Stewardship Reflections 2019


Jerome Fung, Sunday 10/20/19

As the Psalmist writes,

“How shall I repay the Lord for all the good things he has done for me?”

“I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call upon the Name of the Lord.”

Let’s take a moment to think about all of God’s blessings in our lives and to be thankful for them.

Maybe it’s the crisp fall weather. The delicious breakfast we might have enjoyed a little while ago. The people in our lives who have loved and supported us. The fact that we’re able to be here, in this place, right now, with this community, and all that it stands for.

All that we have in this life, all that we delight in and are thankful for — ultimately, these are all gifts from God. As the Psalmist also writes, “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world and all who dwell therein.” So how might we respond to God’s gifts in our lives?

I know I’ve been fortunate to be blessed with many gifts in my own life. At work, even in the midst of a busy semester, I sometimes reflect on the gifts I’ve been given professionally, like encouragement and support from my mentors when I needed it. Or an enthusiastic response from a student who’s excited about something we’re doing in class. Or the patient, un-judgmental ear of my dear wife or a close friend when I’ve had a rough day.

For me, remembering gifts like these makes me grateful, and that gratitude makes me want to give back and pay those gifts forward with joy. To share in and cheer my students’ enthusiasm. To be that person who will make time to listen to someone else who’s having a bad day. To be the mentor who encourages someone who is doubting themselves to boldly pursue their dreams.

“How shall I repay the Lord for all the good things he has done for me?”

Part of our response to God’s gifts in our lives might be to give something back to God — for in the end, all things are God’s. One way in which we can do that is to support the work we’re doing here at St John’s Church to build up God’s kingdom right here in Ithaca. This is an exciting time in our parish. In the past year, we’ve begun our Laundry Love ministry. We’re looking forward to renovating our garth and installing a ramp to make our building more accessible than it’s ever been. And we’re exploring ways we can support asylum seekers in this area who need our help. 

There are many ways in which you can give something back to God by supporting our work. For as St. Paul reminds us, “we do not live to ourselves.” Of course, financial support matters. We ask you to prayerfully consider making a pledge this year if you’ve never made one before, and if you’ve been pledging, we ask you to consider increasing your pledge. But no less important are the other ways in which we ask you to consider supporting us. Worship with us. Pray for us, for all those in our community, and for the needs of the world. Share the time and talents God has given you in whatever way you feel called. And help us spread the good news of God’s redeeming love through your words and actions.

“How shall I repay the Lord for all the good things he has done for me?”

We are not the public radio station. We have no tote bags, mugs, or pithy bumper stickers to offer you. Yet, just as there’s joy in seeing someone else enjoy a meal you’ve made for them, so may you find joy in remembering God’s gifts to you and giving something back to God out of those gifts. We ask you now to prayerfully consider completing and returning a pledge card, and to join us in responding to the Psalmist’s call to “offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving.” Thank you, and may God bless you.


Sally Clayton, Sunday 10/13/19

Mtr. Megan asked me to talk about my Gifts from God and how I used them.  

“Oh, for a thousand tongues to sing my dear Redeemers praise!”  I love that hymn and was so glad to sing it this morning. 

God has blessed me in so many ways it’s hard to know where to start.  My first gift was a loving, Christian family. Dad said grace before meals, and we attended church regularly as a family.  During the time we didn’t have a car, we walked to church.  If we were a little late, Dad would tell my sister to “step on it” and she would stop and stomp her foot on the road and we would all laugh.  I think that prompted her to do it more!   My Dad was a Fuller Brush Salesman back in the ‘40s.  One year on his rounds right after Christmas he called on one of his customers and asked if they had a nice Christmas.  With sad faces they said they hadn’t had any Christmas because the father had a serious illness and with the medical expenses there was no money.  That’s all my Dad needed to know.  He went straight to Rev. D. at our church and they put together food and gifts for the whole family from what we had and what the church was able to provide.  I was privileged to donate the doll I had received for Christmas.  What a good feeling that was. 

Another gift from God that has been a blessing to me, is a love of music.  My Mom played the piano and sang in the choir so Dad thought I should learn to play, which wasn’t easy for me at the time, but now I’m thankful for that gift.   While I’m not a virtuoso I feel I’ve been able to praise the Lord in a way that is a gift to me and a way to serve God!  I sang in church choir from the time I was in high school and it brought me so much joy, that I’m still singing – good or bad!  When my children were growing up, I was attending the Methodist church in Newfield and sang in the choir for a while.  The choir director left and soon I gave up because, if there are 12 people in a choir with no director there are suddenly 12 directors! Then for some reason I don’t know, they asked me to take the position of director.  What??  The only training I had was in high school – which was another blessing, that we had classes where we learned to read music and some technique – so I said I would do it until they found someone who was more qualified.  I guess God wanted me there because that lasted 12 years!  On Thursday nights I would go to choir rehearsal tired from a day at work and leave when rehearsal was over feeling like I was walking on air.  One year we tackled a cantata in which we needed a little help, so I was put in touch with Fr. Coffin who stepped in and helped by playing the piano and directing us through some more difficult parts of the work.  He called me one day when I wasn’t home, and my daughter took the message.  She told me a Mr. Casket called!  

