31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
November 5, 2017
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
37 pairs of shoes and 44 pairs of socks
10 boxes of pasta in my pantry and 11 Wendy’s honey mustard packets in my fridge
And 124 sticks on my back porch, which Jack calls his “stick collection”. Okay, it might not be that many, but it feels like it.
I am surrounded by abundance.
371 chairs, plus the ones I didn’t count in the garage
134 pew Bibles and 230 hymnals, not including the versions we no longer use.
62 scarves made by the Women’s Guild last Wednesday
And $4,050,043.36 in our carefully managed endowment, carefully managed to support our church’s ministry for generations to come.
We are surrounded by abundance.
I invite you to pause and live in that feeling for a moment. To close your eyes and say to yourself, “I am surrounded by abundance.”
I am surrounded by abundance. We are surrounded by abundance.
Let’s say it out loud, altogether, “We are surrounded by abundance.” We are surrounded by abundance.
How does that make you feel?
Joyful? Warm and fuzzy inside?
Or incredulous because it doesn’t matter how many times you say it or how much you have, you will still always feel like the deprived kid who has nothing?
Or when you say, “I am surrounded by abundance.” do you feel guilty? As if your abundance is too much, as if you were a hoarder, taking more than your fair share?
We have a problem with stuff as Americans. We often have exactly what we need, maybe an abundance of what we need. However, because we live in an economy of globalization driven by consumerism, we are constantly bombarded consciously and sub-consciously with the message of scarcity. That we do not have enough. That we are not enough. That we need more.
Capitalism, consumerism, can only survive if it can get us to believe that we-can-never-have-enough.
If one “blank” is good, then five is better.
If five is good, then twenty is better, and on and on and on. This is the message our world constantly bombards us with.
Do you remember how after 9/11, our leaders told us to reclaim the American way, to show we were not afraid of terrorists, by going shopping? The message was: Want to be safe? Want to be secure? Want to be American? Go shopping.
In large and small ways, our world is constantly telling us we do not have enough. Even the Dove chocolate wrapper from my trick or treat bucket, okay Jack’s bucket, said “Buy Both.”
We do not have enough. We need more. Go shopping.
That’s not what God is saying though. Scarcity is not God’s language. From the beginning of time when God created the world, God has been blessing us with abundance. Blessing us with abundance and calling us to be good stewards, good caretakers of that abundance.
Due to past experiences in the church or family baggage we have, the word ‘stewardship’ often makes people think money. Often even saying the word ‘stewardship’ makes people anxious because their immediate reaction is they think they are going to be asked to give money. Specifically, guilted to give more money than they can afford.
Scarcity talk. Scarcity thinking. We do not have enough. We need to hold on to the “little” we have.
That’s not what stewardship is really about though. Stewardship is not a synonym for money, nor is it a synonym for fundraising.
Stewardship is a spiritual discipline about being a good steward. A spiritual discipline about being a good caretaker, for all God has entrusted to you, whether it is this earth, your money, or the 23 soy sauce packets from take out Chinese in your fridge .
Stewardship is about acknowledging the abundance in your life and using it well. And yes, sometimes using it well means giving a portion of your abundance to others.
Scarcity thinking and talk says, “I only have this small amount. I cannot share any of it with others. I need to hoard, to hide it away.” God says, “I have given you a great big bowl of abundance. I have blessed you with so, so much. Lovingly, faithfully, share it with others. Be a good steward and use your abundance wisely. Use your abundance well.”
And that is the question we should be asking ourselves, as people of faith, when it comes to stewardship. I am surrounded by abundance. We are surrounded by abundance. Am I using it well? Are we using it well?
A year and a half ago, we voted as a congregation to use one asset, our future capital improvement disbursements to support another asset, our historic building, specifically to support renovating our historic building, so it is safe and accessible.
Our money, our endowment is not the only asset we have. We also have this 31,000 square foot building, a six-bedroom house next door, and a two bay garage. Are we using our buildings well? How can we be even better stewards of them?
And what about those chairs? And the pew Bibles? The hymnals? The crayons, glue sticks, and scissors? The casserole dishes closeted in the downstairs women’s bathroom?
Are we using our abundance well? How can we be even better stewards of it?
I am surrounded by abundance. You are surrounded by abundance. We are surrounded by abundance.
And we have been called, not to store our abundance up in barns, just in case, because we don’t know what the future may hold. We have been called to use it well.
Abundantly blessed by God, we are called to be good caretakers, good stewards of our abundance.
Are you using your abundance well? Are we using our abundance well?
And how can we be even better stewards of it?