September 23, 2015

As we approach Ingathering Sunday, October 11, the Cathedral will be hosting a series of stewardship speakers, talking to us about how their financial gifts reflect their life in this community. Our second speaker (on September 20) was Caroline Fleming, member of All Souls.

Good morning.  My name is Caroline Fleming, and am blessed to call All Souls my spiritual home for the last 3 years.

Father Todd asked me to speak a little bit this morning about stewardship. So first of course, an official Google definition: 

Stewardship:  the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.

Then, because we’re in a church, I consulted the Bible. There are many references to stewardship in the bible, including Genesis, Samuel, Daniel, Leviticus, Acts and all the Gospels. But still, I chose my favorite passage whose connection to stewardship exists tenously if at all, but which speaks so clearly to me of the essence of being a caring steward.

This is from Matthew, Chapter 9:

And a woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, came up behind [Jesus] and touched the fringe of His cloak; for she was saying to herself, “If I only touch His garment, I will get well.” But Jesus turning and seeing her said, “Daughter, take courage; your faith has made you well.” At once the woman was made well.

To me this passage presents us with a model of stewardship in an every-day context. It describes what is more than a coincidental touching of Jesus’ robe which leads to a miracle. It is about the careful attentiveness with which Jesus moved among his people. He was in a crowd on his way to visit a synagogue official’s sick daughter. He was busy and he had an important mission to accomplish. And yet, he remained present to the crowd, even to those he didn’t know, so much so that he felt someone touching his robe amidst the jostling activity. Maybe there was a charge that traveled between him and the woman as she touched his cloak. Maybe he just happened to look sideways and see her hand reach out to touch him.

I would argue that Jesus was acting as a good steward. He was attentive. He noticed the woman’s presence, turned toward her in spite of his busy-ness and importance, and recognized her for who she was — a woman of such faith that touching his cloak was all she needed. And he reached back out to her with his words, assuring her that she was healed by her faith.

About 2 years ago, at around 10:10am on a Sunday morning, I was standing in line with several others waiting to serve up some delicious egg-scramble. It was a community breakfast morning, and I was distracted at best, pivoting around to spy my wayward children
without wanting to lose my place in line, talking to several folks while thinking about the pastry selection inside, when someone touched my shoulder. I turned, half-expecting a report of criminal behavior like, “Nicholas pushed me,” instead to face Milly who said in a quiet almost as if sharing-a-secret-kind-of voice, “What do you think about going to Cuba next summer?” 

In that moment, I felt the charge. Milly asking me to go to Cuba? In her question, I felt recognized. Though I was still new in the community, and didn’t know too many people besides my pre-existing friends, I felt like I had been noticed. Milly probably had a thousand things to think about that morning, and yet with her gesture, she made me feel cared for. She must have known that accompanying youth on a solidarity trip to a Spanish-speaking country to experience a new way of being was exactly the type of service I felt most called to. Whether she knew that or not, it was her gesture toward me, her recognition of me that pulled me in and made me feel a part of the community. Made me feel cared for.

I think this is what stewardship is about. How can we care for each other - our priests, our children, our elders, those in need? I suggest it starts by being attentive. Show up. Be present. Notice. And reach out.

As a family we have been richly blessed by this community, from the weekly inspiration and fellowship of Sunday mornings, to the camaraderie of First Friday book groups, to the spiritual nourishment of Lenten prayer circles, to the Wednesday afternoon snack - I mean - choir practices, to the deep sense of connection I feel with my fellow Cuban pilgrims….  There’s no sense in trying to repay the gifts we have received here, but I can start by being present to the needs around me. Stopping in my busy-ness to talk and listen to someone. Carve out time to attend an important church meeting. Schedule a night to serve dinner at Room in the Inn. Share our family financial resources with All Souls Cathedral in the manner of tithing.

Our pledge of financial resources goes hand in hand with a pledge of my presence, my attentiveness; knowing how much the simple act of touching the fabric of a neighbor’s cloak can mean to another person, as it has meant to me. Thank you.