Stewardship and the Samaritan. Sermon 15 Oct 2017 by Daniel Cheesman
Chief Executive Officer
Brighton & Hove LGBT Switchboard,
Community Base, 113 Queens Road,
Brighton, BN1 3XG
01273 234009 (Office Only)
01273 204 050 (Helpline – Mon 6:30pm-9pm, Thurs 3-9pm, Fri 6:30pm-9pm Sat 5-7pm, Sun 1pm-7pm)
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- WELCOME AND INTRODUCTION
When Michael asked me to speak, I was presented with the challenge of talking ‘loosely’ (he said) about stewardship! This got me really thinking about stewardship and what it means…
- DEFINING STEWARDSHIP
Now for some definitions:
“Stewardship is now generally recognized as the acceptance or assignment of responsibility to shepherd and safeguard the valuables of others.”
“Christian Stewardship refers to the responsibility that Christians have in maintaining and using wisely the gifts that God has bestowed.”
“In business, it has been used by CEOs to denote the concept that “as a steward, you try to leave the company in better shape for your successor than it was handed over to you by your predecessor.”
- INTRODUCTION – WHAT STEWARDSHIP MEANS TO ME
So, the challenge was to define what stewardship means to me. I’d like to rewind to the year 1999 when I first remember hearing the term. At the time, I was 21 and had just become a Christian, having been introduced to Christ through an Alpha course at my local Baptist Church. Painfully shy, awkward and introverted, I was asked to join the churches stewards’ team. Not knowing what this involved I agreed and then proudly spent each time I was ‘rota-ed’ on ‘shift’ to ensure that the church building was set up for worship and that everything was ordered and where it needed to be. I’d been given responsibility for something, probably for the first time in my adult life and it felt good.
So here-by lies the first lesson for me – stewardship for me is about responsibility. Christians would believe God has made us all stewards and we are all responsible for the things that have been entrusted to us. Whether that be our time, our talents or the world and things around us.
As a shy and introverted 21-year-old I responded when given this responsibility and throughout my twenties I took on a number of other areas of responsibility with the Church and was eventually working with young people and with communities. I found myself as part of a youth lead project doing community activism. Whether that was digging ponds, painting fences, litter picking or visiting older people in day centres. Being accountable as a group of young people to the community around us. This accountability for me was two-fold as I was part of the committee organising the work, rallying the others and ensuring that we were accountable. Accountable for the little money that was entrusted to us and to our community to ensure that we were working with them working on the basis of what they wanted and not doing to.
The second point for me was accountability. With responsibility comes accountability one should not be had without the other. Before I knew it in my mid-twenties, the shy, introverted Daniel ha0d become a leader. I’d learnt to disguise my introverted self and could switch on the extrovert – a technic that I don’t much think of today, and was working with and leading people.
So, for me leadership is stewardship. And for me the three components go together; accountability, responsibility and leadership – one should not be had without out the other – a leader without accountability or lacking a concept of responsibility does not bode as a great example.
Now I am not someone who has actively sought leadership and for those people who know me well I am still fairly introverted and shy – I have learnt to extroverted in certain situations. One of the qualities that I do have though, is that when I see something that needs to happen, needs to be sorted I will roll my sleeves up and get involved.
LEAVING CHURCH AND LEADING THE WAY
In the backdrop of this journey through my twenties, was the reality that I knew that I was gay. Something I had known from a young age and something that for me I was able to ‘hide’ being part of the church. The issue for me was binary – I believed that one could not be gay and a person of faith – something I now know no to be tosh, but something that at the time I believed. So, at 30 I resigned from membership of the Baptist Church and in my resignation letter, which was read out to the church members I took the opportunity to tell them all my story and the fact that I had been struggling with my sexuality. It was important for me even when leaving to be accountable, in this instance the church community and be responsible, although my driver was to provide leadership – at that point I had studied the concept of the ‘importance of a truly inclusive church to the gay Christian’. Part of my letter and the words it contained was to challenge the thinking encourage a discussion – I hope that happened.
My leaving church led me to find my new church a new place to call home, and for me that was when I joined Samaritans. This led me to choose the passage for today – parable of the good Samaritan. It is important to say at this point that Samaritans is a non-religious organisation and but it did get its name due to its beginnings. In the 1950’s the preacher Chad Varah advertised a listening service in his church for people who were suicidal. The plan had been for him to be there to counsel people – in reality it was the volunteers who were there to support those waiting to see Chad who provided the listening and the concept of the listening service began – it was the daily mirror at the time who gave the name of The Samaritans! Samaritans are there to listen to others, who are often in crisis, often suicidal. The act of being there for others, offering oneself through the act of listening.
GIVING OF ONESELF & ATTITUDE
Being a Samaritan has taught me, the final element I want to suggest of what stewardship means to me and it is that of attitude and the ability to give of myself. The journey that I have been on during my life so far has taught me a lot about the importance of being myself and giving of myself to others, to be there for my neighbour, for my community.
The parable of the Good Samaritan has always resonated with me, and to me tells us a lot about stewardship? The parable teaches us that the neighbour is the person we encounter in our daily lives who is in dire need of our help. We are called to be good stewards of our fellow human beings, God’s other precious children whom we meet on our own journey in life. Our love, time and mercy are not confined to our families, friends, people we work with or fellow parishioners. Jesus expects his followers, to extend his love and mercy to others regardless of their race, religion, gender, sexuality, culture, ethnicity or social standing.
For me I check my attitude every time I speak to a caller – some calls challenge my view of the world and what I think of others. It keeps me humbled and for me there is something powerful in the ‘listening stranger’.
THE CONCEPT OF ATTITUDE AND GIVING OF SELF
In April of this year I took up the post of Chief Officer at Brighton and Hove LGBT Switchboard. In many ways all the areas of stewardship that I have talked about have come together for me being in this role; responsibility, accountability, leadership, attitude and giving of oneself. It is a privileged but at the same time a huge challenge and I really resonate with the story of Mary and Martha!
In this story we see in action together two stewards, responding to their visitor in two entirely different ways. Martha rushing around preparing the house, being a host, getting caught up in the doing. And Mary just being – being present in the moment. Both being stewards.
Last week I saw a great film Tawai (Ta-why). A film documentary made anthropologist Bruce Parry. Bruce revisited the nomadic Penan tribe of Borneo who are a hunter-gatherer tribe. The film looked at the ways in which society in the Northern hemisphere very much operates looking at the bigger picture, thinking strategically, looking at how things are connected and joined up and how a decision made today will have implications on what happens tomorrow.
In contrast some societies in the Southern hemisphere, including the Penan tribe, live in the moment, are present in the here and now – are less ‘in their own heads’ perhaps. And there have been many studies done that show that they are by far the most peaceful people on earth.
LEARNING FROM THE GOSPELS
Of late I certainly identify with Martha – rushing around, looking at the bigger picture and fretting about this next thing. When both gospels give us the permission to be like Mary and more in the moment.
So finally stewardship has to be about balance. We are called to be stewards and to use our time and talents in ways that show love and mercy to others.