Piety Hill Musings

The ramblings of the 51 year old Rector of St. John's Episcopal Church of Detroit. Piety Hill refers to the old name for our neighborhood. The neighborhood has changed a great deal in the over 150 years we have been on this corner (but not our traditional biblical theology) and it is now known for the neighboring theatres, the professional baseball and football stadiums and new hockey/basketball arena.

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Location: Detroit, Michigan, United States

Monday, October 13, 2014

"No resting on one's laurels" - Rector's Rambling AND Teaching Notes for October 12, 2014

October is Stewardship month in most parishes in the Episcopal Church, and we are no exception to that.  At this time of the year we ask you to evaluate your giving to the parish and how God may be asking you to increase that giving.  But even more importantly, we ask that you look at what money is to you, what hold it has on you, and how God would have you be in relationship with money.  Stewardship is about gratitude for what God has entrusted to us, and how we respond in gratitude.
When the vestry makes a budget, we look at patterns of giving and income over past years, as well as expenses anticipated.  However, we don’t do Stewardship in the parish by saying we need to raise _______ amount of money to balance our budget.  We don’t want to limit you or us!  We expect that God will continue to bless us, and in so doing we will respond in gratitude, not because the church needs a certain amount of dollars to pay the gas and electric bills, but because we are people of God who give with a cheerful heart to the parish as a part of our bounden duty…to work and pray and give for the spread of the kingdom.  (Book of Common Prayer p. 291)
After a few years of uncertainty with the economy, and a pervasive fear by some that the parish would fail, St. John’s has not only continued to thrive, but we are completing our second year of not using any endowment income to cover operating expenses, something the parish had depended upon out of necessity for over 40 years.
As a part of the spiritual life, there is no resting on one’s laurels when it comes to stewardship!  Proposed changes to the neighborhood should benefit the parish both in ministry opportunities as well as financially in the coming years.  But that doesn’t release us from working toward the biblical principle of tithing of our income.  WE NEED to give, because it is good for us and God wills it.  Stewardship is about the spiritual health of the parish of which generosity is vital.


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Tithing

When discussing stewardship the word “tithe” comes up frequently.  What is a tithe, and how does it apply to your spiritual life?
The tithe is an offering to God of the FIRST 10% of your incoming.  In the Old Testament God requires this, saying the first 10% of your fields, flocks or vineyards are to be given as an offering to the Lord. (Leviticus 27:30)  It is a sign and symbol of gratitude that the Lord has provided for you.  One of the offertory sentences for the Holy Communion Service sums this up saying, “All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee” (1 Chronicles 29:14).  With the offering we show gratitude because it is 100% God’s and He has blessed us with the provision of it.  It is also a sign that we trust that God will continue to provide for us in the future as well. (Malachi 3:10).
In the New Testament Jesus mentions the tithe in reference to those who are doing it for appearances or self-righteousness, not with a joyful heart.  Rather than saying the Pharisees are wrong for tithing, he says our righteousness must EXCEED that of the scribes and Pharisees. (Matthew 5:20)  We should be giving and doing so with a right heart.
But throughout the New Testament there is reference to the support of the ministry and need to not be so attached to one’s possessions that they become a distraction or even an idol.  Giving with a cheerful heart is a great antidote to such a malady.
In the Book of Common Prayer we read in the Offices of Instruction, My bounden duty is the follow Christ, to worship God every Sunday in his Church; and to work and pray and give for the spread of the kingdom. (p. 291)  The support of your parish church, working toward a tithe, is an important aspect of that duty.  And to do so with a cheerful heart is a spiritual treasure.
If you are not tithing now pray the Lord to help you to move toward that level of giving to His Greater Honor and Glory, and your sanctification.