Reflection – 21 March 2021

Here is Rich Gascoyne’s reflection for tomorrow.

The online worship session will start at 11.00. Rich will be leading worship this week.

If you want to join in just email me – newarkcongregational@virginmedia.com – for details. We’d love to see you.

Mark Taylor

Call to Worship:

Almighty God our Father, you did not count the cost when you sent your Son the be with us.

Strengthen us all in both our discipleship and our stewardship;

Steel us in our endeavour;

Carry us in our struggle.

Help us to face up to our responsibilities in being faithful and true,

Not only in our own faith, but in sharing the good news, at work, in our homes, in our communities and gatherings.

Almighty God our Father, we belong to you.
All that we have comes from you.
Our family and friends,
our health and life,
our possessions and energy,
our leisure and abilities.
Help us to share in the blessings of giving
as well as in the happiness of receiving.
We ask this in the name of Jesus.
Amen

We say together the prayer that our Lord Jesus taught us

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever.
Amen.

This morning we are again going to continue our journey of stewardship and of what it means to be a steward. Later I will be asking you to think about aspects of our personal stewardship, but before this I thought a little background might be helpful and to start us on our way, we are going to have the first reading from Genesis 41: 37-42

Reading: Genesis 41: 37-43 read by Julia Gascoyne.

The king and his officials approved this plan, and he said to them, “We will never find a better man than Joseph, a man who has God’s spirit in him.” The king said to Joseph, “God has shown you all this, so it is obvious that you have greater wisdom and insight than anyone else. I will put you in charge of my country, and all my people will obey your orders. Your authority will be second only to mine. I now appoint you governor over all Egypt.” The king removed from his finger the ring engraved with the royal seal and put it on Joseph’s finger. He put a fine linen robe on him, and placed a gold chain around his neck. He gave him the second royal chariot to ride in, and his guard of honour went ahead of him and cried out, “Make way! Make way!” And so Joseph was appointed governor over all Egypt.

Here we hear, perhaps for the first time, of someone being given authority over all that the King possesses. The reading calls Joseph “Governor”, but the term Steward could be equally used to describe his role. For many of us the first time we come across someone with this kind of role, this kind of power and if a lowly sheep header can become a steward to a mighty King, then we should have no fear when God calls us to look after His kingdom.

In my dictionary the term Steward is described as “A manager (of property); a person who serves food on an aircraft or ship and looks after passengers.”  Other ways of describing such a person could be: Chamberlain, Dewan, Factor, Grieve, Homme d’ affaires, Major Domo, Governor or Marshal. I am sure there are many others as well and that equally you might be thinking what on earth has this got to do with me and my relationship with God and His church?

As many of you will already know, before I retired, I worked for 18 years for the C of E Diocese of Newcastle. I always told anyone who would listen that I worked in the Stewardship Department, which in a national and northern regional way I did. However, Newcastle Diocese did not really countenance this, To the Bishops and other powers that be I was “The Parish Giving Officer” and my major role was Income, the giving of financial support to the parish church so that it in turn could meet its financial obligations. And for 18 years I honestly believed that this was not what Stewardship was about and I still feel the same way today.

In my heart I honestly believe that God is within us all. God, in what ever form, is in every living thing, the fauna and flora, the animals, the creatures that live in the sea and fly in the air. Somehow, we are all held by God because God inhabits our very being. And that can be difficult to face up to because it means that God is in those that kill and rape, those that hate, those who make war and commit genocide. God is in the starving and disposed, the boat people and refugees, those on the right of politics and those on the left. And perhaps one of the most difficult things to accept, God has given us, we humans, the job of caring for and of looking after this world that we have been given.

We saw just last week the pictures taken on the moon of our blue planet rising in the heavens, such beauty, such loneliness. Our world, belonging to all, freely given but with the responsibility of caring for it.

So, when I was preaching or talking about being stewards and of what stewardship means in churches throughout the Diocese I also talked about the use of our time and the gift of our talents as well as the need to say thank you through the giving of financial support. Whenever I thought I could get away with it I would widen the message to include our homes, families and friends, charities and community groups, discipleship and the offering of ourselves to God by the day-to-day actions we take.

There are many ways in which we can and should put stewardship at the heart of our existence:

Time: We have no idea of how much time we have. We are born and we live our lives till the day that we are taken back to God. Time, our time is God given and we should use this time with love and devotion. At home, at work, at play and rest. We can use it for the betterment of family and friends, for our community and environment, for our church, its building AND its peoples. We should use it to create and to rest in, to be noisy and to be silent.

Talents: We all have gifts, God given, each unique to ourselves. Some will sing, some will talk, others may listen. Some will build, some will sow, some will create. We can use our talents to care for ourselves and those we love, use them for the betterment of creation. They are God given, a gift of great value.

Treasure: The way that we are often rewarded for using our talents at work, we receive financial support. And just think, the one thing that sets us apart from all the rest of God’s creation is that we humans are the only ones who use money to get what we need and perhaps sadly what we often say we just want. Shouldn’t we as Gods Stewards, as Christs body here on earth, be using our treasure wisely. To care for ourselves and those we hold dear. To care for our community and the world, to help bring Gods heavenly Kingdom nearer to all.

The three T’s: Time, Talent and Treasure, the most amazing of gifts, but gifts given with responsibility, the responsibility to be good stewards, to practice stewardship. 

