A Message from Father Rick
Christ is Born! Glorify Him! After the period of preparation in the Advent Fast, we have now embarked on the twelve (12) days of Christmas—a period of feasting and rejoicing. We pray that our joy be in receiving the gift of Christ our Lord, born in the flesh, and not in any fleeting material gift of this world.
We ring in the New Year by celebrating our Father and Hierarch St. Basil the Great as well as the Circumcision of our Lord on January 1st. Then, we strict fast on January 5th in order to prepare for the Great Feast of Theophany/Epiphany—the Baptism of our Lord by John in the Jordan River. This Feast of Lights (Ta Phota) has great meaning and significance for our lives, one of which is the renewal of our human nature. Every year we pray that Christ blesses and sanctifies the waters of creation and we take that Holy Water (Agiasmos) and sprinkle it and drink it at church and at home for the sanctification of our souls and bodies.
We are diligently searching for a candidate for the assistant/associate priest position. In consultation with Metropolitan Nathanael and with input from our parish council, we hope to find a person who fits well with me, our staff and our community. The fact of the matter is there are just not a lot of potential candidates out there. And we don’t want to go too long without an ordained priest to assist in the worship, sacraments, visitations and ministries of our community. Please pray that God provides the best person possible for this task.
Our stewardship campaign continues in January. Remember, we are embarking on a new path of Stewardship = Operations + Capital. We encourage everyone consider how God has blessed us and how we can bless Him by giving two (2) percent (%) or more of our gross income to His Church this coming Year 2020. If everyone does this, we will have enough to fully support the operations of the parish and enough to pay for the designated capital project of a new roof and hvac over our temple/sanctuary.
The last two months I discussed stewardship of time and talents. This month I share some brief thoughts about the Stewardship of Treasure.
First, giving is not something we do to help God. Stewardship is God’s gift to us because of our
need to grow in dependence on Him. Thus, God provides the opportunity to give, so that we may not
fall into greediness and materialism. Therefore, we should be thankful for the opportunity to give. The Apostle Paul said: In all things I have shown you that by so toiling one must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” (Acts 20:35)
Second, some may say, “Jesus never talked about money. Why is the priest talking about what we should give to the Church?” The reality is that nearly fifty percent (50%) of Jesus’ teaching emphasized how we are to honor God with our financial resources. This shows the priority he placed on giving. Just as we have tangible evidence of God’s numerous gifts to us, the giving of money is one of the ways we demonstrate our love and commitment to Him. In other words, we must put our money where our mouth is. Stewardship is not Time or Talents or Treasures. Rather, it is Time and Talents and Treasures. We are going to hear some of Jesus teaching on giving today.
Third, let us examine some guidelines for giving.
A. Tithing (giving a tenth, 10%) is something Jesus apparently considered an assumed discipline (Mt. 23:23), and the apostle Paul urged Christians to practice “percentage giving.” (1Cor. 16:12). Since all of life is God’s gifts to us, is it not amazing that He builds our faith by asking only a tithe, when He could justly require more? God spoke through the Prophet Malachi: Bring the full tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house; and thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an
overflowing blessing. (3:10)
B. Give to God first. Many times we look at our budget and see what is left over for the Church after all other expenses have been paid. However, we should place the highest priority on our giving to God and budget the rest of our life around that. Honor the LORD with your substance and with the first fruits of all your produce (Proverbs 3:9).
C. Give to God freely. Not out of compulsion or obligation, but from the generosity of our heart. This is why we did away with the dues system (having a fixed amount for financial membership). Stewardship assigns no minimum gift, neither does it assign a maximum gift. One man gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and onlyvsuffers want (Proverbs 11:24).
D. Give as we are able. If God has blessed us with great wealth, we are called to give more. The widow or unemployed cannot be expected to give as much as someone with a high paying job. However, sometimes this is the case, that those with less give more to the Church. He [Jesus] looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury; and he saw a poor widow put in two copper coins. And he said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all the living that she
had.” (Luke 21:1-4).
What are the consequences of holding back our tithes and offerings? Consider the example of Ananias and his wife Sapphira in Acts 5. They physically died, but what worse can befall us in spiritual death than separating ourselves from God and His life-giving commandments?
Consider the many benefits of freely giving our tithes and offerings to God in His Church.
Proverbs 11:28 He who trusts in his riches will wither, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf. 2Cor. 9:6-11 The point is this: he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must do as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that you may always have enough of everything and may provide in abundance for every good work. As it is written, “He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your resources and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way for great generosity, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.
Finally, unless we received sufficient donations the last two weeks of December, we will still need to pay the remaining cost of $100,000 for the community center roof and hvac which is now completed. We hope as you enjoy the renewed and improved warmth, dryness and appearance, you will be inspired to give generously for this project.
Blessed New Year! +Fr. Rick