Stewardship of Creation & Community
The Rev. Sara Cosca-Warfield
Pay no mind to the crooked stole. :)
The other day, I was at a meeting of our Labyrinth Guild. They’re the group charged with the task of tending to that space and the community it creates. We were each talking about our experience of the labyrinth and its garden as a sacred space, and one person described it as “a church without walls.”
A place where people can go on their own time and take their own time to experience the divine. A place where they can walk their prayers accompanied by the hymn of songbirds and the rustle of squirrels in the bushes. A place to experience God in the company of English lavender and Japanese Snowbell and Moonbeam Junipers.
It is a sanctuary only God could create, where one can be a pilgrim for fifteen minutes or an hour before they go back to the routine of their life.
I think St. Francis of Assisi would have been into our labyrinth. His was a church that also had no walls. It was said that the birds went quiet when he passed by so that he could preach the good news to them. He wrote in praise of Brother Sun and Sister Moon, Brother Fire and Sister Water. His sanctuary was made of trees and dirt, his song the buzz of cicadas and the crunching of leaves under paw or hoof or foot.
I would call him the patron saint of interconnectedness. A man who saw the inherent value in every single living thing and its importance to each of our own lives. I imagine that he would have understood that when rain forests are mowed down in the Amazon, the whole world is impacted. I imagine if he knew about our world today—industrialization and climate change—he would have rejoiced when he heard that several countries are transitioning from burning fossil fuels to turn towards renewable energy. Because Francis seemed to have an innate understanding that what happens in one part of the natural world impacts the whole world.
St. Francis was a steward of the whole world beyond walls. A caretaker of the community beyond humans. As we heard in our reflection at the beginning of worship:
“All creatures have the same source as we have. Like us, they derive the life of thought, love, and will from the Creator. Not to hurt our humble brethren is our first duty to them; but to stop there is a complete misapprehension of the intentions of Providence. We have a higher mission. God wishes that we should succor them whenever they require it.”
St. Francis: the patron saint of breathing creatures and growing greenery and flowing elements, of all the ways we’re completely dependent on all of God’s creation and all the ways God’s creation is completely dependent on us.The patron saint of interconnectedness, of interdependence.
So I don’t think it’s a coincidence that St. Francis’ feast day, which is actually on Tuesday, falls closest to the Sunday, today, when we kick off our Stewardship campaign.
Because stewardship at St. Luke’s is our celebration of the Body of Christ, and “Body of Christ” is our Christian way of saying interconnectedness, interdependence. Because that’s what Jesus does—he makes us all one.
He calls forth what each of us has to give—our unique gifts and skills,
our time, our financial resources—and calls it absolutely essential for the whole body’s thriving.
Our Stewardship is when we pledge ahead of time what gifts each of us we will give to this community in 2023. The theme this year is Planting Seeds, Watering Seeds—and again, I think St. Francis would approve.
Planting the seed is our commitment to this little part of the Body of Christ here at St. Luke’s. Our pledge of money, of time, of skills, of energy is the seed we plant into the rich soil of this community. Pledging, planting that seed, is our tangible way of naming our hope for this community and trusting that God will break that seed open into a wild harvest.
Watering the seed is about lifting each other up. Affirming each other’s gifts. Calling each other to accountability. Loving each other. Recognizing the great beauty and joy and worth of every single person who walks through our red doors. Recognizing your own great beauty and joy and worth.
We water each other’s seeds, we nurture in one another the different gifts God gave us.
Planting Seeds, Watering Seeds. Through us, God creates abundance in this community—an abundance of love, an abundance of generosity, an abundance of understanding—that we then take out into the world. Which is how St. Luke’s changes the world.
It has to start somewhere, so why not here? Why not make this the place the place where we start seeing every person, every creature, every living thing as essential to our own joy and thriving.
Starting today, maybe, with these animal friends of ours.
St. Francis recognized the interconnection between all life, all creation. We recognize and nurture and practice that interconnection here at St. Luke’s. Through love, through belonging, through understanding that every gift is essential, from our Zoom techs in the balcony to our coffee hour hosts to our acolytes to our vestry members.
Our Stewardship campaign is how we commit to one another, how we commit to planting the seeds of God’s love in this place and beyond. How we water and nurture God’s love all around us.
So in the coming weeks, I invite you to talk to God and your family about how you will embody your gifts in this community, how you will create and support God’s love that is grown here, how you will give of your money, time, skills, and energy so that this part of the Body of Christ that gathers here in this sweet little church on Towle Avenue and on Zoom may be a beacon of belonging and of joy in Gresham and beyond.