By Ken Asel
A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew 6:19-24
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; 23 but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!
24 “No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”
For the second time that morning Emily burst into my office. I was busy. She was troubled, frightened. “Turn quickly to CNN. Airplanes are crashing into buildings in New York City!” Emily was a terrific children’s ministry director. What she wasn’t was a jokester. I was skeptical, but switching to the news I learned of 9/11. It was a day I’ll never forget, for more than one reason.
We immediately sent an email to the parish inviting them to Evensong. Hundreds came to pray and sing, asking God for protection and guidance. I was really proud of our folks! But I was also petrified, because upcoming in just a few days was stewardship Sunday. Jesus said, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness.” I was afraid that in the atmosphere of uncertainty, people wouldn’t be able to see the future with hope, and that treasure would be witheld with fearful hearts. All during the rest of the week I had no idea what to say to encourage members to pledge so our ministry could prosper.
The vestry gathered and we adopted a surprising course of action. There would be no stewardship program. No pledges. Instead we would simply publish a budget reflecting what we believed God wanted us to do in our poor, small Appalachian town. We had no clue what might happen, but we were determined to seek what God would want from us, and see where our treasures would be found.
Several weeks later the results came in: our most generous stewardship season ever — by a longshot! The eye of God was the lamp of our parish. Our eyes were healthy and our whole body was full of light. We gave thanks to God for giving us courage to serve him more faithfully, even in the midst of fear.
(The Reverend) J. Kenneth Asel, D.Min. is a retired priest from the Diocese of Wyoming. Devvie and he have been married for 30 years and have recently relocated to the West and the Front Range.
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