Stewardship is a dirty word.
“Steward” is actually a compound word from Old English sti-weard, “stig” meaning a place of residence (which evolved into “sty”) and “weard” meaning warden or keeper. So a steward can be seen as the keeper of the sty, one who watches over the pigs – a dirty word indeed!
But anyone who has actually watched over pigs, sheep, cows, pets or any living creative knows that as messy as it may be at times, such stewardship is an important task. In order to receive the benefits of fleece, milk or meat in the case of farm animals, companionship in the case of dogs, cats or other domestics, we provide food, shelter, grooming and more for the best care of those we steward.
The work is not always clean or easy, but we know the end results are worth it. It is no different with other relationships in our lives. We don’t usually use the word this way, but we steward our bodies when we eat healthily and exercise appropriately. We steward our finances when we make budgets and monitor our purchases by what is necessary and what is merely desired. We steward our time when we balance work and leisure, family, friends and personal pursuits. And of course we steward our relationships through the commitments we make to loved ones, the resources we invest in their health and comfort, the time we spend sharing joys, sorrows and everything in between.
In the Church, the Great Steward is our Good Shepherd, the one who cares intimately and extravagantly for his flock. He had the very dirty job of dying for our sins, taking the filth of human brokenness on his cross and redeeming us by his sacrifice. And in his Resurrection he pours out to us, through his Word and Sacraments, the abundance of his love, peace, hope, and renewed life for us.
As stewards in our everyday lives, may we also be stewards in our faith life with the blessings Christ has nurtured in us through his Church, placing ourselves, our time, talents and treasures in stewardship of his gracious mission, proclaiming salvation life in all the world.