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A Word From Pastor Joyce

"Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God's mysteries. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they are found trustworthy."
1 Corinthians 4:1-2.

Paul's words are thoughtful indeed. This is a call to trustworthy servant hood and stewardship, a direct and clear injunction. Less clear is the subject of the stewardship to which we are called. We are to be stewards of God's mysteries. In short, we are to use everything at our disposal in ways that share the gospel message with the world - - - a love that is a mystery beyond our human understanding.

Some may find a measure of discomfort in Paul's choice of words. He declares that trustworthy stewardship is required. He calls us to be accountable for the tasks Christ put before us. We prefer to focus on a cheerful giving that pours forth in gratitude for all that God has given us, particularly in matters of stewardship. It's unpleasant to put stewardship in the realm of duty and law. In both the Old and New Testaments, however, alongside the theme of cheerful, grateful hearts runs a theme of accountability. At a time when public scandals have highlighted the issue of accountability, it is good for us to reflect on our own accountability to each other and to God for what we have been given.

Our ELCA bishop, Mark Hanson, illustrates the theme of accountability with Jesus' words to the disciples in John 20:23. He has told the disciples to go and share the gospel. "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained." In other words, Bishop Hanson says, "Jesus is saying you have good news to share with the world and that is that God forgives sinners. We are sent with the power of the Spirit to share that good news. If you choose not to share the good news with others, their sins will rest upon you for your failure to exercise your responsibility to share the good news."

During spring and summer, the theme of the devotions at the Congregation Council meeting was "We Say Yes!" "Yes, God, I'm here." "Yes, God, I'm listening. "Yes, God, I'm a willing and ready partner in your plan for my life.
To say "Yes" is to assume both that one has been asked to make a commitment and that one will be faithfully responsible in keeping that commitment. That's what we do when we bring our children to be baptized. That's what we do when we affirm our faith when we are confirmed or when we join a congregation. That's what we do when we pledge to support the ministry of our congregation.

A life of faith is a life of relationship with God. Think of that. To whom do we feel most accountable in our lives? Most likely, it is those to whom we feel closest and most loving. What kind of relationship can there be if we do not have a sense of accountability to the other person? We recognize that there are things asked of us in a relationship and that if we ignore those things, the relationship suffers.

The Church - - - Trinity Lutheran Church - - - exists to support, nurture, equip, and send the faithful out into the world to share the gospel with others, to tell all who hear that God forgives sins. God calls us into community and into relationship. How do we answer that call? It begins by embracing the mission statement put forth by the Congregation Council: "We are dedicated to bringing Christ's message to all." It continues by saying "Yes, I will do my part." "Yes, I will be a trustworthy servant and steward for Christ." "Yes, I will participate in and support the ministry of God's people gathered as Trinity Lutheran Church in Chicago Illinois."

We are all the beloved children of a gracious God. We have been given the gifts of life, love, and salvation. The Holy Spirit has called and gathered us together to hear the gospel message that Christ died so that we may have life. What a gift! What a treasure! Having been given this gift, I hope you all will respond with a grateful joy that honors the gift and the giver. May you all say "YES!" to God.

As I prepare to end my ministry here at Trinity, many of you have shared some very positive feelings about Trinity - - - about direction - - - about activity. You have also expressed anxiety regarding my leaving. You have expressed fear that the moving forward will stop. I assure you, it need not!

Baptized people of God, the ministry belongs to you. Say "YES!" to God. Be accountable to one another for the privilege and responsibility God has given you as a member of God's Church known as Trinity Lutheran. Be generous - - - more generous than ever before. Be generous with your time and effort. Be generous with your financial gifts. Be generous as God has been generous to you. God has blessed you to be a blessing. Be the blessing God has called you to be.
Peace and joy,
Pastor Joyce

11/28/2007