Monday, November 16, 2015

Stewardship: The Gift of Grace

Good morning. I’m honored to have been asked to speak about how St. Paul’s has aided my spiritual journey and why I choose to be generous to St. Paul’s.

In thinking about what to say, I realized that the first part of this assignment is much easier than the second. I can – and will – enumerate the role of St. Paul’s in my spiritual life, but it is clear to me that I shouldn’t be held up as a paragon of generosity. How can I talk about being generous when I don’t think that I’m generous all the time or perhaps even most of the time?

Slogans can encapsulate a whole range of ideas and feelings, and St. Paul’s has one that does that for me. It’s on the front page of the website and often repeated during worship: “Whoever you are, wherever you find yourself on the journey of life, we welcome you.”

This sense of welcome whoever I am is incredibly important. I had a difficult time admitting to myself and then to others that I am gay. At one point in my life, I was moving to a new city, and I vowed to live my life there as openly gay. In doing so, I decided to leave the denomination where I was raised and take a break from church. The break didn’t last more than a few weeks: a gay couple I met told me about their church, an Episcopal church whose rector was openly gay. I gave it a try, and struggled a bit with juggling the order of worship, the Prayer Book, and the Rite 1 “thees” and “thous.” But mostly I sat and cried in my pew for a few weeks. I knew that I had found a new church home.

When I moved to San Diego, I feared that things might go back to square one. Someone from my former parish recommended St. Paul’s. It wasn’t quite the same as the church I had come to love (we only used Rite 1 occasionally, for example), but I stayed.

What I discovered here was a welcome that modeled God’s grace. Grace, I have learned, is something freely given. It does not have to be earned; I do not have to be worthy of it (“whoever I am” – and that, in itself, was a big spiritual lesson). When I am not particularly in need of it, I tend to take it for granted, and the St. Paul’s community takes me and my needs for granted as well. But, when I am ready for God’s grace to be in my life for a specific purpose, the community has always come through. Most recently, you came through for me as I had three surgeries, radiation, and chemo for colorectal cancer. St. Paul’s people laid hands on me, made sure I was cared for, brought me Eucharist and even Christmas cheer in the hospital, and offered lots of prayers. Believe me, I felt grace shower on me, and that feeling helped me to sustain a positive attitude throughout the process. I am cancer-free today in good measure thanks to the St. Paul’s community.

Another lesson that I’ve learned is to be grateful for what I have been given. I have been given the gift of God’s grace, as modeled by this community. I need not only to feel grateful but to show I am grateful. I show my gratitude in two primary ways: I pledge and fulfill my pledge even when it’s tough to do so, and I volunteer my time, even when it’s tough to do so. I sometimes want to beat myself up about not giving more, both time and money, but invariably when I express that frustration someone will gracefully remind me that having limits is fine. I have found myself in a variety of places on the journey of life, and you have welcomed me in all of those places. I don’t have to give the most, but I do have to give with gratitude.

Let me close by asking you to consider how St. Paul’s has welcomed you – whoever you are and wherever you find yourself on the journey of life. Then, meditate on your gratitude for what this community does for you and decide how you wish to express that gratitude. As you do so, may God’s grace shower you with blessings.

Bill Eadie

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