Stewardship Sunday, November 22, 2015

Live Free!Stewardship Sunday, November 22, is fast approaching. Have you taken the time to pray for guidance as to what your share of your monetary goods should be given for the work of the Lord? I am sure you have all heard the saying of “freely you have been given, freely you should give.” We all need to remember that we are already rich in good works, generous, and ready to share. Therefore, we can let go of the uncertainty of living based on our financial lacks and commit ourselves to God who has given us the grace to “Live Free.”

As I have said before, the congregation of First Baptist Church of Palo Alto is very giving, as evidenced by the amount of monies given for the chosen monthly missions.

Now we must also think about our yearly budget. Our expectations for the growth of our member numbers will also require that we all must share our time, talents, and monies to this endeavor for it to be successful.

In a book on stewardship, a few questions are asked for our consideration:

  1. Who is the most generous person you know? This person would be one who helps others, gives their time to encourage relationships, gives money to meet people’s needs, shares things with others, etc.
  2. Has this faith community been helpful to you in reducing your stress over money issues?
  3. In your experience, who showed you that life is more than just survival or amassing money?
  4. When have you received benefits from someone else’s good works? How did it make you feel? Did it change your life in any way?

Will these questions help you decide what will make you grow as generous givers to God’s work? All these questions are asked to help you overcome the anxiety of life in these uncertain times, so you can “Live Free” in God’s grace.

Laura Garcia, Stewardship Chairman

Live Free!

Mixon Muses“For freedom Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore, and do not submit again to the yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

Live Free! That is the theme of our stewardship emphasis this year. At first glance, it seems somewhat curious, given there are other texts that point more clearly to generosity and giving. But after a second look, it makes sense to consider Christ’s gracious gift of freedom as meaningful motivation for good stewardship. We don’t make a big push for supporting the life and work of the church each year. At least in part, I believe this is because we are a congregation with a deep understanding and commitment to stewardship. We come back to the importance of stewardship over and over in the course of our worship, learning and mission because we understand it as fundamental to our faith and practice.

Live Free! Take Hold of the Life that Really Is Life (1 Timothy 6:18-19). The stewardship material we received from the Ecumenical Stewardship Center suggests this theme and the additional text from First Timothy. They divide the overall theme into four considerations. The first is “Free – from the Money Trap.” I think we all must have some familiarity with this phenomenon. If we just had a little bit more, we could… You name it! Money becomes very much a “yoke of slavery.” What is it money can buy that we just HAVE to have? A bigger house, a better neighborhood, designer clothes, the latest gadget, the fastest car? Who is it we have to impress and why?

Jesus says “…do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds!…Instead, strive for God’s Beloved Community, and these things will be given to you as well” (Luke 12:22-23, 29). Again it takes a moment to grasp Jesus’ meaning, to see how this word really does offer freedom from the “money trap.” Part of our freedom is the recognition that there is so much more to life than accumulating wealth, making money, living for a fragile and faulty security.

The second consideration is that we are “Free – to Be Rich.” It almost sounds like a contradiction of point one. But there are ways to be rich that are a function of freedom. Remember the old song that sings “the best things in life are free”?

The moon belongs to everyone
The best things in life are free
The stars belong to everyone
They gleam there for you and me

The flowers in spring
The robins that sing
The sunbeams that shine
They’re yours, they’re mine

And love can come to everyone
The best things in life are free

In his letter to Timothy, Paul exhorts his young protégé, “…to do good, to be rich in good works, generous and ready to share, thus storing up…the treasures of a good foundation for the future…take hold of the life that really is life.” This is wealth born of accepting what is so generously and freely given; then giving rather than getting. We are free to gather in and spread around riches like this because Christ has set us free.

In part three, they suggest that we are “Free – from the Uncertainty of Riches.” “It is easy to confuse our wants with our needs, especially in a culture that continually urges us to buy more.” Related to point one, we are asked to place our trust in the one who clothes the lilies of the field and numbers the hairs on our head (if we have any left!) We are encouraged to understand that “all belongs to God, there is no transfer of ownership. As God’s stewards, we don’t own anything.” This is difficult for us to wrap our minds around. We are conditioned to believe that somehow we are in charge of ourselves, our relationships, even our world. To have responsibility for these things does not put us in charge, though. “When we recognize that the entirety of life is a gift from God, we are less likely to hold on so tightly, as gifts are intended to be shared.” Can we buy into that freedom, that gifts are intended to be shared? It really can be liberating to share with grace and generosity.