Shortly we will be looking at some of these aspects of our personal Stewardship, but two things first, look at this definition of Stewardship, which to me explains it better than the OED, and after we will have our first song .

Stewardship is an ethic that embodies the responsible planning and management of resources. The concepts of stewardship can be applied to the environment and nature, economics, health, property, information, theology, cultural resources etc.

Let us have our first song

Song: Take My Life and let It Be.

Take my life, and let it be

consecrated, Lord, to Thee;

Take my moments and my days,

let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Take my hands, and let them move

at the impulse of Thy love;

take my feet and let them be

swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice, and let me sing

always, only, for my King;

take my lips, and let them be

filled with messages from Thee.

Take my silver and my gold;

not a mite would I withhold;

take my intellect, and use

every power as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will, and make it Thine;

it shall be no longer mine.

Take my heart; it is Thine own;

it shall be Thy royal throne.

Take my love; my Lord, I pour

at Thy feet its treasure-store.

Take myself, and I will be

ever, only, all for Thee.

During the medieval era, village stewards represented the lord, effectively controlling the town or city. They were answerable to the lord. In castles, stewards managed the castle’s finances, ran general household administration and organized large events.

Although medieval stewards were servants, they wielded a great deal of power. Particularly large estates, such as the king’s, sometimes divided the responsibilities between two stewards, with one overseeing the household and the other assigned to administrative duties. In villages, stewards might be called upon for judicial matters. When lords left, whether for business or pleasure, they left their stewards in charge, which emphasizes their role as trustworthy and loyal servants who acted in the best interests of their masters.

Also, a steward really comes in to his own when his Lord and master is away, maybe hunting, visiting court or engaged in war. It is a lonely job, one without support or help.

It is from this period that we get the idea of the responsibility of stewards and through the centuries the understanding that God wants us all involved in the stewardship of our world and that which we hold dear. And for us we have the added gift, our Lord is not an absentee Lord, we are not being asked to do anything on our own, for our Lord is always with us, and so when we feel put on or overwhelmed all we need to do is ask for help, and God will listen, guide and support. Unlike the medieval steward who was on his own more often that not, we have our Lord with us, His guidance and his support.

There are two questions I would like you to think about.

Q1) Stewardship in my home:

 What do I consider to be Stewardship at home. Think about what you hold dear and ask how you cherish these gifts.

Q2) How can we extend the Stewardship we practice at home into our church and the wider community?

You might like to pause and think about these questions before reading on.

Thank you for that, I hope that helped you to feel that our Stewardship responsibility is not just about us supporting some single thing that we hold dear but that it is integral to all we do, every day of our lives. As Christians we all need, and I very much include myself in this, to remember that God, through Christ has called us all to be His Stewards of His world, the world that is God’s gift to every life on the planet, the world that we live on.

And as our church moves forward and grows, we are blessed that we all have opportunities to make a difference to our community and ourselves. We have a manifesto that is both practical and inspirational. It asks questions of us all and offers us opportunities to be both part of our community and to make a difference in a wider setting. Through prayer we will be led to the places that our Lord wishes us to go, are we ready to be lead?

We are now going to have our second reading, it is one that we had a not long ago, but it has an important message with in it, again, to put it simply, are we ready to be called, ready to be lead?

Reading: 1 Samuel 3: 1-10

The Lord Appears to Samuel

In those days, when the boy Samuel was serving the Lord under the direction of Eli, there were very few messages from the Lord, and visions from him were quite rare. One night Eli, who was now almost blind, was sleeping in his own room; Samuel was sleeping in the sanctuary, where the sacred Covenant Box was. Before dawn, while the lamp was still burning, the Lord called Samuel. He answered, “Yes, sir!” and ran to Eli and said, “You called me, and here I am.”

But Eli answered, “I didn’t call you; go back to bed.” So Samuel went back to bed.

The Lord called Samuel again. The boy did not know that it was the Lord, because the Lord had never spoken to him before. So he got up, went to Eli, and said, “You called me, and here I am.”

But Eli answered, “My son, I didn’t call you; go back to bed.”

The Lord called Samuel a third time; he got up, went to Eli, and said, “You called me, and here I am.”

Then Eli realized that it was the Lord who was calling the boy, so he said to him, “Go back to bed; and if he calls you again, say, ‘Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went back to bed.

The Lord came and stood there, and called as he had before, “Samuel! Samuel!”

Samuel answered, “Speak; your servant is listening.”

While the reading is still in our hearts and mind, let us have our final song of the morning.

Song: I the Lord of sea and sky

I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard my people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin
my hand will save.
I, who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear my light to them?
Whom shall I send?
            Here I am, Lord.  Is it I, Lord?

            I have heard you calling in the night.
            I will go, Lord, if you lead me.
            I will hold your people in my heart.

I, the Lord of snow and rain,
I have borne my people’s pain.
I have wept for love of them.
They turn away.
I will break their hearts of stone,
give them hearts for love alone.
I will speak my words to them.
Whom shall I send?

            Here I am, Lord. ……

I, the Lord of wind and flame,
I will send the poor and lame.
I will set a feast for them.
My hand will save.
Finest bread I will provide
till their hearts be satisfied.
I will give my life to them.
Whom shall I send?

            Here I am, Lord. …..

 Prayers /intercessions

The Grace

May The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,

the Love of God

and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit

be with us all, for ever more.

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