Stewardship Talk        Myrna Koonce            November 25, 2018

As I thought about this talk, I was reflecting on this passage from John: You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.” (John 15:16)

Twenty-five years ago, I decided to leave my job as a Head Start program manager. One of the parents I’d worked with stopped by the office to give me her best wishes as I moved on. This parent’s parting words were, “You’ll be back.” Those words ring in my ears still, and have taken on a different meaning than I had first assumed.

Around that time I began attending church again and found St. Paul’s. As I worked as a teacher, volunteered in the community, and contributed to the church in various ways, I felt I was following Jesus’ call to give of myself and make the world better through the talents God had given me. I hoped that the fruits I was bearing would last, that the people I touched would flourish and grow. Little did I know that I would hear an additional and unexpected call.

Jesus worked through certain people at St. Paul’s to draw me, first, into our healing ministry, and then into becoming a hospital chaplain. But I also realized that God had been preparing me for this work. God—Jesus—chose me and formed me.

I could feel that healing through chaplaincy was my God-given work.

And yet, all along, I have struggled with a scarcity mentality. What if I will not be enough? What if I don’t have enough to give? I couldn’t quite believe that Jesus could choose such a flawed vessel.

And, all along, my church family here has given me unparalleled strength and encouragement: encouragement to begin seminary at 56, to take on a new role in the hospital, to serve people with dementia and memory loss, to offer ministry to my fellow parishioners. Jesus has worked through the beautiful people at St. Paul’s to sustain and uphold me.

Today, the words “You’ll be back” ring very true. I am back in Portland, where I worked in Head Start. I once again am serving people whose life circumstances or choices have brought them very low. They are the hoarders and the homeless, those with no family and those with estranged families, the addicted and the abused, and those born with conditions so cruel that it is amazing their spirit endures. This is where I belong, and I am still growing into what began working in me decades ago.

And that scarcity mentality? In hope, I can say it has begun to transform into a recognition of God’s abundance and of the power of saying “yes” to Jesus. As I live into my call, my arms open wider and my generosity toward myself and others increases. And my gratitude for St. Paul’s deepens every day.

Let us read together the collect found on page 1 of the bulletin……