by David Phelps

"Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person." - Mother Teresa

June, 1998

One Sunday morning about a month ago, our five-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Monica, served as an acolyte for the first time. Unfortunately, we didn't have the camera or video recorder handy because Monica was recruited at the last minute to replace another girl, Erin, who couldn't make it to church. Nonetheless, it was a proud and exciting moment to see Monica in the little white acolyte's robe, holding the candle lighter.

It was also a nervous moment. I took one look at Monica and thought, "My kid with open flame? Oh, my lord!" I found myself glancing nervously toward the back of the church, to where the fire extinguisher was located.

I turned to my wife, Charlotte, and whispered, "If anything happens, I hope she remembers to 'drop and roll.'"

"Oh, stop it!" Charlotte replied, laughing.

One of the hardest things for a parent (or at least me) to do is to let children do something by themselves. Regardless of whether it's tying their own shoes, pouring their own milk or whatever, the temptation is there to do it for them. If we do it ourselves, it will get done more quickly, with less chance for a mess or just plain better. But if we always do it for them, they'll never learn. Eventually, we have to trust them to do their best.

In the same way, God trusts us to spread the gospel. God could do it personally and take the message directly to each human being and do it better, faster and more efficiently, but instead God lets us do it ourselves. "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels." (2 Cor. 4:7a)

Our own Shay Blackwell says our acts of witness are a form of stewardship. We're accustomed to thinking about stewardship in terms of finances but that's only the beginning. God wants it all! "And he answered, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.'" (Luke 10:27; Deut. 6:4-5) Stewardship means taking everything that we have and all that we are -- all our gifts -- and dedicating it to God and to God's work. The stewardship of the gospel is our response to the message we have heard. God has given us salvation through the Good News of Jesus Christ; it's up to us to spread the message. The Good News is simply another gift -- a very special gift. As with any other gift, we are called to use it for ministry to the world and the edification of the entire church. God has trusted us and we must justify that trust.

Of course, in her first outing as an acolyte, Monica didn't set herself on fire or burn down the church. While I may have had misgivings, I trusted her. She had help and coaching from various other kids and adults. I have to admit, she did a fine job. (And of course, I'm not the least bit biased.) In the same way, we're part of a larger community of faith. The more we witness, the bigger that community becomes. And we have a heavenly parent who watches us with love and pride.

"This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. . . . Therefore do not pass judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then every man will receive his commendation from God." (1 Cor. 4:1-2, 5 RSV)


Copyright © 1998 by Maplewood UMC