Finally we are enjoined to be “Free – to Take Hold of Life.” We circle back to Paul’s invitation to “life that is truly life.” Christ sets us free to live this life that is truly life. This is the life of the Beloved Community that Christ came to proclaim, to demonstrate, to call us to. It is life in which we let go of the insecurity of all scarcity belief and recognize that there truly is enough to go around, especially if those of us who are so blessed, so privileged learn these lessons of stewardship. For freedom Christ has set us free – free to be the best and brightest, the most compassionate and generous, the happiest and loveliest of what God created us to be. Live free so that you may take hold of the life that really is life.

Yours on the journey, Rick

STEWARDSHIP: Live Free

freedomLIVE FREE is the theme for our yearly stewardship drive, ending in Stewardship Sunday on November 22.

In I Timothy 6: 7 (RSV), Paul states “For we brought nothing into the world and we cannot take anything out of the world.” He speaks about the rich in this world, in verses 18 and 19, saying that: “They are to do good, to be rich in good deeds, liberal and generous, thus laying up for themselves a good foundation for the future so that they may take hold of the life which is life indeed.” We are all rich in God’s grace—therefore, LIVE FREE to take hold of life.

We need to realize that stewardship is not only giving money to the Church, but encompasses giving of our time and talents as well. We may not all be rich in monetary means, but we can give a portion of what we have by helping in other ways. Paul also states in II Corinthians (SRV) 9: 6-8: “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work.” LIVE FREE to do God’s work from what God has given you.

I can remember while growing up that whenever there was something we needed, my parents would say, “don’t worry, the Lord will provide” and He always did. This is just one example we all need to remember as we think about our commitments to our Church and humankind. Can we follow the example of those who donate their time, talents, and money for the good of others? First Baptist Church of Palo Alto is a very giving congregation for both the budget and the chosen missions. But each year we must review our Church expenses and missions. Give freely so that you may LIVE FREE to do God’s calling.

Laura Garcia
Stewardship Chairman

GENEROUS GIVING

From Laura Garcia, Stewardship Chairperson

Stewardship Sunday (November 23) is fast approaching. We must all think seriously about how we can fearlessly be witnesses as a generous and faithful steward through service to others. God was generous when he created us and gave us Jesus as an example for us to follow.

Most people are happy to give generously when presented with a worthy project or persons with real need. Many times we do not give due to fear, for example, our recent economic circumstances or fear of being ridiculed by others. We must all seriously think about how we can improve our witness as generous and faithful stewards of the Lord.

As we worship this week, remember the parable that Jesus told about the sowing of seeds. We can substitute our resources of time, talent and treasure as the seeds. Many times they may fall on deaf ears, other times they will be accepted by productive persons who will use them and benefit from them. Thus they produce fruit and a good harvest for the kingdom of God. Knowing this, can you be a generous and faithful steward for the kingdom of the Lord? We as a congregation need to be giving persons of our time, talents and treasures to be considered faithful stewards of God.

Renewal Proposal coming your way

Renewal ProposalA Renewal Proposal is being mailed to the congregation this week.  We will have meetings to discuss the proposal in lieu of Adult Spiritual Formation, following worship on Sundays March 9, 16 and 23.  We invite careful and prayerful consideration of the Proposal when you receive it and we encourage everyone to participate as fully as you can this process of consideration and discernment in which we will be engaged over the next several weeks.

From the Stewardship Committee

candleringA gentle and friendly reminder to those who have not yet turned in their pledge forms for 2014: please carefully and prayerfully consider your commitment to support financially the life of our congregation.  Then fill put your form and turn it in as soon as possible.  This is an enormous help to the budgeting process and a way of affirming your belief that God has good work to do through us.  Thanks to everyone who has submitted a pledge.  We are about 75% of the projected amount for 2014 pledges.