Thoughts & Homilies from our Rector
Rev. Eric L. Miller
April 2021 Connections
Stewardship always begins with God. As a faithful follower of Jesus, I believe God gives abundant life; and, abundant life isn’t necessarily what’s on the surface, the physical, or the life that physicians work with and examine and diagnose. The abundant life God gives to all creation is spiritual freedom. From the beginning, we are created in God’s holy image. In Holy Baptism we are marked as Christ’s own forever; and frankly, we are God’s beloved, anyway.
As part of God’s beloved community, we have the gift and responsibility to take care of the gifts God gives so freely. We take care of our spiritual freedom by cultivating our relationship with our loving God through prayer, meditation, reading Holy Scripture, participating in worship, and so on. I find that the more I put into my prayer life, the more I receive. And no, I am not saying that we can earn God’s grace. I am saying that the greater care we put into the gifts God gives, the deeper our relationship in Christ grows.
I happen to be a happily married man. I believe marriage is a gift from God, too. The more effort I put into maintaining a healthy relationship with my partner, the greater our love for one another is witnessed by our children. The more love our children witness, the more they will see love as the way to live. You see, part of taking care of the gifts God gives is reciprocity. If I take care of and maintain my vehicle, then I generally have better driving experiences. The more we worship and give thanks to God together, the more grateful we all are to God for the gifts He gives. When we take care of a roof or a boiler or whatever the physical need of the building is, then the more welcoming and hospitable the space becomes.
The Vestry is leading a new initiative to deepen and broaden the sense of belonging folks experience when they are with the church for worship (in-person or online), when groups use our space for their respective ministry, and when we are out in the community serving in Jesus’ name through being part of the Ascension & Holy Trinity faith family. We are utilizing the “Invite / Welcome / Connect” ministry perspective authored by Mary Foster Parmer. We want our invitations to come from a place of authenticity and love. We want our welcome to continue becoming inclusive of all God’s creation, regardless of where one happens to be on their spiritual journey. We want to develop our sense of connection to one another through how we relate to each other inside and outside the church building. Our Invite / Welcome / Connect ministry is a gift from God and our response to God’s love is important in this realm, too.
Our Stewardship Formation Team is doing a beautiful job focusing each month on various aspects of the gifts our church stewards. Thus far in 2021, we’ve looked through the lens of parish health, worship, and outreach. This dedicated team has more ideas for how we look at stewardship, and we would love your input as well. What are areas of church life we could gain a deeper understanding of stewardship?
How do you see the life of the church as a gift from God? How do you understand your own life as a gift from God? What are ways you cultivate and tend to the gifts God gives?
For me, the most vital spiritual understanding is the concept that in order to keep it I have to give it away. In order to keep my faith in Jesus, I have to share about my faith. In order to grow my relationship with my family and friends, I have to give those relationships time. In order to receive forgiveness, I must offer forgiveness. In order to know and experience abundant joy, I get to share joy. Our relationship with God is both personal and corporate. We pray to God in the privacy of our own daily lives, and we also pray and grow in Christ through our worship together as the body of Christ. In order to keep our relationship with God alive, active, and growing, we have to be willing to share about our relationship with God. What are ways we share our relationship with the Risen Christ with others? How might we share our faith in other ways? What might we do differently to help anyone entering into the life of our faith community realize that all are welcome because all belong?
I’ll see you in the pews and on the streets!
In God’s Grace,
The Rev. Eric L. Miller+