you count as the chief blessing of your life?
2. Who might have been God’s agent in passing this blessing to you?
3. How have you been blessed by Epiphany? How might you bless Epiphany?
Looking Forward and Backward: Becoming a 500-year church and Our Anglican Heritage
In this season at Epiphany, we are talking about what it would mean for us to be a 500-year church, and looking forward to what God may be calling us to do. We’re not entirely sure. As we pray and ponder, we are studying Christian communities already in their 500th year and considering our own Anglican heritage. Our Book of Common Prayer was first published in 1549. Its language is both familiar, like an old sweater whose warmth and comfort delights us, and alien, as Tudor vocabulary and theological emphasis can be so distinct from ours.
On October 22, the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost, we will be using language from a 1604 edition of the Book of Common Prayer, with scripture texts from the King James Version, and music from the same era. Our hope with this is to both remind ourselves of our Anglican heritage and to lay a foundation for part of our discussion of becoming a 500-year church.
As we use this language in our worship, we invite you to notice those things which have not changed, such as the Collect for Purity: Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desires known, and from whom no secretes are hid: cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love thee, and worthily magnify thy name, through Christ our Lord, Amen. We also encourage you to consider what is different, and use these two elements to prompt additional discussion.
We’ll be holding a talk on Cranmer and the Book of Common Prayer at 10 am on October 22 as part of this discussion as well, and we encourage you to join us there.
Notes From The Annual Verger’s Conference
What is harder than herding cats? Herding Vergers, of course! We all want to be at the head of the line and each of us has our own rubrics and unwritten way of doing things. That being said, this past week was an extraordinary time of worship, fellowship, learning, and being inspired as almost 300 vergers converged on Atlanta from all over the United States, Canada, and England for our annual Vergers’ Conference.
The conference began with an exquisite Evensong at St. Phillip’s Cathedral. The Rt. Rev. Dr. Victor Atta-Baffoe, Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Cape Coast, Ghana was the preacher. He had an inspiring message of, “You can’t do everything, so just do something.”
The next morning, we walked from our hotel down Peachtree St. (one of 71 streets in Atlanta named “Peachtree,” but we were told this “Peachtree” Street was the one) to St. Luke’s Parish. St. Luke’s is located in an area of immense homelessness and has an incredible service outreach ministry called Crossroads Community Ministries. Crossroads serves over 4,000 homeless men, women, and children each year. Each verger was asked to bring socks, underwear, and personal hygiene items to the conference for this ministry. While we were at St. Luke’s, half the vergers sorted donations while the other half made 3,300 sandwiches for the homeless.
The highlight of the week was the Eucharist on Friday. The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop, was the preacher and his sermon was passionate and inspirational, continuing his message of, “We are the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement.” He exhorted us to GO and be the hands and feet of Christ in the world. Following the Eucharist, he spent time with the vergers talking about our ministry and answering questions. It was an afternoon well-spent!
Saturday was school day. We were in classes all day as we shared our ministries with each other in groups divided out by years of experience as a verger. We were treated to a lecture on liturgical time by the Rt. Rev. Neil Alexander, Dean of Sewanee School of Theology, former bishop of Atlanta, and author of the book, Celebrating Liturgical Time; and a class led by the Dean of the Cathedral of St. Phillip, the Very Rev. Samuel Candler, member of the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music of the Episcopal Church, on the evolution of the prayer book, from Thomas Cranmer’s 1549 BCP to our own 1979 BCP to possible revisions in the BCP.
Saturday evening, we had a grand banquet where several members of the Guild became Fellows (I became a Fellow is 2011), and the conference concluded with a beautiful Holy Eucharist service at St. Phillip’s on Sunday morning. It was truly an inspirational time of worship, fellowship, and learning; I return to you full of joy and feeling truly blessed.
Diane Carlisle, FVGEC
By Richard Nelson, Epiphany Parish
What does a kindness mean to you?
A pick me up when you are through?
Through from arrows penetrating deep.
Painful and unrelenting, disturbing sleep.
How do we find love, joy and peace today?
It starts with kindness is what I’d say.
Courtesy and patience are a way to begin.
Celebrate others’ achievements and let them win.
Confidence that you really do care
And that you’ll be loving and always fair.
Never stereotype, express affection to all.
Find common ground with compliments–let them stand tall.
A smile, good wishes and heart-felt thanks
Is much more than money in banks.
Tell others you love them and show them how
Then we’ll have Heaven in the here and now!
20s & 30ish Spice O’ Life Get Together
October 27 at 6 pm in the Fireside Room
For inquiries, please call Joseph at 206.402.8467 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Join our group on Facebook for updates and more information.
Contact Amy Tullis at email@example.com for information.
The Commemoration of All Faithful Departed Solemn High Eucharist and the Reading of the Parish Necrology
Saturday, November 4 at 7:30 pm in the Chapel
In the chapel on Saturday evening, November 4th, we will celebrate the lives of All Faithful Departed. We will rejoice with the saints in heaven for the lives we knew and for those whom we did not know. A Solemn High Mass will be observed this evening; during which time the Propers will be chanted and the Epiphany Choir will sing the Mass to a setting by William Byrd, one of the most prolific of Renaissance composers. English poet Edmund Spenser wrote a beautiful text, which was set to music by William Harris, called “Faire is the Heaven.” As the bells toll for each life we acknowledge, for the hovering of incense which will surround us, and for each prayer spoken and sung, we will remember them. “Faire is the heav’n Where happy soules have place In full enjoyment of felicitie; Whence they doe still behold the glorious face Of the Divine, Eternall Majestie.” Come to Epiphany this night. Be inspired. Be transformed. Be nourished by the presence of the Divine and see the image of such endless perfectness which is the kingdom of heaven.
St. Augustine said, “If we had no care for the dead, we would not be in the habit of praying for them.” The Commemoration of All Faithful Departed (also known as All Souls’ Day) began being celebrated in the Middle Ages to offer special prayers for those who had died in the past year.
Solemn Mass (Latin: missa solemnis), sometimes also referred to as Solemn Eucharist, Solemn High Mass, or simply High Mass, requires parts of the service to be sung and the use of incense. Sanctus bells will also be used during the service to call attention to particular moments in the liturgy.
The Epiphany Choir will sing at this service.
Upcoming Baptisms at Epiphany
All Saints’ Day
Sunday, November 5, 2017 at 11:00 am
Please contact The Reverend Todd Foster for more information at 206-324-2573 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Celebration of Life
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost
1 Thessalonians 1:1-10
Click here to view Prayer List