“Well done good and faithful servant” comes from the Parable of the Talents. (Matthew 25:14-30) It is spoken to the two servant who were entrusted to invest large sums of their master’s money while he was on a long journey. When the master returned, he discovered that these two servants had wisely invested what he had entrusted to them. “His master said to him, 'Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been trustworthy in a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.'” (Matthew 25:21 & 23)
I have chosen “Well done Good and Faithful Servant” as the theme of this year’s stewardship campaign. It is exactly what I want to express to the members and friends of Holy Cross in regards to their good and faithful stewardship of what God has entrusted to us, especially in the midst of this global pandemic. Our last worship service in the building was on March 15. If you had asked me back then how I thought Holy Cross would be doing if we were still out of the building at the end of September, with no specific end in sight, I fear I might have been rather pessimistic.
This is one time I’m very happy to have been so wrong! There has been nothing to be pessimistic about regarding Holy Cross’ stewardship during this unprecedented and difficult time. Support groups along with calling, letter writing and prayer teams were quickly formed. We figured out how to worship both online and in our parking lot. We found ways to “gather” online. We transformed our Food Pantry from a grocery store format to a drive-thru format without missing a single distribution. We have also financially supported the mission and ministries of our congregations in ways I would not have imagined.
Even though we began the month of March, the month the pandemic began, with a $4,000 deficit, we have ended the month of August with a mere $900 deficit. (The average deficit for the end of August over the last three years was $7,500.) We have not started out the final quarter of the year in such a strong financial position since 2010. The overwhelming generosity of the friends and members of Holy Cross has gone beyond our General Fund giving. We experienced increased giving compared to last year in our Lenten offerings (which supported Omaha Campus Ministries, Habitat for Humanity and Youth Emergency Services), our fund raiser for Habitat for Humanity, and our Food Pantry. Well done good and faithful stewards!
The word “steward” isn’t used much in our daily lives. The most common usage that comes to mind is what we used to call flight attendants: stewards and stewardesses. It would serve us well to reclaim a more biblical understanding of the word “steward.” In the Bible, a steward is a person given responsibility to care for something of value, something one treasures, something worth preserving.
As stated above, I have been overwhelmed by how well the members and friends of Holy Cross have cared for and preserved that which we treasure so highly, the mission and ministries God has entrusted to us. Times of crisis, like a global pandemic, can bring out the worst or the best in people. Crises can lead to hoarding or helping, cursing or caring, gathering or giving, terror or trusting, fearfulness or faithfulness. I give thanks to God for working in and through our faith community in ways that have brought out the best in all of us.
What happens next? That is the unanswerable question we find ourselves asking about so many things. When will we get back inside for worship? When can we gather for Sunday School, choir, Adult Forum, Circles or just to sit around a table and talk to each other? When will worship get completely back to normal? While none of us know the answers to any of those questions, there is at least one very important question we can answer. Will we continue to be faithful stewards of what God has entrusted to us? This includes both our own individual time, treasures and talents; along with our shared responsibility of the mission and ministries of Holy Cross Lutheran Church?
As this pandemic drags on with no specific end in sight, it may grow increasingly tempting to turn inward. We may begin to lose sight of all the people whose lives are touched by the work we do together as a congregation. Compassion fatigue, the emotional and physical exhaustion which leads to a diminished ability to empathize or feel compassion for others, may begin to set in. However, based upon how God has worked in us and through us these past six months and how we have responded to God’s call to be faithful stewards, I refuse to be anything but hopeful.
Throughout the month of October, we will be reminded of God’s faithfulness to us and God’s call for us to respond by being the faithful stewards we were created to be. On October 18, Consecration Sunday, we will once again have the opportunity to present our Estimate of Giving cards for the upcoming year as an act of worship. We will not be distributing Estimate of Giving Cards during worship as we typically do. You can download your Estimate of Giving Card at the end of this article, or there will be a card attached with the bulletin email for worship on October 18.
The other significant change this year, this time unrelated to Covid, is how to manage automatic withdraws. We are currently using Simply Giving for automatic withdraws. We will now begin to transition over to Tithe.ly. There are two significant differences between Simply Giving and Tithe.ly. The first is that Tithe.ly allows withdraws to be set up through a credit card or a bank account. Simply Giving only did withdraws through bank accounts. The second difference is that with Tithe.ly, you are in complete control of your automatic withdraws. Instead of completing and turning in a Simply Giving form and having our Financial Secretary enter the information, you will do that yourself. You will also be able to change or cancel your automated withdraws yourself, anytime you would like to.
If you are currently using Simply Giving, CLICK HERE to learn how to switch to Tithe.ly.
If you are not currently using Simply Giving, but would like to begin automated withdraws through Tithe.ly, CLICK HERE.
Below please find some stewardship questions and answers.