I serve on the Board of Directors of the Northwest United Methodist Foundation. We manage about $33 million in assets for the churches of the Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Annual Conferences. Most of these funds belong to the individual churches who have chosen to invest with the Foundation. This Foundation, by the way, was a key player in saving Crossroads United Methodist Church in Kimberly, Idaho after a bank foreclosure. (Kim Fields was another key player.) We met last Friday and Saturday at Collins Retreat Center, near Portland. It was a visioning meeting facilitated by Tom Marston, recently retired as president of the Florida United Methodist Foundation. Under Tom’s leadership over 18 years, the assets managed by the Florida Foundation grew from $30 million to $227 million.
I won’t bore you with details about our meeting (though, as meetings of this nature go, it wasn’t that bad). I just want to share one little insight I came away with. Tom talked about the old marriage ceremony. It’s the one was the infamous line, “If any man can show just cause why this man and this woman may not lawfully be joined together, let him speak now, or else hereafter forever hold his peace.” It also has the couple exchanging rings with these words: “In token and pledge of our constant faith and abiding love, with this ring I thee wed.” Few pastors use that line any more. Helen and I used it when we were married 33 years ago, but in my 172 weddings as a pastor, I’ve hardly ever used it. There also used to be something about “pledging my troth”, whatever that means. Those words are still used at royal weddings in England, but the ceremony most United Methodists have used for some time now has the couple exchanging rings with these words: “I give you this ring as a sign of my vow, and with all that I am and all that I have, I honor you.”
Tom Marston said these words express what we mean when we talk about stewardship. “With all that I am and all that I have, I honor God.” God is the source of our lives. God is the reason we are here. All that we are and all that we have comes from God. Stewardship means recognizing this and honoring God accordingly. “With all that I am and all that I have.”