Our son, John, is in the midst of learning how to drive a car. For those of us who know how to drive an automobile, we tend to take for granted the small tasks that go into driving. We have to remember to put our foot on the accelerator or the brake. We have to remember to put on our turn signal. You have to remember to put the car in either ‘drive’ or ‘reverse.’
Until I sat in the front seat with our brand new driver, I forgot that a simple thing - such as knowing whether you are going forward or in reverse - is a decision that must be willfully made. In our Christian faith and life, we also need to assess where we are going: forward or in reverse.
One of the members of your Vestry likes to say: “There is no such thing as status quo. We are either going backward or forward; we are either dying or growing.” For the last five years, the leadership of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, day after day, continues to make a decision to put this parish into ‘drive’ and to go forward and to grow.
The Gospels tell us that Jesus set his face firmly and resolutely to Jerusalem. Jesus put his mission into overdrive and moved forward; Jesus never looked back wistfully at the manger in Bethlehem, but he looked forward to the Cross and to Resurrection.
In the Episcopal Church, we usually spend the month of October making a decision if we are going to go in reverse, or if we are going to go forward and grow. We call this season “stewardship,” when we assess our own lives and money and what we are going to give back to God, to further God’s mission in this place.
St. Alban’s has decided to not look backward, but to set our face forward and to continue to grow. This will take everyone, looking into our hearts and our minds – and yes, our wallets – to make sure that our transmission is not in reverse, but in drive. This will take everyone, making a decision to give to grow and to grow to give.
However, I am concerned that we tend to think of our giving, of our stewardship, as just about benefiting the Church. Our giving is not just about growing the Church; our giving is primarily about growing our relationship with God. Jesus asks us to fight the good fight, to fight to be a giver, because Jesus is a Giver. And when we give (and I cannot fully explain this, folks), then our hearts expand as we do not look wistfully backwards, but as we set our face firmly toward our own Cross of sacrifice - and Resurrection to new life.
Please make a willful decision to go forward. Make a decision to grow your heart, a decision to give to grow.