I wasn’t really thinking about the liturgy at that time and it was amazing to me how often the music I picked fit the sermon.  It had to be God’s direction!  Amazing what God can do through music!  Newfield is a loving community and I felt good there.

Then I met Ron Clayton and our first date was choir rehearsal here at St. John’s.  Soon after that a couple from Ithaca College took over the Newfield choir and I began singing at St. John’s, where I found another blessing in the Liturgy, more challenging music and many new friends.   

Another way God has blessed me was my job at Cornell where I worked for most of my career.  Starting as a receptionist I enjoyed helping around the office just to make co-workers jobs easier and mine more interesting.  Over the years I was able to move up the ladder and eventually became a purchasing agent.  This had to be God’s work in my life which increased my salary allowing me to be better able to support the work of the church and other charities.

Soon after I retired there was a need for help in the office at St. John’s.  Our secretary at the time was having medical difficulties and that gave me another opportunity to serve by taking on the office duties and helping Sarah get started.  Soon I was filing choir music too giving our director more time to work on more pressing issues. It sure is great to do something you enjoy while serving in some small way.

I thank God that I’m still able to continue doing these things – serving God in his church and wherever He leads me.


John Jackson, Sunday 10/6/19

How have you come to use what you have for God’s purposes in your life. That is what she wrote, that is what Mother Megan wrote. I knew I was asking for trouble when I answered “yes” to talk about today what it is I find meaningful in the practice of stewardship. But let’s give it a go. How have I come to use what I have for God’s purposes in my life? Let me try three things.

First, choosing my community, using the words of a Christian scholar, “wisely because they help shape who we become.” I know from first hand experience how difficult — maybe even impossible — it is to act on social justice in faith communities focused far more on personal sin and much less on social injustice. I feel called to organizing and mobilizing collective action for social justice, which is challenging in any community. It is difficult as well in St. John’s, but it is also hopeful and encouraging. The seeds bear fruit here. How so? St. John’s is sort of like an Island Fitness — participation in, just to name a few, the Eucharist, eating together — plenty of eating — during coffee hour and the monthly breakfasts and Loaves and Fishes, are exercises — a spiritual and social workout — in inclusiveness and hospitality. And it is through being connected to St. John’s the vine, that is, t-h-e space v-i-n-e, that makes it possible for me to use what little I have for God’s purposes. Let me put that more directly — you make it possible for me to use God’s gifts for God’s service.

Second, in the words of St. Paul, “imitate me.” What continuously animates me are real examples of inspiring people and organizations in God’s service. Teachings like, be the church outside the church walls are great, but I’m simply not smart enough to figure out what that might look like next Tuesday, 2PM. But imitate that person or that church — as imperfect and flawed they may be — that I get.

Let me give you an example. Some time ago I came to know Jose, and Jose was the president of an alliance of people’s organizations or POs comprised of informal settlers along the river banks of a major river in Metro Manila in the Philippines. Most people would refer to Jose and the members of the POs not as informal settlers, but pejoratively instead as squatters or slum dwellers. Anyway, Jose and his family lived under a bridge. As a matter of fact, a community of people lived under the bridge. Like all informal settlers, they lived with the everyday reality of arson, eviction, distant resettlement, or worse, simply being thrown out and left to fend for themselves. So this is the story as I heard it from Jose. One day, the city gave Jose and the PO notice of eviction on a specific day. Now, one of the allies of Jose and the PO was the Roman Catholic Church, including one of their priests, Fr. Robert Reyes. Most people knew Fr. Reyes not by his name, but instead as the running priest, because of his practice of jogging across the country in support of social justice. Well, on eviction day Jose and the PO made sure that the running priest was present with them to face the eviction enforcers. I don’t know whether Fr. Reyes came to the bridge running in dramatic fashion. But this I do know — the running priest, Jose, and the residents stopped traffic on the bridge — a bridge in a seriously big city. And what did the running priest do? He celebrated the mass on the bridge in solidarity with the poor. The eviction never took place. Imitate, to best that I can, the bonds, the courage, and the street theater of Jose, the PO, and running priest.

Finally, embrace love and compassion that is given freely and generously. Barely an hour after my mother died, I was tasked with making the many phone calls to settle hospital bills, request — actually beg — for discounts, and for advice on how to  best address these matters. One of the calls was to Ralph — Ralph and Gloria Rodriguez were my mother’s closest friends at the Cathedral of St. Mary and St. John. “Johnny,” Ralph said, “You’ve now lost both your parents. We’re your parents now.” And as it turned out, these were not just polite words said in a moment of grief. Ralph and Gloria embraced me like I was their son. Maybe it helped me somewhat that their three children were all daughters. Ralph and Gloria gave me their love in a concrete and substantive way. And to this day practices such as these remind me what it is I am stewarding — I am really stewarding love and compassion.

Community, imitation and inspiration, and experiencing love and compassion are what I find meaningful in the practice of stewardship. Thank you.