The Secret of Stewardship

Genesis 1: 26-28

Genesis 1: 26-28. Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in  number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every creature that moves on the ground.”

There is a big sign on our church lawn, “WELCOME BACK SUNDAY, KUC Cares…” That sign has attracted a lot of attention this week. Here are some more real signs that have turned some heads.

Actual Signs 1. In the front yard of a funeral home, “Drive carefully. We’ll wait.” 2. In a non-smoking area, “If we see you smoking, we will assume you are on fire and take appropriate action.” 3. On a maternity room door, “Push, Push, Push.” 4. On a front door, “Everyone on the premises is a vegetarian except the dog.” 5. At an optometrist’s office, “If you don’t see what you’re looking for, you’ve come to the right place.” 6. In a veterinarian’s waiting room, “Be back in 5 minutes. Sit! Stay!” 7. At the electric company, “We would be delighted if you send in your bill. However, if you don’t, you will be…” 9. Inside a bowling alley, “Please be quiet. We need to hear a pin drop.”

Yesterday there was a gentleman on our sidewalk reading at our sign. “KUC Cares….hmmm…cares about what?” he asked me. “KUC Cares about you…about God….about everything!” I answered. “Oh, I get it!” he said.

That should be a message we all get, we care about everything! And that is what stewardship is all about, being stewards of everything that God has given us. Yes, God has the whole world in his hands as our choir sang. God’s power created the world and God holds the world together, sustaining all life. As today’s Scripture teaches, we have been given the task by God to be stewards of all God created. Since we are made in God’s image, as Scripture teaches, we are uniquely equipped to do this job, and God has entrusted us to hold the whole world in our hands.

A father heard his daughter ask a deep question. He had purchased a globe for her for her birthday and she had looked at it all day. As he took it from her at bedtime, she asked him, “Daddy, what are you going to do with my world?”

The answer to that question is profoundly spiritual. We will seek God’s grace and reflect that grace upon the world. We will do that because we are made in the image and likeness of God.

Theologian Philip Newell writes: We are made in the image and likeness of God, that is how our story begins and everything else needs to be read in that light. The image of God is at the core of our being. A 19th century teacher in the Celtic world, Alexander Scott, used the analogy of royal garments. Apparently in his day, royal garments were woven through with a costly thread, a thread of gold. And if somehow the golden thread were removed, the whole garment would unravel. So it is, he said, with the image of God woven into the fabric of our being. If it were taken out of us, we would unravel. We would cease to be. So the image of God is not simply a characteristic of who we are which may or may not

be there, the image of God is the essence of our being. It is the core of the human soul. We are sacred not because we belong to one faith tradition or another, we are sacred because we have been born. That means that there is a wisdom deep within us. . . deeper than the ignorance of what we have done or become.

It is to say that the passion of God for what is just or right is deep within, deeper than any apathy or participation in wrong that has hurt us. To be made in the image of God is to say that creativity is at the core of our being, deeper than any barrenness that has dominated our lives or relationships. Above all else, it is to say that love and the desire to give ourselves away to one another in love is at the heart of who we are, deeper than any fear or hatred that holds us hostage. Deep within us is a longing for union…a union with God….that is why we are able to act as God’s stewards of creation.

We are learning how to care for our environment. We are aware of the statistics and the ongoing political debate about human responsibility. What everyone can agree upon is that we can take action and be more conservative with our energy. We are aware that there are many major cities in our world in which people are encouraged to wear masks when they go outdoors because of the poor air quality. We can make a difference to reverse this pollution trend, and there are other areas in which good stewardship could really make a difference. We must learn to “reduce, reuse, recycle,” and be better stewards. It is our job to attend to these things and to teach our children how to exercise good stewardship, and our children are eager to learn.

After visiting the Field Museum this summer, our two-year-old Anderson picked up a discarded cup and was about to put the straw in his mouth. I screamed “no!” and grabbed the cup from him just in time. My other two children interpreted that as “Daddy really likes to throw away litter.” Hopefully they learned a lesson. It is up to us to decide what we will do with our little corner of the world, and up to us to teach the generations that follow.

