Thursday, July 28, 2016

What I Learned at the Grand Canyon

Last month, I found myself standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon for the first time in my life. And it taught me something about Christian stewardship.

For vacation this year, my family took an epic road trip through the Southwest that included this amazing natural wonder. It's hard to overstate the enormity of the canyon. I frequently felt as though my eyes were playing tricks on me because my brain couldn't process the scale of what was in front of me.

On my last day there, I stood looking at the canyon and reflecting on the history of turning this area into a national park. As I looked at the billions of years of history laid out in front of me, it struck me that the very idea of anyone "owning" something like this was comical. It's been at work for so much longer than any one human life (or even all human life) that to think it can be controlled is silly. All we can do is to appreciate it, protect it for the sake of all people, and pass it along to the next generation.

It was in that moment that I found a new appreciation for the Christian concept of stewardship.

Stewardship is a common word in churches, and it often gets used to mean "give money so we can pay the bills." This is not what we are meant to think, however.

Classically, the "steward" was a servant tasked with overseeing the house of a master. The steward didn't own the house or goods, but was responsible for caring for and preserving the house and goods. For Christians, we start from the assumption that "the earth is the Lord's and all that is in it" (Psalm 24:1). Everything we own, even our talents, passions, and opportunities, are all from God. We don't own them, but are tasked with caring for and using them in ways that align with the Master's vision.

It can be easy to be distracted by thinking about what we own, what we want, or what we "deserve." We can be motivated, stressed, or obsessed by these thoughts. But as I looked out at the Grand Canyon, I was aware of how small I am in the great scheme of the world. Compared to the history of God and the earth, the thought of "owning" my home, my salary, and my talents seems just as laughable as owning the Grand Canyon. I've been entrusted these things for a while, but they will pass to others at some point. Will I hoard them temporarily or steward them on behalf of their true owner? Like the Grand Canyon, all I can really do is appreciate it, steward it for the sake of all people, and pass it along to the next generation.

From the Gray,

Pastor Ari

“In a world where what we want is only what we want until it’s ours.” -Train, “Calling All Angels”

Friday, July 22, 2016

Getting Uncomfortable Can Be Good

Last Christmas, my family had the opportunity to join in a tradition outside our own experience. My daughter is in a dual-language program at her school that combines students who are native speakers of both Spanish and English so they can learn from and with each other. One of her friend's family is from Mexico and they invited us to come to their Las Posadas celebration.

Las Posadas is a religious tradition for Mexican Catholics recalling the pilgrimage of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem and their search for housing along the way. That's about all I knew when we arrived at their house for the celebration and crammed into their crowded living room. We were handed a sheet of paper full of Spanish songs and prayers and without much warning the event began. Various people took the lead with songs and prayers, a young girl and boy dressed as Mary and Joseph moved around the room at certain times, my wife and daughter jumped in easily as they are both fluent in Spanish, and it was clear that for everyone outside my family, the happenings were familiar and meaningful.

But I was lost.

I know enough Spanish to mumble my way through something written on the page and I felt honored to have been invited to what was clearly an important family event, but I spent most of the evening confused, and maybe even uncomfortable.