Jonathan Luk is a native Californian, born in Los Angeles, and happily settled in the Bay Area since college. At work, he helps companies develop speech recognition systems, and in his free time, he enjoys the outdoors, scouting, hiking, skiing, soccer and world travel.
There are two men shipwrecked on a small deserted island. They’re both leaning against a single coconut tree. They look pretty scruffy from being there so long. One man says to the other, “Do you think we’ll ever be rescued?” The other man replies, “Yes. It’s stewardship time at my church. They’re sure to come looking for us.”
Well, at least we are not shipwrecked, right? 😊
Seriously though, what is Christian Stewardship?
To me, stewardship is taking care of (or responsibility for) all that which God has so generously given to us: ourselves, our family and friends, our environment and surroundings, essentially everything that we interact with in our daily lives. This means taking care of our own physical, mental, spiritual, and financial health, as well as that of our community. With the Church as our common bond, we share a service and ministry to each other, to those we care about, and to the rest of the world. Stewardship is about how we as individuals fully participate in the life of the church, in its programs, as well as in support of its operations.
As I grew up, my parents did a pretty good job teaching me how to manage my own money, to understand the importance of thoughtful budgeting, and in that budget, there is always a place for the church. So for me, financial stewardship is simply a habit that just happens. But it happens not due to chance, but intentionality. Just as our families, as well as the companies we work for, need to have budgets to manage income and expenses to get things done, so does the church. That is why, to be fiscally responsible, St. Mark’s must budget for programs each year, determine what is “do-able” based on pledged commitments, and manage finances throughout the year. This is the time of year that we decide, as a church family, what we can accomplish in the coming year, how we can sustain ourselves. Yet stewardship is much more than managing finances, it is really about how we take care of ourselves, our community, and our relationship with God, in other words, everything we do with what we have been given in life.
My own walk with Christian stewardship is to serve God in whatever way I am able. I always keep in mind one of the slogans from a national ecumenical college conference I participated in: “U Serve to Receive.” Sometimes, you don’t even have to look for opportunities, and God will seek you out. Other times, giving a little thought as to what you really need or want spiritually, seek and you shall find.
Shortly after settling in Palo Alto after graduating from college in 1990 (30 years ago, wow!), I was welcomed and nourished by the Young Adults group. Among many blessings in life, Lilly and I were married at St. Mark’s by Father Matt, who also baptized all three of our kids. We have been greatly enriched by the loving and fun environment through Children & Family activities, Youth Group, Confirmation, acolyting/servers, retreats at Bishop’s Ranch, and opportunities for service, such as Michael’s recently completed Eagle Scout project planting native plants around the campus. St. Mark’s is our family! So naturally, over the years, I have kept myself busy in various ways at St. Mark’s, as a server, a member of the Finance Committee, Stewardship Commission, and two terms on the Vestry, doing whatever I am able.
Stewardship of our time, talent and treasure, is shown in how we live our lives, giving in gratitude with thanksgiving, and we are blessed in return. This is the time of year for us to pray and consider how we can pledge to help St. Mark’s in the coming year, and serve to receive. Let’s do this!