On the day that I found out I was accepted into seminary, my nephew Matthew was diagnosed with leukemia. Over the next year, Matthew fought an uphill battle against an aggressive form of the disease. He literally lived in the hospital for over nine months, receiving treatments and struggling for his life. During that time he suffered a stroke and he came close to death.
Fortunately, amazingly, miraculously, Matthew and his doctors beat his cancer. Seven years later, Matthew – thank God – remains in remission. He’s 22 now and lives in Florida. I sat with him and had some great talks while I was down there a few weeks ago.
At one point, Matt was talking about the fact that people are often very negative. He sees those around him complaining about minor things and it really bothers them. “This world is a beautiful, beautiful place,” he told me. “People need to see that.”
Of course, Matthew is right. This world, this life, that we’ve been given is beautiful. We often forget that. Matt may see more clearly that we’ve been given a gift because he came so close to losing it all. His declaration that the world is beautiful is something we all need to hear.
It’s certainly the sentiment of the Creation story in Genesis. On each day, as God creates something new, God pronounces it “good.” The air, the sky, the land, the plants, the animals – all good.
And then God created humanity. We were made and we were given all of this as a gift. And with these gifts, we were given a great responsibility: we are called to be stewards of all that we’ve been given, taking care of it all for us and future generations.
I think that directive covers every gift we’ve been given in life, from the world where we to live to the bodies that we inhabit, to the neighbor with whom we share our lives. Our responsibility is to take treat God’s Creation as a blessing.
Too often, however, temptations get in the way. Just like Jesus in the desert, we face temptations as we get more concerned about our own needs over the needs of others; as we lose trust in God and in ourselves; as we seek out personal glory instead of serving God and God’s creation.
This season of Lent, I invite you to join with me in reflecting on the ways in which we can become better stewards of our world and of our selves. As we walk with Jesus in the desert in preparation for the awesome celebration of Easter, we have a great opportunity to consider how our actions affect our world. Can we reduce our carbon footprint by driving less or turning off a few more lights in the house? Can we care for our neighbors by taking on a new volunteer activity? Can we care more for our own body by exercising more or eating better?
Lent gives us a chance to examine how we can become better stewards of God’s creation; how we can protect what we’ve been given; and how we can insure that it exists for future generations. These are big tasks but fortunately, we’re not alone. We’ve all found each other and we walk this journey together.
As a church community, as the Body of Christ, we work together to discern how to care for Creation, we’re invited to talk about, debate about, to speak the truth in love about our role as stewards of the Earth and of each other.
We provide each other strength and support as we share our struggles, as we admit that it is often very difficult to care for ourselves and others.
Together, as a community, we look out for future generations to give them a church where they can benefit from the same blessings.
So we also have to be stewards of our church, each chipping in to play our part. We come to church seeking solace, looking for a place to rest, to learn, to be refreshed. Remembering that we may come to church to be served we also need to recognize the importance of serving others. We are the ones who can provide a supportive shoulder to a friend who is sad. We are the ones who can lay the foundation of faith for our children by teaching a Sunday School class, we are the ones to provide a restful atmosphere by joining together in worship, lending our voices to the choir , reading scripture, or leading prayers. We are the ones who are called to be stewards, trustees, caregivers, of these gifts that we’ve been given so that we can share them with others.
We can imagine what’s possible because we are the ones who can make it come true. By supporting this community with the work of our hands, by sharing our thoughts and prayers, by contributing our resources, we become caregivers of the present and we help to move the church forward into the future.
We have been given a wealth of gifts – our bodies, our church, our world. This Lent, let’s spend time opening our eyes and remembering what my nephew Matt has – that this world is beautiful and good – and together, we will work to discern how we have been called to be stewards of God’s good and abundant Creation.