As a child, I was fascinated with the cartoons about Scrooge McDuck. Do you remember him, with his yellow-orange bill and feet, his spats, and his Scottish burr? He was the world's richest person, famous for his excessive thrift. Scrooge had stacks of paper money and mountains of coins everywhere, but he lived in fear that someone would take his money from him.
Of course, I rooted for Donald Duck, and especially his nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie. They were the opposite of Scrooge: not rich, certainly, but trusting and happy. And they always came out okay in the end.
I didn't realize it then, of course, but Scrooge and the other ducks personified the extremes of living generously, on the one hand, and living in fear on the other. They demonstrated, in an exaggerated and comical way, a spiritual principle: something tight happens to our lives when we assume there won't be enough and focus on protecting what we have. On the other hand, if we trust and stand in the moment of wherever we are today - if we stop looking for ways to accumulate but instead seek ways to give back - we become happier, more connected, and touched by the spirit of love.
"Giving back," of course, doesn't only involve money. We have three main ways to enter the flow of gratitude in our miraculous world: offering our time, our talent, and our treasure. Just as we are made smaller by the assumption that we are constantly in danger of loss, we are opened and made more joyful by assuming that our job, no matter how much or how little we have, is to figure out ways to give to others.
Meister Eckhart, the thirteenth century monk, said that God finds it easier to give to those whose hands are open. Focusing on sharing our gifts, then, is really a spiritual discipline: it forces us to be faithful and trusting. And that changes everything - from our facial expressions, to our blood pressure, to the quality of our relationships with ourselves, with each other, and with God.
Sometimes I find myself thinking, "If only I had more talents - or more money, or could find more time - then I would really give to others." But then I realize that those thoughts are traps. Waiting to have more is a way of shutting myself off from the glories of being alive. Instead, I try to remember to START by giving, by being generous, by action. When I act as though I can trust God - by sharing whatever God has given me - then I become bigger. In the truest sense, I become richer.
So the question of stewardship - of taking responsibility for our mission as a church - is not just about giving money for the church to keep the lights on and the furnace running. It's much more important than that: it's answering the question for each of us: will you claim the life that's yours by right? Will you stand up, putting your trust in God into action? Will you be bold? Because the bolder you choose to be, the bolder, happier, and more joyful you become. Act now, and you begin forging a path to spiritual benefits now and in the future.
Scrooge McDuck, it turns out, wasn't even the main character in his own story: Donald Duck was. It was Donald who always ended up happy. Donald, after all, didn't even own pants! But we always knew that, at the end of every show, Donald and his nephews would be all right.
Think about it: in all the stories we love, we trust that the main characters will come out okay. Even as a child watching cartoons, I believed this was true. I trusted that the writers of the cartoon would bring the boys out okay.
Donald trusted; I trusted. I breathed a bit easier. My trust made my life better. And who was I trusting? Just the human writers, armed only with pens and paper. If we can trust the writers of a playful cartoon, can we not trust our God?
Trust in God isn't about belief. It isn't about what we think or what we proclaim. It is about taking actions, about putting our boots on the ground, one in front of the other. Or should I say, trust - and the flow of the life force that follows when we act on it - is about stepping out with one orange, webbed foot after the other.