“Hey, my sweetheart, why don't we get the back flower beds finished today?" So while my long-suffering husband graciously begins the heavy work, (I'm a GREAT supervisor), I start dreaming about the beautiful flowers and shrubs I will someday plant. Yes, "we" are building flower beds and slowly transforming the landscape of the parsonage where I live all the time and he lives some of the time when he is able to get free from his own church responsibilities. Parsonage: a place where the parson lives. The "parson" is a somewhat old fashioned word for a clergy person, a pastor of a church. Both of us feel strongly that even though we, as pastors, will never own the places we live, we still have a responsibility to hand them back in better shape than we found them because we are stewards of these houses. So, "we" build flower beds. My husband is indeed a long-suffering man, full of grace and kindness.
Handing something back in better shape than we received it is the basic responsibility of a steward. Human beings are stewards of this created world--we have a responsibility to God to care for creation. A good steward returns to the owner the property in better shape, not worse. Better--not poisoned, not trashed, not desecrated.
This is hard work--being a steward, and not always particularly rewarding. We're going to hand to someone else the fruits of our labor. As far as my husband and I are concerned, this reality is that we don't own this parsonage and never will. This home has been entrusted to me as the pastor of this church, and goes in time to the next pastor. But this is also a good picture of our responsibilities as stewards of the world at large. We don't own the world--all of creation is ultimately in the hands of God. It has been entrusted to us as temporary stewards and will be handed on to our children and grandchildren. What will we hand on to them?
I remember well the first parsonage I ever lived in. I drove up to a house with one of the worst looking yards I had seen. Mostly weeds, a few bedraggled shrubs, tires tracks digging gouges in the yard where a wayward car had missed a turn and skated over the front yard, a west facing patio in the back with no covering, no protection from the blistering summer sun. Five years later, we left a yard full of good grass, flower beds so rich with organic material that they'd grow anything, and a patio covered with green vines that provided protection from the sun on all but the worst days of summer. Did it stay that way?
No--without loving attention, weeds will take over. And they did at that parsonage.
Yes, there is sadness there--so much creative energy down the drain. Makes me wonder how much sadness God must feel when we make choices that leave our world in worse shape for those following us. And then it makes we wonder how much joy God must feel when we choose to be good and faithful stewards to this world and leave it in better shape for those following us. Personally, I'd live to be one who increases joy, not sadness. What about you?