On Holy Ground: Stewardship of the Earth
All creation is the Lord’s, and we are responsible for the ways in which we use and abuse it. Water, air, soil,
minerals, energy resources, plants, animal life, and space are to be valued and conserved because they are
God’s creation and not solely because they are useful to human beings. God has granted us stewardship of
creation. We should meet these stewardship duties through acts of loving care and respect.
(Social Principles, ¶160) United Methodist Book of Discipline.
Earth's Biggest Environmental Threat
Examination of the various threats to the Earth's environment includes human impact on the planet. Catch
phrases such as carbon footprint, global warming, deforestation, and other commonly used
terms have become the everyday jargon for those concerned about the environment.
According to the Global Risks Report 2018 from the World Economic Forum, environmental concerns have
been gaining on concerns over economic issues as the prominent risks people face. Climate change, and
extreme weather events which are increasing due to climate change, are cited as the top concerns clarifies The
Guardian. Climate change is increasing the frequency and intensity of natural events like droughts, wildfires,
heat waves, rainstorms, tropical cyclone, and hurricanes, explains the Scientific American.
The Global Risks Report 2018 notes that extreme events could disrupt food production and cause famines.
NASA confirms that the amount of carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have increased "from 280 parts per
million to 400 parts per million in the last 150 years", due to burning fossil fuels, intensive agriculture, and
other human activities. This has resulted in an increase of global temperatures by one degree Celsius over pre-industrial
levels. Besides increasing extreme weather, this rise in temperature also has raised sea levels by 1-4
feet since 2010, caused Arctic ice caps to shrink, and increased growing season adds NASA.
During the year, our thoughts turn to thanksgiving for God’s generosity and our response as we experience
our stewardship program, first: putting GOD first in living and giving. We are made in God’s image and are meant
to be creators of life and hope, not the consumers of our culture’s shiny gods. We have the ability to change the world
and create a legacy that will live forever in the lives of generations to follow. That legacy starts when each of us takes
the hard steps of financial discipline and fulfilling the call to the generosity that God has placed in all of us.
The goal of this stewardship program is not to make you feel guilty, nor is it to say that you have to be exactly
like this or that person. The goal is for all of us to ask questions of ourselves and be open to the possibility
that God will lead us in new directions in our lives. We’ll be challenged to look for the idols in our own lives
(Hint: Most of them aren’t animals made of gold) and name the ways these idols enslave us,
holding us back from living in the true freedom that God desires for us.
We’ll be challenged to consider the place that money, work, and debt have in our own lives.
What are our common understandings of these, and might the witness of Scripture lead us
to some different understandings? We’ll be challenged to ask ourselves what it means for us to be faithful,
to save, and to give. How do we balance all the competing interests in our lives? What priorities does God
want us to have? Finally, we’ll be challenged to give with our hearts, not out of obligation or a sense of duty
and not just when we think the recipient deserves our gift. Instead, we’ll be challenged to give the way
God gives—freely, fully, with no expectations of repayment.
It’s unfortunate, really, the timing of the stewardship campaign being late in the year when
church is making a budget for the new year. It makes it seem like the only motive for asking you
to pledge is to underwrite the church. That may be the result of your pledging but it’s not the cause.
The prayerfully-considered pledge is much more about faith development than budget development.
`According to the Bible, intentional, disciplined financial giving is at the heart of ... well,
your heart. And our hearts belong to God. The gospel of Matthew puts it this way: “For where your treasure is,
there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21). Haphazard, random numbers put on a pledge card
may support the church’s ministry but they do little to increase the spiritual power of the giver.
On the other hand, a pledge that is generous, deliberate, and sacrificial invites faith to meet the center
of who we are. And our values are often seen most clearly through our financial statements.
So we invite you to give, not just because UMC-MV needs the money but because you
need to give. It seems counter-intuitive, but some of us can testify to the difference giving has
made in our lives. Not so we can boast of our giving but so we can celebrate with you the joy we
have found in the process. I’ve said it before but financial planning with a tithe or beyond is the
thing that kicked my faith into another gear. Not a prayer discipline or seminary, or Bible
study.... it was being asked by my District Superintendent to give an amount I thought
completely unrealistic to give. It meant looking at my financial decisions (how much I spend on
basics, furnishings, shopping, and gifts to others, entertainment, dry cleaning –all of it) in the light
of my faith – that’s when I experienced the joy of my faith. That’s when I understood the wisdom
of that elderly man who said, “If your giving doesn’t feel good, you’re not giving enough.”
Methodists have never subscribed to a membership model that required a set fee to
join. Instead, they follow the much more Biblical model of proportional giving. The Biblical ideal
is that 100% belongs to God, so consider how much you need to take from that total to fulfill
your family’s needs. John Wesley famously advised, “Earn all you can, give all can, save all you can.”
Other places in the Bible suggest a 10% tithe of your income should be returned to the church.
We should note that in the Biblical examples, as well as in actual examples from
congregations, those who have the fewest numbers in their bank accounts often give a much
higher percentage of their income. That's true at UMC-MV also. It is our prayer that we will
have begun to grow into the individuals and the church that God knows we can be.
Please join us in putting GOD first in living and giving.
Regarding IRA Charitable Rollovers
It was back in December of 2015 that the IRA Charitable Rollover Act was passed by
Congress. This Act permanently extended the provision for individuals age 70½ and older to
be allowed to make tax-free distributions from individual retirement accounts (IRAs) to a
qualified charitable organization. The treatment continues to be capped at a maximum of
$100,000 per taxpayer each year. An IRA rollover is a tax-exempt distribution from the IRA.
For those of you who are 70½ and older, an IRA Charitable Rollover may especially be
beneficial to you if... 1) you have significant assets in an IRA, or 2) you do not itemize
deductions for income tax purposes, or 3) you earn enough to have part of your deductions
phased out. If you qualify to make this type of IRA charitable gift, contact your financial
advisor to find out how to make a gift that benefits you and our
United Methodist Church of Martha’s Vineyard.
To have our weekly newsletter "The Flame" sent to your e-mail, please contact the church office.
Copyright 2018 - United Methodist Church of Martha's Vineyard. All Rights Reserved.
Happy New Year! I wanted to share with greetings from our Bishop
this first newsletter of 2019. I know you will be blessed.
"Beloved in Christ:
Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Through the mighty grace of God, we have been blessed to see the dawn of another year in our lives!
New Year’s Day is marked in unique ways in our global community – different types of celebrations,
various styles of worship, and all sorts of resolutions. In the midst of it all, each of us grapples with an existential question, “What will this year bring?" Of course, none of us knows the answer, but as Christians we can draw inspiration and guidance from the scriptures and the hymns, as well as through our prayers.
I offer the following scripture, hymn, and prayer as a way of thoughtfully approaching the New Year.
From Micah 6:8: "He has told you, human one, what is good and what the Lord requires from you: to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God."
Amid uncertainties, fears, doubts, suspicions and not knowing what kind of year 2019 will be, we can ask to be granted the courage and wisdom to do justice, to love, and to walk humbly with God. We can explore what justice looks like, what it means to embrace faithful love, and how we can walk humbly with our Creator God. We can allow these questions to guide us throughout the year.
Rev. Harry Emerson Fosdick composed the hymn "God of Grace and God of Glory" in 1930 –
between the First and Second World Wars. In many ways, this time was not much different from
the time in which we live today. The entire hymn is very powerful. Read the words, internalize them,
and sing them with gusto…Prema joins me in wishing you and your loved ones
a Happy and Blessed New Year!
Remember, God loves you all and so do we! "
- Bishop Sudarshana Devadhar