Today we celebrate our Patronal Festival, St. Martin’s day. We try to mark the occasion on the Sunday closest to November 11 which is designated as St. Martin’s day in the Church calendar.
St. Martin is a man who was considered an outsider, even by his peers and colleagues, but whom regardless of this remained dedicated to the church, his community and the poor. In many ways all of us have demonstrated dedication to our church, our community and service to the poor.
I shared with Parish Council last month that I am impressed with the many Outreach initiatives we as a parish are involved with. Everything from collecting non-perishable goods for the Harvest Project, the Christmas boxes and many other initiatives taken on by individual members. These initiatives in their own way point towards a deeper purpose and mission for us as a church.
The Church, regardless of where we are in the world, is at its best when we engage with the needs of the world outside our buildings in a self less way. When we spend time and energy on projects that have little or no gain for us, we begin to enter into a deeper relationship and purpose of what it means to carry out God’s Mission in the world.
Often when organizations and even the Church, talk about hosting a dinner party, a community dinner or some other initiative, there can be a sense that people can ask, “Well what’s in it for me?” Or “What’s in it for the church?” In other words, people consciously or subconsciously wonder if “we” or the “church” is going to go to all this trouble, surely some of the proceeds should come to the church. This is a way of thinking that we all try and avoid, yet, it is a way of thinking we can often fall into whether we realize it or not.
Often too Stewardship gets wrapped up and focussed on money. If not careful we loose sight of the deeper and broader implications of Stewardship and how to be good stewards of God’s world. Stewardship is a way of life and living in the world that challenges us to go deeper within ourselves and outside of ourselves with the resources that have been entrusted to us, whatever they may be. As a way of life good Stewardship includes examining how we care for creation and one another.
So to help re-train our thinking from asking, “How much of what we raise will go to the church?” We should consider reframing our thinking to, “Because we are raising this money or volunteering for project X, outside of the parish, we are benefitting the church because we are participating in the larger work and Mission that God has planned for us - even if our church doesn’t get any financial reward.” In this way, whether we see a financial benefit or not, whether we receive new members or not, we do receive a benefit because at a fundamental level we all live in relationship to one another across the street, across town and around the world. It comes back to the same teaching,” When one of us suffers, we all suffer. When one of us does well, we all do well.”
In a world where the cultural norm is to want more for ourselves and to further our own development, St. Martin, along with so many others, teaches us about sacrifice and making intentional decisions that go against the cultural norm. It would have been easier for him, and for us, to live into the expectations of society, focus on our material wellbeing, and make sure we associate with the right people who will somehow advance our own status in life or the bottom line of the budget. St. Martin rather teaches us that all human life is valuable and worth fighting for, regardless of whom the other is or what benefit we may or may not receive. In so doing he chose a path less traveled and less popular. In so doing he models for us the way of Christ, who also lived his life in a way that was counter to the cultural norm. In this way, we remember St. Martin and learn from him how to live a life that models the way of Christ.