Oh, boy! Oh, boy! We’re entering into the final weeks of this year’s readings in the Daily Office and that means one thing: Revelation!
The Book of Revelation to John really is a part of the Bible that I think must have been authored by the creator of Calvin and Hobbes (the cartoon… not the theologian and philosopher). Either that, or John got into some funny mushrooms. You’ve got creatures with wings and multiple eyes and dragons and lambs and horsemen and mayhem and a new heaven and a new earth. It’s really whacky reading and the kind of stuff an imaginative child might relish. And it certainly isn’t boring.
What struck me in reading the Revelation passage assigned for today (besides imagining lions and eagles with lots of eyes) was the scene of the four winged creatures and the twenty-four elders bowing to God and saying, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power for you created all things, and by their will they existed and were created.” That sentence reminds me of what I often heard the priest say at the altar on Sundays before beginning the liturgy of the table:
“All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee.”
Until recently, that phrase would pass through one ear and out the other. Nothing snagged it in my brain, forcing me to contend with its meaning.
Then along came the stewardship campaign.
Just as predictable as readings from Revelation showing up in the lectionary at the end of the Church year, it is equally as regular that the mid-fall season means the beginning of the stewardship campaign; that time when some appointed people in the church are called on to help the rector reach out to the rest of the congregation and commit some hard cold cash for a year. The church exists for God, but God doesn’t pay the utility bills. And in this human, earthly realm, the church needs money for the privilege of existence on a city block.
I used to get really uncomfortable about stewardship campaigns. I didn’t like people asking me to make a commitment of money to the church because I didn’t want to be “pinned down” to give a specific amount. I felt scared by the whole thing; what if I couldn’t pay my pledge? Would I get kicked out of the congregation as a free-loader?
My anxiety changed one day as I was in my massage office waiting for a client. I had been asked to be on the stewardship committee for the parish, and thus was having to face my own fears and doubts about money, what I could afford, and how would I budget for a pledge. I realized that money held a lot of energy and power over me. And the only way for me to keep money from staring at me like some looming ogre was to take a more Buddhist approach to the green stuff. I had to learn to detach from it.
This is easier said than done. But as I thought about that line, “All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have we given thee,” I thought about the transfer of money especially that which I called, “my money.” “My money” is never really “my money.” It isn’t really something I own; it’s on loan to me to then move it along to someone or something else. I don’t necessarily believe that our currency is “God’s money.” But what we do with it and how we relate to it will influence our stewardship of all things. And if we believe that God created all things, then we are bound to treat all things with care and respect. This includes the bits of copper, silver and dollars that make up that thing called, “money.” Adopting a philosophy toward money like that, I found it easier to conceive of making a pledge. I could find an amount that had significance to me, and then I could let it go without feeling a need or a demand or sensing that I was in any way still emotionally, spiritually or psychically attached to this check that I had written.
The church gets the money that had been in my hands and in someone else’s hands before that to put that money to use in supplying a space for people to gather to worship, meet and have fellowship. Thanks be to God for that.