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August 2012

Stewardship: A well of missional possibilities

Luther Seminary sponsored a tremendous conference in July concerning stewardship. More than 370 people from around the country, both lay and clergy, attended the three-day Rethinking Stewardship conference. It was clear at the event that church people know that stewardship matters. It matters for mission, it matters for discipleship and it matters for thriving local congregations and families. And we all know that what matters in this time and place is that we rethink how we approach faith and money. Stewardship used to be a scary topic in Christian communities. Now people know there is an urgent need to talk about it like the Bible does--early and often.

In his book, "Faithful Finances 101," Gary Moore quotes Peggy Noonan, editorial board member of the Wall Street Journal, on faith and money:

"The other day I met with a Chinese dissident who has served time in jail, and whose husband is in jail in Beijing. I asked her if the longing for democratic principles that has swept the generation of Tiananmen Square has been accompanied by a rise in religious feeling--a new interest in Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity. She thought for a moment and looked at me. 'Among the young, I would say our religion is money,' she said. I nodded and said, 'Oh, that's our religion too.'"

Gary Moore goes on to make the awkward point that some of America's worst turn-of-the-millennium corporate scandals were perpetrated by devoted churchgoers, even Sunday school teachers and ministry boards. At all levels of society--personal, familial, congregational and professional--we are having trouble marrying the realities of faith and finances.

As I have reflected on this challenge as it regards the mission of the church, one image and symbol in particular brings together the dynamics of mission and stewardship in a fundamental way--the Eucharist table. It's no wonder that the early Christians gathered daily around table fellowship and the breaking of bread. It's around the table that our physical, emotional and spiritual needs are met. It's to the Eucharistic table that we bring our gifts, signs of our faithful response to God's love in Christ. And it's around the table that God's gifts are blessed, broken and shared with not only the people of God, but the whole world. It's at the Eucharistic table that the church practices both stewardship and mission.

I've heard so many powerful testimonies coming from the Rethinking Stewardship event. Our prayer is that the Spirit continues to challenge us all to rethink stewardship, mission and the gathering and sending of missional leaders by the "bread of life."

"Come Lord Jesus, be our guest and let these gifts to us--and the world--be blessed."

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