October Devotion: Turn again. Have regard.
Psalm 80:7-15 (lectionary text for October 5, 2014)
Imagine if your neighbor built a huge new house, put in a beautiful garden, mowed the lawn every week and put on new paint every few years. Then, five years in, she abandoned it. Stray cats took up residence under the house. Inconsiderate neighbors tossed their trash in the yard. Looters snuck in at night to strip the house of copper and other valuable materials.
The psalm writer seems to be accusing God of similarly poor stewardship. “God,” the psalmist says, “you planted your people, Israel, in this land. You nurtured us, provided for us, made us who we are, and now you’ve abandoned us to our enemies.”
Elsewhere, scripture suggests that God had good reason for punishing Israel. Even so, regardless of whether the psalmist is right to be mad at God, the psalm presents a compelling image of stewardship.
Stewardship is not a short-term proposition. Churches know this. Stewardship isn’t just raising money to build a new sanctuary. Stewardship requires a plan for ongoing maintenance so that the building doesn’t become a burden to those who inherit it. Stewardship almost always requires working with other generations. Whether you’re stewarding a farm, a ministry, a family, or financial wealth, stewardship involves sharing responsibility and knowledge so that those who inherit the gift will know how to be a good steward of it.
Sometimes, the long-term view leads to deciding not to continue a project. If a house has been overtaken by animals and left in disrepair for years, it might be best to clear it out and do something else with the property. If a ministry is no longer relevant to the community, it may be time to celebrate all that it did accomplish, and move on to something new. This stewardship of endings takes just as much attention and care.
In all situations, the call to stewardship is the call of the psalmist: “Turn again. Have regard for the vine that you planted.”
Women of the ELCA is a community of women who steward thousands of ministries in local congregations and through the churchwide women’s organization. When you give to the churchwide women’s organization, through regular offerings and Thankofferingsm you provide for training events, publications like Gather and Interchange, and professionals that provide on call support to help women care for and strengthen their local ministries.