As Orthodox Christians we experience the Eucharist as the epicenter of history, sanctifying and transforming the world, making us a new creation in Christ and returning us to Paradise once again. We live and understand the Church in the compelling light of the Eucharist. At the Liturgy we experience the very presence of God in a tangible way. Whenever, we, the people of God, gather together as the Body of Christ in worship, we perpetuate the Lord's ministry on earth.
At the Liturgy, God accepts our offering of bread and wine, changes them into the Body and Blood of Christ and returns them to us for the remission of our sins and life everlasting. The Liturgy or Eucharist is the par excellence service of the Church, by which we sacramentally offer ourselves and the whole world to God.
As Christian Stewards, what we experience at the Liturgy is incorporated into our everyday lives. Worship motivates us to eagerly and enthusiastically support the ministry of the Lord. Through Stewardship, we are afforded the extraordinary privilege to respond tangibly to God by offering our time, talents and treasures to His Church with gratitude and thanksgiving. In so doing, we aspire to attain the true definition of the word Liturgy, which means the people working in communion with God, the common work of all.
Through the Divine Liturgy we participate in the mystery of the Holy Trinity, the summation of the entire history of salvation in Christ and the foretaste of the Kingdom to come. In response to God's blessings "we praise, bless and thank" Him for all He has done for us. These words are sung at the climax of the eucharistic prayer, fulfilling our ultimate calling, which is to offer all things to God in thanksgiving.
The words "praise, bless and thank" are intrinsically related to the three "t's" of Stewardship, which are "time, talents and treasures." Saint James tells us in his Epistle: "Faith without works is dead." Therefore, it is not enough to offer "praise" to the Lord without returning to Him the gift of our "time" through worship and doing His will on earth. It is not enough to "bless" God without returning our "talents" to Him through our good works, which bring glory to His name. It is not enough to "thank" the Lord without returning a fair measure of our "treasures," our possessions to Him through the Church, the Kingdom of God on earth. Thus, as Orthodox Christians, our worship finds its fulfillment in ministry.
Stewardship is not a matter of words but of works. All we are and all we have are gifts from the Lord. It is the offering of our time, talents and treasures to God, the Owner, who has freely given them to us to manage as Stewards, with the understanding that they are on loan. Christ expects us to return a fair portion of these gifts for His ministry through the Church. Our hearts experience the true joy of giving when we give freely, unselfishly and generously, as He has given to us. Generous giving without constraint is a mark of freedom and spiritual maturity.
The Old Testament speaks of offering the "first fruits" to the Lord from what He has allowed us to earn. First fruits means giving thanks first to God and recognizing Him as the Provider of all our possessions. Christian Stewardship means taking what God gives us, and making the support of Christ's work on earth our first priority as a gesture of our thanksgiving for what He has given us. When King David contemplated giving to God he said: "For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours, O Lord, and You are exalted as head over all. For all things come from You, and of Your own we have given You." (1 Chronicles 29:11, 14)
As Orthodox Christians we too have the high privilege to humbly, freely and generously offer ourselves and our possessions to Christ and His Church. We have the opportunity to graciously put into action our response to the manifold blessings the Lord has bestowed upon us. Our gratitude to God motivates us to support the Church's ministry. Your Stewardship perpetuates the Lord's work throughout our Orthodox Church, both for the parish and national ministries.
As you determine your 2019 Stewardship Commitment in thanksgiving for God's blessings to you, make it resonate with the words "we praise, bless and thank You.