I learned that from my students, but it's really straight from scripture. There is an ethic of enoughness, of non-attachment that runs throughout our scriptural story.
*God provided for the people of Israel in the desert. God provided “manna enough for the day.” And if you tried to store up too much it would spoil. Give us this day our daily bread. Give us just enough.
*We look at the call of disciples. Leave your nets and follow me, Jesus says. I will provide ... enough.
*We hear Jesus say “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” You can’t inherit the kingdom if you have more than ... enough.
And then there is Mark 6:7-13:
He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them, ‘Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.’ So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.
Take nothing with you, Jesus says. Travel light. Keep your overhead low. Be fully dependent on God.
And how does God provide? God provides through the community. And it is from that radical dependence on God through the community that the disciples get their authority.
Which leads me to the third learning:
Have less. Be more.
A couple things about this.
First, fear is always about loss. Take any fear and you can see how it about loss. About loss of possessions. About loss of life or function. About loss of friendship or love or respect. All fear is fear of loss. But here’s the thing. We can’t lose anything that really matters. Because in the end the only thing that really matters is the one thing that we can never lose – the love of God in Jesus Christ.
Second, even though Jesus tells us "take nothing with you" ... we have all this stuff of institutions. And it has helped us stay as a constant entity for nearly 2,000 years. So what does faithfulness look like? I think it looks like wrestling with three questions:
1) Does the stuff of the institution serve the impulse of mission or does it just serve to perpetuate itself?
The prayer book says “The Mission of the Church is to restore all people to unity with God and each other in Christ.” This is straight from 2 Corinthians 5:16- 20
From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us. So we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us; we entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
We have a budget of around $900,000. How much of that is really going toward being ambassadors of Christ reconciling all people to God and one another? And how much of that is going toward feeding the beast, toward growing and perpetuating the institution for the sake of the institution.
Most of our salaries go to clergy - to Amy and to me. Is that money going to pay people who are running everything? Who are building and maintaining systems that are dependent on them and organizational structures that look like spokes on a wheel with them at the hub?
Or are we using that salary for people who are going to give power away? Who are going to gather and send? Who are going to equip this community to lay our lives on the table with Jesus and live what happens next?
2) Do we have a living sense of “enoughness” and daily bread that strikes a balance between preserving living heritage and maintaining dependence on God and community?
If we decide that we need some sort of an institution to preserve the living tradition, how can we make sure we are doing that with the least amount of maintenance resources possible ... not just so we don’t have to worry about budget cuts but so we are cultivating the kind of dependence on God and community that scripture calls us to.
We need to always, always, always challenge conventional wisdom about money. Not reject it out of hand, but challenge it, push back against it. Because conventional wisdom about money is ALWAYS about fear- full caution and self-reliance, not trust and hope-full reliance on God’s provision in the wilderness.
3) Do we primarily see ourselves as owners of what we have or stewards of what God gives to all?
There are two primary frameworks for looking at the church’s “stuff” – ownership and stewardship. Because we tend to mimic the world around us, we almost exclusively see it in terms of ownership, and that’s where we run off the rails.
And maybe this is the heart of “Have less. Be more.”
HAVE indicates ownership. That what I HAVE is mine or ours. Which means it is not yours or theirs. HAVE is about exclusive right and control of. HAVE is about possession. I think this is might be what Paul means when he talks in Philippians 3 about suffering the loss of all things and regarding them as rubbish "in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ."
Does this mean that we should go around naked because we are completely without anything material in our lives? No. But I do think this is one of those really hard narrow gate places where we need to remember and live not by an ethic of ownership but by an ethic of stewardship. I also think this is one of those ethics where the extreme really is the highest virtue ... and most, if not all of us fall short of that.
An ethic of stewardship instead of ownership is embodied in "when someone asks for your coat, give them your cloak as well." It is recognizing that we don't OWN anything but we are given the opportunity to be stewards of great abundance. And our task and joy is to steward the abundance for the good of all.
It might seem like a ticky-tack semantic point, but it's HUGE! Part of what we're wrestling with at Christ Church Cathedral – and I don’t think we’re much different from any other church -- is the difference between these two attitudes:
1) The Cathedral is OUR building. We own it.
2) The Cathedral belongs to God. We have been charged with caring for it for the good of the people of this congregation, the diocese and the city of St. Louis.
In practice, there is a HUGE distinction between these two things. Ownership inevitably leads us down the path of protecting what we believe is ours and leads us into idolatry. Stewardship leads us into self-giving love, which is the heart of the Gospel. It is through embracing stewardship instead of ownership that we become the body of Christ.
What does this mean for Christ Church Cathedral?
Well ... I think it means everything. It's about who we are going to be and what we are going to be about. Will we exist just to keep existing or will we exist for God's mission of reconciliation in the world? Will we live trusting in ourselves or trusting in Jesus?
What do you think?
Does "Have less. Be more." resonate with you? What do you think about the distinction between ownership and stewardship? Where do you think we are at our best as a Cathedral?