Jesus told a parable in Luke 16 about a steward who took care of a wealthy man’s property while he was away. Jesus made the point at the end, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. 11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? 12 And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?”

The steward in this parable of Jesus cared for the man’s property, just as we have been entrusted to care for God’s property. In seminary Christine and I acted as stewards when the doctor who delivered me asked me to keep his house while he was away. We tried to keep everything in order. Our greatest challenge was his black Labrador who had a strong tail that could almost knock down walls. The doctor held me in his hands when I was baby, and I was charged to protect his home. I felt especially motivated because of that, so we gave our task extra effort in every way.

Maybe we could regain a sense of how God held us in his hands. God, our Creator, has entrusted us with the world, precious property that is not our own.

We are also called as stewards to protect the world’s resources. During World War II, a wine steward at the Chateau of Monaco was later known to have preserved all of the best wines. The Nazis had taken the chateau, famous for maybe the best collection of wines in all of Europe. After the war, the steward reported that he only served the cheapest, youngest wines, keeping the best wines hidden away. What can we do to prevent our world’s best resources from being depleted? Our rainforests used to cover 14% of the earth’s surface. They now cover only 6%. This is a key to our entire ecosystem. Maybe we preserve the rainforests and as a result find a new cure hiding within that would eradicate cancer.

God created this world and we are the managers, the administrators, the trustees of this good thing that God has given. The secret of stewardship is being able to reflect the image of God within. First Peter states that we can achieve stewardship because God provides us with the strength, with God’s grace. First Peter 5:6 states: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” God cares for us, so we are to reflect God’s care and grace back upon the world. This past week we remembered the tragic events of 9/11 and realize that we still have a lot of healing to do.

We may wonder, can we heal from a tragedy like that? That is a question we could ask in so many situations. Can we heal from a loss in our lives that seems  unimaginable? Can we address a problem that feels too big? Can we come out of the depths when we have fallen low?

Being made in God’s image gives us the power of God’s grace to transform the world. We have access to the absolute power of love in the world, and we can reflect that love to others.

Gordon Wilson grew up a devout Christian. He grew up in his native land of Ireland as it was torn apart by civil strife. One day in 1987, Gordon joined a group from his church in their small town honoring the local veterans. Because they were Protestants, they were a target. True to form an IRA bomb went off. Eleven died immediately and dozens of others were wounded. Gordon and his little daughter were trapped beneath five feet of rubble. Little Marie’s back was broken. Buried beneath the debris Gordon held her hand as she died. Her last words were, “Daddy, I love you so much.” Speaking from his hospital bed Gordon Wilson said, “Bitter words will not bring Marie back. I will pray every night that God will forgive them.” The world news carried the story. One night after he was interviewed on national television in Britain, the commentator closed by saying, “The world weeps with Gordon Wilson.”

When Protestants determined to set a bomb to kill Catholics in revenge, Gordon intervened. This got so much attention it created a crusade bringing Catholics and Protestants together. He wrote a book about forgiveness that the entire nation read. Touched by this, leaders of the IRA met with Gordon and promised to lay down their arms if he could forgive them for the death of his daughter. Gordon convinced them and old hatreds began to fall by the wayside. This simple man who ran a little shop in a small town had become an architect for changing his entire nation. He experienced God’s powerful grace in his life and became a steward of that gift. He was able to live powerfully even in light of her death, and he reflected God’s grace, and shared it, and made a difference.

Stewardship means caring for the world, protecting it, healing it. Gordon was wearing that royal garment that showed everyone he was made in the image of God, he was reflecting God’s grace and healing the world. Remember, we all have that image, deep down, and there is nothing the world can do to remove it. God loves you, and, as our choir sang, he’s got the whole world in his hands. He is caring for you so you can care about everything.

Remember that other little girl in the beginning of the sermon who liked her new globe and asked her father, “Daddy, What are we going to do with my world?”

Realizing the image of God in both of them, he might reply, “We’re going to care for it, because we care about God and God’s people, we care about each other, we care about everything.”