Hesed as Stewardship

As we approach the end of Easter and our education program of 50 days of Hesed, loosely translated as acts of kindness, the Stewardship Committee would like to encourage you to pick up some of the material and find new ways to practice Hesed if you have not already done so. The Stewardship Committee’s charge from the General Board of Discipleship is found in this quote: “Christian stewardship is our way of living with all that God has entrusted to us, sharing and using it on behalf of God. When we live as stewards of the gospel, we show the Good News by our actions in and out of church, in total life commitment to God, and in loving people and all of God’s creation. Stewardship involves developing core life practices that change us personally and transform the culture and behavior of our congregations.” (From Stewardship 2013–2016. Copyright © 2012 by Cokesbury. Used by permission).

If you joined the church since 2008 your vows included supporting the church with your “witness”. The 2008 United Methodist General Conference voted to add the witness phrase to the liturgy the church uses when a person makes a profession of membership as well as in their “prayers, their presence, their gifts and their service.” Those of you who joined Laurel Heights prior to 2008 have affirmed your vows and included “witness” every time someone joins.

Practicing Hesed is one of many ways each of us can be a witness. Witness simply means we speak about or act out what we believe. We can only witness for our self about what we personally have experienced or know. We cannot witness for others nor can they be witnesses for us. We do not need to be professional witnesses. The most powerful witness we have is to share what we value, believe and hold dear by how we live our lives. The letter of James 2:20 reminds us that faith without works is dead.

Witnessing does not have to be handing out tracts or preaching on a street corner. Mark Stamm says, “Christian life involves specific and concrete commitments. We may speak passionately about the need for an inclusive, hospitable church. As Christians who live and work in particular places, we witness to these commitments in particular, embodied ways. Imagine that a person who must use a wheelchair begins attending your church. You believe in the practice of hospitality, yet your building is a forbidding maze of stairways and the bathroom stalls will not accommodate a wheelchair. Her arrival is humbling; even frightening. What do you do?” (OUR MEMBERSHIP VOWS in The United Methodist Church, Revision prepared for Discipleship Resources/General Board of Discipleship, 2013). Laurel Heights as a congregation has a beautiful witness in this area of physical accessibility with only a few minor things left to be done and I have seen those gaps often filled by Hesed from individuals in the congregation.

What we do is a witness. Not every witness is in support of our Christian Faith or the mission statement of Laurel Heights but we can focus and work on those that are. The education committee has compiled a list of several simple ideas. That list can be found on the Welcoming Tables around the church or you can have one emailed to you. It might be helpful if we wrote our pledges on cards reminding us of the promise we made to God when we joined the church noting specific goals we set for ourselves on them or we can join a small group or class of close friends to help hold us accountable.

Over the next few weeks you will find several reminders from the Stewardship Committee encouraging us to “develop core life practices that change us personally and transform the culture and behavior of our congregations.”

See you Sunday,