The stewardship of pointing
July 21, 2020 by Rob Hagan
I was born in Portland, Oregon, and grew up there as well. As a child raised in the Northwest, I loved the tall Douglas Fir trees, the deep green of the forests, and even the rain. (Yep, can you believe that?)
However, it was the crown jewel of Oregon (and Washington) that I deeply enjoyed the most: the Columbia River Gorge. The Gorge is the part of the Columbia River that meanders through 3,000 to 4,000-foot high mountains on either side. It splits the states of Oregon and Washington and is the borderline between the two states during its 100-mile trek.
One noteworthy historical fact about the Gorge, among many, is the part it played in the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The Gorge is where the expedition floated down the river to winter over at Ft. Vancouver. Driving down I-84, one would notice about every 25 to 30 miles a road sign which would pop up with Meriwether Lewis and William Clark striking a pose. Lewis is pointing forward with Clark beside him, ready to leap into action. The sign never changed, nor has it. Lewis just keeps pointing, always pointing toward the future. Lewis and Clark embodied the agency of change and discovery for that time. It is certainly worth noting that while many of us became accustomed to regarding Lewis and Clark as the leaders of this expedition – pointing the way in these signs – there were many others who played crucial roles. Most notably, Sacagawea, a Native American woman, was invaluable as a translator, naturalist, navigator and more – all while caring for her infant son.
The pandemic has rearranged our lives in many ways. We are in unfamiliar territory. Masks. Social Distancing. Pain. Loss. Uncertainty. It has rearranged, reordered the life and community of the church for the present and for the foreseeable future.
Yet, for the church, with all the challenges before it, the stewardship of “pointing the way” can be the most challenging but the most powerful. The question though is, ‘Where is the church pointing?' It is the feeding of the Five Thousand that comes to mind for me.
The disciples were weary after a hard day's work. The crowd was hungry. The disciples wanted them to leave to go and find dinner somewhere. “You give them something to eat,” our Lord said. It is uncharted territory for the disciples.
How can they do this? Jesus says, “Bring what you have to me.” They did. They gave. Jesus took. Jesus broke, Jesus gave. The disciples distributed. This is the movement of grace. When enacted by the church, the church becomes the divine agent of change. This is the direction we must point to. This is at the heart of stewardship of “pointing.” The movement of grace is at the heart of the generosity of our Lord.
The Stewardship Season will be quickly upon us. The Foundation is ready to help you strategize, plan and implement your plan for generosity during this pandemic. It is a new territory for us all.
Yet, the church has always been and always will be the “divine agent” of God's grace movement. Our task is pointing relentlessly to the future and our Lord's movement of grace. “What do you have? Bring it to me,” Jesus says.
Find your Ministry Relations Officer who serves your region here.
Rev. Dr. Rob Hagan is the Ministry Relations Officer for the Presbyterian Foundation serving the Northwest. He works with pastors and church leaders to cultivate generosity and promote stewardship within their congregations. He also meets with donors to assist them in making gifts to support their church and other ministries.