St Andrew’s has been learning it’s way forward, through our history, a new vision and much discernment.  We are learning how to grow and a part of this is taking time to talk about stewardship.  Often what I find is that when we hear of stewardship in the church most of us cringe and think of our wallets.

However, finance isn’t the only meaning of stewardship…we have too often neglected teaching around what it means to be a good steward and that has led us to a financially narrow focus. 

So, over the season of Lent we will be focusing in on stewardship.  A time to reflect on our lives and on the wider meaning of stewardship as we take our journey to Easter.

We will be taking a look at what Stewardship means, in terms of our talents, our finances, our health, creation and of course, our time.

In the bible, time was gauged seasonally rather than by the hour.  Most of life took place between sunrise and sun set, especially if you lived outside the cities.  Nowadays, we can stay up to all sorts of hours if we choose; and life goes on 24 hrs a day in this hectic world.

Even if you don’t work 24/7, there are so many competing demands on our time, that time really has become the most valuable part of our lives.  And like most important things in our lives, time is something we tend to regard somewhat selfishly.  We can forget that time is also a gift to us from God, something that is a blessing and something that we have been given care of. Each minute of the day is a minute God has given to our trust and we are called as stewards to use that time responsibly.

And that’s where the stewardship portion comes in…we get to chose how we spend our time. How can we be good stewards, caretakers of our time and how do we give our time to God as responsible stewards of our God given time.

There are two other major understandings around time in the New Testament;  one is born out in the example of Christ, and the other in the life and teachings of Paul.  Paul understood the world and our lives as Christians, as being in opposition with each other.  Paul’s understanding was that Christ’s return was imminent and that the end of time would be in his own life time.  So, how Paul advocated using one’s time was strongly influenced by this theology. 

For Paul…the world was evil and corrupt and those who inhabit and live by its demands equally so.  We as Christians though, were sojourners, exiles…citizens of God’s kingdom merely passing through this evil realm waiting to go home.  Therefore, we should not waste our time with worldly concerns, such as marriage, food, intimacy, or desires …we should focus our time and efforts on being as pure and Godly as possible and spreading God’s message so that we will be ready for Christ’s imminent return.

Christ understood his time as short as well, but he had a different understanding of how to use that short time. Christ lived his life as a man on a mission…all his time was focused fulfilling his mission of salvation, but there are important exceptions in how he chose to use his valuable time.

Christ, one could say, wasted a lot of time.  He had a lot to do and yet we find Christ often spending time in prayer, at meals and social gatherings and turning aside from his clear objectives to speak with women, children and foreigners; much to the frustration of the disciples and others, who clearly didn’t think this was how the messiah should act.

Throughout the gospels we see clearly that there is work to be done.  Also, that there are many people who will insist that work should be the top and only priority.  However, that isn’t the example that Christ set for us…we need to take time to smell the roses, and give thanks to God for their being there.

Christ worked hard, no doubt, but he also took time to stop. To rest. To pray. And to build relationships with people.  We constantly hear of Jesus and disciples enroute somewhere when someone calls out for Jesus’ attention.  We read of the disciples deciding for themselves who is and isn’t bothering Jesus, then trying to silence the unworthy soul.  Jesus however always steps aside and makes each one of these ‘interruptions’ his top priority.

We can read in Luke that Jesus was teaching his disciples that he will suffer and die, leading them towards Jerusalem and as they approached Jericho a blind man called out to Jesus.  Jesus followers rebuked the man, they told him to be quiet…but Jesus stopped and asked for the blind man to be brought forward, they spoke, and the man was healed and praised God.

Just one example of how Jesus was willing to devote his time to God’s agenda, making time for the ordinary and the extraordinary.

We know that Jesus’ road to Jerusalem would end with the salvation of the world, there is clearly no more important job out there…yet, where the disciples saw only distractions and unimportant people interrupting the Messiah.  

Jesus saw circumstances and people as important enough to stop everything for them and he saw in them an opportunity for healing and wholeness.  Jesus time and again stopped and viewed the bothers and interruptions as opportunities.

One of the most troublesome words that I hear, as an example of how valuable our time is regarded, is that word ‘bother’.  So many people will say ‘I don’t want so and so to bother me’…or ‘I would have mentioned such and such, but I didn’t want to be a bother’.  This assumes that the ‘bothersome’ person isn’t worth the time.  That my time, or yours is too valuable to be wasted on a person or problem such as this.  Its assuming that one person is important and the other is not.

Christ clearly didn’t work this way, and we could do worse than take Christ’s example as our own.  We each have the same amount of time in the day, and there is little more frustrating than being continually interrupted when you are trying to finish a project.  But perhaps time is not being wasted, rather perhaps we can devote this time of ‘bother’ or interruption to God and see what opportunities arise.

God has given us 24 blessed hours to be savoured and enjoyed and that includes taking time for the unexpected….even the unwelcome. Perhaps we, like Christ, can see blessing in interruption and devote that time to God. We, like Christ, can make Godly use of the time we are given, a visit to the doctors for instance almost guarantees a good long opportunity for prayer and meditation, for building relationship with neighbours and good chats with spouses.

Our time is short and it is up to us to make good use of it.  It is up to us to determine our priorities and how we will view the time we have.  To be good stewards of the time that is entrusted to us.

Paul believed that the time entrusted to us would be a lifetime or less.  Paul lived and taught with the idea that Christ would return any moment…so the ways in which Paul advocated people use their time reflected that, but how does that change after 2000+ years?

We have been blessed with more time than Paul thought was possible and so how we understand his teaching needs to reflect that.

Perhaps the teachings that people ought not marry, or buy property, or look long term  because God is coming soon and what’s the point….perhaps the detail of those teachings don’t apply.  However, the essence of Paul’s teaching does …the time has come to focus on God.

Time is of God and gifted to us to do God’s work, so Paul’s many admonitions to cast off the works of darkness, such as quarrelling, drunkenness, sexual immorality and jealousy and live in the light of Christ still hold true.

We have but a short span each day to do God’s work as stewards of the time given to us …is it then good stewardship to waste the day in drunkenness or anger? Not at all.  Is it good stewardship to spend our days watching cat videos and binge watching TV? Perhaps not.

So, how do we use our time?

In infinite patience with people who are ‘a bother’?, in a full and sober life of good works…perhaps yes! But we are also called to live life abundantly…eat, drink and be merry said the good teacher of Ecclesiastes.  Christ‘s own life could never be called dull or somber, in fact Christ was accused of enjoying a party a bit too much.

Christ spent quality time with others, enjoying life and friendship and giving thanks to God for the good times that he had…as well as restoring others to wholeness so they could enjoy the same.

Devoting your time to God doesn’t have to mean devoting every minute to prayers and good works, but it does mean living each minute as a prayer …giving thanks for the good times and asking help in the troubled times.

It means not viewing your time as your own, but being grateful for the time you have alone and the times that God gives your time to others needs. Being a good steward of your time means using your time to glorify God, in the silence of prayer and in the joy of a party,

in all that you do and each minute you live…you spend your time with and for God.

Then we are practicing Stewardship, the stewardship of your time