We are still reveling in the wonderful evening we enjoyed as a parish last Sunday night. Many thanks are due to the Capital Campaign Committee. Theo Matsumoto and Wayne Yoshigai are the co-chairs, and they are serving alongside Keane Akao, Jeanne DeCosta, Susie Graeb, Michael Ida, Suzanne Kagawa, Sandy Leialoha, and Ray Woo. Special thanks belong to Keane Akao for his technical expertise and connections in creating Sunday's atmosphere and dinner, and to Jayson O'Donnell for his work on the photographs hanging in the Parish Hall. Thanks to the conveners and scribes who led the evening's small group talks. Thanks are also due to all our parishioners who came to share their ideas. It is crucial that the vestry and committee hear from parishioners, and now the committee will be collating all the information we gathered last Sunday night for the vestry.
After the Candlelight Compline service, Jerry Campbell, our consultant from the Episcopal Church Foundation, and I were talking about the evening. He was very impressed with our worship life, and to be frank, Sunday's Compline service was one of the most beautiful services I have ever witnessed. The congregation sang incredibly well. I was reminded how special St. Mark's is in our diocese, and even in Honolulu. Our worship is truly unique, and it is a gift that our larger civic community needs.
The capital campaign committee will now be doing much work in the background, and now we must shift as a parish and focus on our stewardship work. Even though stewardship is a year-round theme at St. Mark's, autumn brings a special devotion to being good stewards of everything God has given to us. Similar to last year, we are going to hear the faith stories of a few parishioners later this October.
This Saturday we have our St. Francis Pet Blessing. Francis is often described as the saint most admired by people, and yet the least truly followed. As I was reading the meditation above in this email, I realized just how high Francis had set the bar in terms of stewardship for his monks. He expected his monks to be like the early Christian community that we read about in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:44). In that particular example everything is shared among the disciples. It would seem as if there was no personal property.
I am guessing that most of us have a long way to progress if we are to be like that New Testament community or like St. Francis. Perhaps this is why the church has more often lifted up the tithe as the normative way of Christian living. We get to keep ninety percent of everything God has given us; God receives ten percent back. In some ways this type of thinking can be legalistic. I have heard some people ask the question, "Is the ten percent before or after taxes?" My response is, "Would you ask God that question face to face?" For some, ten percent may not be enough, and for the person who is on the brink of financial ruin, maybe they can only give four or five percent away for a couple of years, or if things are truly dire, a mere one or two percent. It goes without saying that keeping everything for ourselves is never a faithful option.
Jesus spoke about money more than anything else to his followers. Perhaps this is because nothing shows where our allegiances are more than our finances. Money itself is not bad. It can tun sour when we are stingy, and it can be beautiful when we act generously. The struggle for the follower of Jesus is that if one is to be faithful, one must desire to be generous. The key word is desire. Christians desire to be generous; the followers of Christ want to share what they have with others.
St. Francis required his monks to give up everything they had. St. Mark's does not expect this of her parishioners, but we are challenged to be much more generous than is the norm in our society today. Giving a few bucks here and there to various agencies in our community will not suffice. We are the people of faith, and we are called to be a model of generosity for those who are nominal in the church, and for those outside of the church. Whatever we give away to the church and others in the name of Jesus Christ will never truly match what God has given to each of us. All of the money in the world cannot buy the gift of resurrection. Thankfully, we are not expected to buy resurrection. It is a free gift for each of us from God, and this is the way of generosity we are called to share.
Father Paul Lillie+