Stewardship Archive

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“Freely you have received. Freely give.”

Matthew 10:8

A Sermon by Father James Dokos

In worldly everyday conversations; we hear the familiar phrase…Nothing is free in life.  Now the reality…freedom of any kind is a gift that is presented with a cost of humanity, dignity and the sharing with others.  We need not receive a penny for a favor; but await a reward of gratitude and joyful heart of another human being.  Simply stated and to borrow a phrase…Ask not what your Lord can do for you.  Ask what you can do for your Lord and His people!

In recent years, we have embarked upon the harvests of food, clothing, housing and medicine; especially for our brothers and sisters suffering from the effects of hurricanes and other natural disasters.  A need was presented and His people opened their hearts to offer love and comfort to those suffering.  God has given unto all of us. We therefore give in triumphant pleasure for indeed: it is more Blessed to Give then to Receive.

“Witnessing” the LOVE OF GOD is to live in Christ and live a life of the purest, unqualified love.  Love lies at the very heart of Orthodox Christian life.  This Divine Gift causes unity, fulfillment and everlasting joy.  When we witness in today’s society, we share in the Life of our Lord.  His is the Head and we are the body.  Our witness, as we carry His Cross and rise again, is described by Saint Paul as those who are in Christ are a “New Creation”.  (2 Corinthians 5:17)  Let us rejoice!

We receive also as we witness the Good News and our true faith amongst all the world’s people.  We have the gift to feed others with our prayers, our support and human expressions of Christian outreach.  Simply put: to go into the world and love one and all.  Generations have passed whereby some faithful may have had the attitude of hearing these sweet religious words and just went on with their lives.  Without the gift of stewardship, meaning one’s faith and witness, the end of their lives are lonely and unforgiving.  On this very day as I pen these words; a faithful parishioner fell asleep in the Lord as he lay in his hospital bed.  Offering the prayers of the Church; along with his loving wife, he kissed my right hand, witnessed the love of his wife and shortly after entered into Paradise.  The kissing of the hand was not for my unworthy person; but it was a witness to the many years of his life as an Orthodox Christian.  He gave of his life as a dedicated physician, husband, father, grandfather, relative and friend.  He witnessed his faith and love for the Church.  The soul of this man was given his true reward in Heaven we pray.  It is our privilege to offer the gifts bestowed unto us and to share with God’s people without recognition or earthly reward.  Truly, Love bears fruit!

“Service” is our rendering to His Church.  Our whole being must praise and worship the Father who provides for us all.  Indeed, a great invitation.  As we offer service to the Church with a grateful heart; we realize our true mission as baptized Orthodox Christians.  To be amongst a community of people who choose to live not only in the world, but also for the world.  To offer outreach and service to proclaim the Good News of not only what God has done, but also what He is doing in our time.  We proclaim our faith, service and stewardship of life not only to ourselves, our families, our Church Communities; but also to society as we realize our Orthodox Mission Works.  We enhance the good works and service of our faith walk in establishing the Kingdom of God, the rule of righteousness and the love in and for this world.

“The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  (Mark 10:45)  When we love people, we are drawn instinctively to help them, to give them service as best we can.  But if love is service, sin is the refusal to serve.  It is proud, vain, arrogant, self-centered.  It will not spend itself generously for the needs of others.  By offering our hearts, our time, our talents to the Church and His people; we come to share in the Life of Christ.  Indeed, a privilege of honor, joy and sustaining Blessings.  We Christians are called to share in the Life of Christ.  Service to His Church and His people is our discipleship to Christ.  It’s real and inspires the people of God to offer their very best of time, talent and treasures which are abundantly blessed.  Truly, Service bears fruit!

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in my Name He may give you.”  John 15:16

As an Orthodox Christians; we bear the fruits of God’s Love.  “Freely you have received.  Freely give.”  Matthew 10:8

Fr James Dokos, Protopresbyter, serves the Church of the Annunciation in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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Bearing Fruit: Witness & Service

Grapes
“Every good gift and every perfect gift come from above and comes down from the Father of lights. . .” (James 1:17). We have so much to be thankful for. Our good and loving Lord has blessed us with life in its abundance. In His incredible love for humankind God allows us to care for creation, for ourselves and for one another. We are stewards or managers of God’s creation, of one another and of ourselves. To be a Godly steward is to be one who manages as God does, understanding the uniqueness and preciousness of creation. Indeed each person, each animal, each plant, each object, is special to God. To be a Godly steward means to manage our own little world and our lives – both of which are gifts from God, with this in mind.

Each year we have a stewardship campaign, like Orthodox and Roman Catholic parishes and Protestant and Jewish congregations throughout our country. Most of us equate these campaigns with the fiscal necessities for our parishes or congregations. That certainly is a major part of these campaigns. However, their purpose is much greater than this. Their ultimate purpose is to remind us that everything good that we have is a blessing from God and to live our lives in thanksgiving to God by giving in general, of our time, talents and treasures – which of course, are from God. There are Biblical guidelines for this giving. The one we are most familiar with is the tithe. “And all the tithes of the land, whether of seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s; it is holy unto the Lord . . . And concerning the tithes of the herd of the flock . . . the tenth shall be holy unto the Lord.” (Leviticus 27:30,32) A tithe is ten percent. Essentially, the Mosaic Law set a ten percent offering of one’s crops or livestock to the Temple. These offerings were used to care for the Temple grounds, the Levitical families who cared for the Temple and Temple grounds and were unable to own property, and the indigent, the widows without families and others in need.

The concept of the tithe entered into Christianity and became a guideline – at times a minimal guideline – for giving within the Church. This was especially true in the early Church where millions of Christians in the first few centuries gave everything to our Lord, even their very lives as they spilled their martyr’s blood out of their devotion and commitment to Him.

Our Archdiocese has chosen the theme, “Bearing Fruit: Witness and Service”, for the 2006 Stewardship Campaign. This is based on the “Parable of the Sower” from the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Our Lord is the Sower and the seeds are His Word. In order for us to bear fruit, we must have received His Word in a humble and prepared heart, receiving it, nurturing and tending it so that it grows within us. Then, through witness and service to our Lord, we have the privilege to become sowers with Him as we give from the blessings we have received.

Our St. Catherine Parish invites you to become a part of our 2006 Stewardship Campaign. We are grateful to you stewards for your faithfulness throughout the years. Many of you give of your time and talents – both of which are gifts from God – with hours upon hours of volunteer offerings. You also give of your financial resources – again gifts from God – as faithful offerings. In fact, in 2005 to date, we have 306 Stewards, which I believe is our highest number ever! Financially you have pledged some $535,000, which again is our highest number ever! Thank you for bearing fruit through this witness and service. Please join with me, Fr Paul, Fr. Evan, our Parish Council, and Ministry Leaders, teams and volunteers to continue with this faithful witness and service. Give of your time, talents and treasures that you have received from our Lord, as thanksgiving offerings to Him. December 1-18, 2005, Stewardship Chair, Stacey Gallanis and her Committee will focus on the 2006 Campaign, Bearing Fruit: Witness and Service, with a special emphasis, 10% by 2010.

God bless you and be with you and have a Glorious Celebration of our Lord’s Birth.

In Christ’s love,

Fr. Lou

Oh behalf of Fr. Paul, Fr. Evan, our Parish Council, our Philoptochos, our Ministry Teams and our staff, God’s blessings be with each of you for a Glorious Christmas Celebration of the Birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Christ is Born! Glorify Him!