Saturday, April 02, 2011
Stewardship: An act of worship
“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” - Matthew 6:21
During Badarak*, the priest, on behalf of the people, brings the Gifts of bread and wine to the altar. In return, God takes the Gifts, sanctifies them, and gives them back to us as His Body and Blood. As the culmination of the Divine Liturgy, this transaction is an act of worship to God. In the Gifts of bread and wine, the utter basics of sustenance, we are symbolically offering to God all of what we have and all of who we are. We bring to God our most basic needs, our whole life, and ask Him to take us, change us, and give Himself to us.
The theological reality of the presentation of the Gifts also applies to spiritual giving outside of Badarak. Just as we give the Gifts of bread and wine during Badarak, we also offer our gifts to God within the community in the form of time, talent, and treasure. God then returns them to us by uniting us to Himself and to each other through the mission and practices of the Church, where the role and services of both the priest and laity are necessary for a thriving worshiping community.
It follows then; that stewardship (giving and care taking) is an act of worship lived out in the context of a worshiping community. As created in God’s image, we are first and foremost worshiping beings, or Eucharistic beings. (Eucharist means “thanksgiving”). Thus, as members of Christ’s Body, the Church, we are fulfilling what it means to be a human being in the fullest sense. As Eucharistic beings part of a Eucharistic community, we worship with our whole selves, thankfully offering ourselves to God, and to each other.
To be a good steward is to recognize that anything we possess comes from God, so when we bring our offerings to God (time, talent, and treasure) we are giving back to Him what He first gave us. In the Incarnation, Christ united Himself with humanity in order to unite us to His divinity. Thus, all worship, including stewardship, is a response to what God has initiated and done for us. Just as we bring God the Gifts during Badarak, let us bring Him our gifts through stewardship, not out of compulsion, but from a pure heart, and love for God, and His Church.
"…for the love in one's heart is made visible by the giving of one's hand." - St. Grigor Tatewac‘i
*Badarak - the name for the Divine Liturgy of the Armenian Orthodox Church; literally means 'sacrifice'.