A Matter of Stewardship Session Two: Opening Readings Let him who possesses a field, so partake of its yearly fruits, that he may not suffer the ground to be injured by his negligence; but let him endeavor to hand it down to posterity as he received it, or even better cultivated. Let him so feed on its fruits that he neither dissipates it by luxury, nor permits it to be marred by neglect. Moreover, let everyone regard himself as the steward of God in all things which he possesses. Then he will neither conduct himself dissolutely, nor corrupt by abuse those things which God requires to be preserved.... The creation is quite like a spacious and splendid house, provided and filled with the most exquisite and the most abundant furnishings. Everything in it tells us of God. —John Calvin (1509–1564)
A Matter of Stewardship Session Two: Opening Readings Love all God’s creation, The whole and every grain of sand in it. Love every leaf, Ever ray of God’s light. Love the animals, Love the plants, Love everything If you love everything, You will perceive The divine mystery in things. Once you perceive it, You will begin to comprehend it better every day. And you will come at last to love the whole world with an all embracing love. —Fyodor Dostoyevski (1821–1881)
A Matter of Stewardship Session Two: Opening B. Hymn: “ The Common Doxology” C. Reflection Activity There is a fierce and emotional debate taking place in our county about gas drilling, which is complicated by our economic challenges. One farmer recently summarized the problem as: “The environmentalists don’t want anyone to make any money.” On the other hand, some who oppose the drilling consider proponents to be simple and short-sighted. Truth and effective options are not helped by extreme rhetoric or negative characterizations. Think of a time when you held a strong opinion about a subject and could not productively engage in discussion. How did you frame the issue? Was your description accurate and fair? How did you assess your opponents? What assumptions, fears, or prejudices were reflected in your language? How might you have reframed the issue or changed your assessment of those who held a different view in order to open up communication and leave room for the Spirit of truth to work?
A Matter of Stewardship Session Two: Opening Reflection Activity Read “Behold the Dandelion” and consider the following questions: How did you form your ideas of what constitutes a good yard? Who decides what a weed is and on what basis? How would you feel if your yard was not as groomed as your neighbors’?
A Matter of Stewardship Session Two II. Practical Impracticality A. Stewardship Defined While we often think of stewardship as giving of our financial resources, stewardship actually means managing the property of another on his or her behalf. Faithful stewardship requires managing the property of another according to that person’s will and pleasure. ►Since God entrusted creation to our care, how we relate to creation is a matter of stewardship. Faithful stewards care for creation according to God’s wishes. B. The Impracticality of Biblical Stewardship 1.Guidelines given to ancient Israel for the care of the land don’t maximize return and may seem impractical to contemporary thinkers. For example:
A Matter of Stewardship Session Two: Practical Impracticality ∙The sabbatical year: The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them: ‘When you enter the land that I am giving you, the land shall observe a sabbath for the Lord. Six years you shall sow your field and six years you shall prune your vineyard and gather in their yield; but in the seventh year there shall be a sabbath of complete rest for the land, a sabbath for the Lord; you shall not sow your field or prune your vineyard. You shall not reap the aftergrowth of your harvest nor gather the grapes of your unpruned vine; it shall be a year of complete rest for the land. You may eat what the land yields during its sabbath—you, your male and female slaves, your hired and your bound laborers who live with you; for your livestock also and for the wild animals in your land, all the yield shall be for food’” (Lev 25:1-7 also Ex 23:10). ∙ Leaving part of the harvest: When you harvest your olives, don’t try to get them all for yourself, but leave some for the poor. And when you pick your grapes, go over the vines only once then let the poor have what is left (Deut 24:19-2, CEV). When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. You shall not strip your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the Lord your God (Lev 19:9-10).
A Matter of Stewardship Session Two: Practical Impracticality 2. Such laws diverge dramatically from the commonly held perspectives that: ▪The land I own and work is mine and I am entitled to all it produces; and ▪ It is proper to do whatever it takes to maximize production. Instead these laws remind us that: ►While land may be held in trust by people, it is ultimately God’s land and God has the right to determine both how it is treated and how its yield is handled. ► Respect for the land is essential and requires an eye toward long-term viability for future generations. ► Creation is designed to support all people and other creatures. ► Creation can support human need, but cannot abide our greed.
A Matter of Stewardship Session Two: Engagement Exercises 1) Abraham Heschel speaks of the Sabbath itself, rather than humanity, as the pinnacle of creation: To the philosopher the idea of the good is the most exalted idea. But to the Bible the idea of the good is penultimate; it cannot exist without the holy. The good is the base, the holy is the summit. Things created in six days He considered good, the seventh day He made holy. Such a view challenges both the human sense of being of primary importance and also our focus on doing, accomplishing, and achieving as the measure of goodness. How might our lives, our relationships with one another and with creation change if we embraced Sabbath as holy?
A Matter of Stewardship Session Two: Engagement Exercises 2) Dieter T. Hessel writes: The Torah (or covenant law) conveys an ethic of environmental care with social justice— not over against or instead of, but together. Key passages such as Exodus 23, Leviticus 19 and 25, and Deuteronomy 15 express the covenant obligation to respond to the poor, to give animals Sabbath rest, to let the land lie fallow, and to cancel debts periodically, if not to redistribute land. Theology with this sensitivity poses no either/or choice between caring for people and caring for the earth. The way people treat land and animals is as important a sign of faithfulness as the way people treat each other. Modern anthropocentric Christianity forgot this, bowing to ideologies of economic growth that sacrifice both ecology and equity. ▪ In what ways do you see human beings functioning with an understanding that we have to choose either to care for ourselves or for creation; that the two concerns are in conflict with one another? ▪ Do you trust that we would be okay if we followed stewardship of creation, as outlined in the Bible, and limited production while sharing proceeds with the poor, the foreigner, and animals? If not, what experiences make you think otherwise? How do you reconcile your beliefs with these directives from Scripture? ▪ If, according to Scripture, the either/or perspective is a false one, how might you go about experimenting on a small scale with a lifestyle that reflects these biblical mandates?
A Matter of Stewardship Session Two: About Stewardship Closing Prayer Every creature, every plant every rock and grain of sand proclaims the glory of its Creator worships through colour, Shape, scent and form. A multi-sensory song of praise. Creator God, may we join with the whole of your creation in praising you, our Creator through the fragrance and melody of our lives. —Celtic Prayer of Creation