As we learn to steward our lives and the gifts we receive from a gracious God whose giving knows no ending, we come to the conclusion that we must also share our treasures with others.
Create in me a Clean Heart
With the Lord Begin your Task
Third Lesson: Giving
Accompanying Power Point
As we learn to steward our lives and the gifts we receive from a gracious God whose giving knows no ending, we come to the conclusion that we must also share our treasures with others. In the olden days when people had more time and commodities to exchange or give away, and cash was rare, people did not have much money to give to the church. The old state churches of Europe were quite different from the American system: people supported the church through taxes or they were levied by the local pastor who frequently accepted farm produce as part of his pay.
As European Christians came to this country, leaving the state churches behind, they had to develop the habit of giving money to their local church which was difficult for many of them to understand. They did remember that they had to collect their small change for missionary work, something women became very skilled at in the 19th century. This helped them develop the idea that one should send money to missionaries and schools and denominational headquarters that were not local. Not surprisingly, then, it is from the 19th century that we have the hymns we call "stewardship" hymns.
Lutherans who immigrated to this country did not bring liturgies that included an offering, so they had to find a place in the service where they could add it without making people think they were paying for the sacrament. Lutherans, given their memory of the history of the Reformation and its indulgences, have always gotten a little nervous about the idea that we give so that we will please the Lord with our gifts. To avoid any sense of that their participation in the offering of the church earned them any grace, the hymn American Lutherans used for the offertory of the service "Create in Me Clean Heart" in the Common Service in 1888, the most widely used and loved version of Luther's liturgy.
Create in me a clean heart is part of David's Psalm 51 thought to have been written by David after his transgression with Bathsheba. This version is anonymous, the tune comes from the Freylinghausen hymnal of 1704.
Create in me a clean heart, O God:
And renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence:
And take not your Holy Spirit from me,
Restore unto me the joy of your salvation:
And uphold me with your free Spirit.
1) What wisdom was there in using this hymn, rather than another, when our gifts are being presented at the altar?
2) What does the hymn focus on? How does that make sense?
3) Have you ever thought that if you give something to the church, God will bless you? What would this hymn say to that?
4) Can you remember singing it in the service? What memories does it bring back to you?
With the Lord Begin your Task
"With the Lord Begin your Task" essentially reviews what we have studied so far. It proclaims the Gospel about how to work and live--our Christian vocation.
The writer of this much beloved hymn is not known. We know something of the composer who was attracted to the hymn which came from a collection of hymns called Morning and Evening Blessings. Compiled in the 18th century in Germany and published in Wittenberg, it contained many such prayers and hymns using the forms we have discussed during these lessons.
1) Read through the hymn and find the typical parts of the hymn.
2) To whom is the hymn addressed?
3) How can you use the proclamation in the hymn to think about your life as a Christian? How does it help you think about a life of generous living?
4) After seeing these themes appear and reappear in these hymns, talk about your enriched understanding of your Christian vocation, and your life as a steward of the gifts you have been given.
If you have time sing through all six of the hymns, and comment on what you have learned about the conventions of the morning hymn and the notion of Christian vocation.
Hymns of Stewards: Leader's Guide
Lesson One: First Commandment
Lesson Two: Vocation
Gracia M. Grindal is professor of Rhetoric at Luther Seminary.
Image credit: © Ignacio García Losa (ignaciogarcialosa.com) via Flickr. Used by permission.