Good Morning, I’m Kent Boettger. I’m here this morning to talk with you about Lay Stewardship – particularly as it applies to your contributions of time and talent.
Today’s gospel speaks of duties to Caesar and to God. “Render to Caesar what belong to Caesar and to God what belongs to God.” Oftentimes, this passage is taken as recognition of the difference between Church and State; with a Christian having duties and responsibilities to both. We generally understand what our obligations to State are. We must obey laws, pay taxes, and generally participate in civic activities to the betterment of our families and our communities. However, how do we give to God what belongs to God? And just what is it that does belong to God?
In today’s gospel, Christ came to his instructions to the Pharisees and Herodians after looking upon a coin. He asked, “Whose image is this?” The answer came back that it was an image of Caesar. He then advised those who posed the question to him to “Render to Caesar that which is Caesar’s.”
Well, when Jesus Christ looks upon you and me, what image does he see? I think the answer to that is given to us in the creation account of Genesis. God made us in His own image. So, if that which is made in the image of Caesar is to be rendered back to Caesar, it appears that the corollary is also true, that which is made in the image of God needs to be rendered back to God. And that means you and me.
A few verses later in Matthew’s gospel, when Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is, he tells us that it is to love God with all our heart, all our mind, and all our sole. As a strategy, this seems clear, but just what behavior implements this strategy?
One way certainly is through prayer and spiritual exercises. Another is to contribute time and talent for the betterment of the faith filled community of which we are a part.
Many of you know I am on path to be ordained Deacon in a few weeks. And, on that path, Linda walks with me. We have been in formation for the past 3 years, learning and growing in our faith. And in that growth process, one thing that I have become more acutely aware of is how much more I understand today that my faith is community-based. It is not just me and God. It is me, as part of the Body of Christ, and God. It is us.
In a few weeks I will be part of the Clergy and no longer part of the Laity. I believe Linda and I came to this point partially through our Lay Stewardship – through our commitments of time and talent to the service of the Church. We moved closer to God by participating on the Parish Council, in the Knights of Columbus, the Outreach Ministry, and the Liturgy Committee. By being usher and CCD teacher. By joining with others in a faith sharing group and by being Ministers of Holy Communion both here at Church and to the homebound. We have time and some level of talent that we think is helpful to God’s Church and His people.
And, I stand before you today, not as a product of my own efforts, but as a product of the time and talent rendered my many others on my behalf. Linda and I know many of you personally since we grew up in this town and have worked with you in various community and church activities. Some of you have been our teachers, our coaches, our classmates, our neighbors, our colleagues and, most importantly, our friends. Many of you have done much for us.
Let me share something with you. Last February, on the feast of St. Blaze, Fr. Dan let Steve Grandinetti, my fellow Deacon classmate, and me help with the blessing of the throats. At first I just thought that this would be a practical thing to do. We have a large parish and blessing all the throats takes time. Our help would speed things up a bit. Also, it fit in with our formation as Deacon. Therefore, it was administratively and experience-wise, a good thing for us to do.
But, what I discovered was that this was much more than an exercise in efficiency and proficiency. I was surprised at the great sense of joy I experienced from blessing the throats of many of you that I have known for years -- people who have been there for me and now I was assisting the grace of God come to you. It was more than practice being on the altar; it was the joy of relating to God’s people in the distribution of spiritual gifts. It was labor done in thanks for all you have done for me. It was humbling and it was beautiful.
Service, that is Stewardship, takes a plan. You begin with small steps and commit yourself to advancing a little further along each year. It is not so much a matter of where you are, but where you are going. It has more to do with the ever increasing process of commitment than it has to do with specific accomplishments. It is a process of transformation.
And even though you initially approach it with the thought that you are doing it for others, doing it because it is your obligation, you amaze yourself at how much you actually receive from the act of giving.
This is a great community and this is a great Church. Linda and I have always felt blessed to be a part of both. What we have, is here because of what all of you have already done. What we will have in the future, will come about from all that you will do. Linda and I hope to work side-by-side with you going forward, as you offer your precious time and talent to the service of our Lord Jesus Christ and His Church.
Remember, you are the image of God. It is your coinage that fills the spiritual coffers of our Church. It is you that is beloved by God, so much so that He gave his only son. In Jesus Christ we are saved and through the Holy Spirit we are enlightened. Believe this and rely on this! We are the Body of Christ – a body that functions together and supports the whole. We are needed and we are called.