Thursday, October 01, 2009

Henry Hudson, Stewardship and the Midlife Crisis

Grace Episcopal Church, Madison NJ
The Messenger
October 2009

Henry Hudson, Stewardship and the Midlife Crisis

Recently there have been a number of commemorations and exhibits both here and in the Netherlands marking the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s arrival in what would come to be known as New York Harbor and the great river bearing Hudson’s name.

I went to the Museum of the City of New York during my “staycation” in August to see one of these exhibits, “Manahatta/Manhattan: A Natural History of New York City.” I was fascinated to see how a group of natural scientists and computer wizards have created images displaying what Hudson and his crew on the Half Moon would have seen as they sailed into the wide and deep harbor, filled with hope that they had found the gateway to Asia.

The explorers sailed through waters teeming with fish and other aquatic life. Manhattan itself was covered with a lush forest while to the west the marshes of what would some day be called Hudson County undoubtedly reminded the Dutch crewmembers of home. According to the exhibit, when Hudson arrived Manhattan was home to “627 species of plants, 85 species of fish, 32 species of reptiles and amphibians, 233 species of birds and 24 species of mammals.” Observing this abundance, I am sure that Hudson and his crew thought that this land offered unlimited, inexhaustible resources. Of course, 400 years later, we know that the rich natural resources of Manhattan and the surrounding region were all too finite. No one would confuse Hudson County and the Netherlands today!

When I was young I saw my life just how Hudson and his crew must have seen this green new world. Of course, I was conscious of death but my life seemed unlimited and inexhaustible. Maybe you had the same kind of experience. But now as I make my way through my fifth decade I am becoming acutely aware that my life and the lives of those I care about are all too finite. I wouldn’t exactly call it a midlife crisis, but I am being more careful about my priorities and especially with how I spend my time. I am trying to be a better steward of the time God has given me.

Obviously, better stewardship of time will mean different changes and adjustments for each one of us. For me, it has meant virtually eliminating television from my life. There are a handful of shows that I still watch if I am feeling worn out or could use an easy laugh, but there aren’t any programs I schedule into my life. Instead, I’ve been trying to make more time for reading. I’ve set the completely unrealistic goal of reading a book a week, including some of the classics, such as Crime and Punishment and Heart of Darkness, which somehow I missed along the way.

I’ve also been trying to do a better job of tending to my relationships. Like many of you, my wife Sue and I are busy people and it’s all too easy to lose track of one another in the frenzied pace of daily life. We’ve been trying to make time so we can share the ups and downs of life – maybe over dinner or just together on the couch after full days in the classroom and at church. Reaching out to other people in my life continues to be problematic. I admit that months easily slip by without talking to friends and relatives. How many of us have been shocked to realize just how long it has been since we have talked with a good friend or a close member of the family?

Finally, and most importantly, there is my relationship with God. I remain challenged by something Bishop Beckwith said at my ordination to the diaconate. Addressing us newly minted deacons he said, “We pay you to pray.” Since I spend so much time in church it may seem odd that this is such a challenge. But since church is also my work it is remarkably easy for my own spiritual life to fall by the wayside. It’s a challenge to be a good enough steward of my time that I leave even just a little room in my life to pray and to listen for what God might be calling – or nudging – me to be and do.

By now you know that Stewardship season is just about upon us. The Stewardship Committee has been working hard to help us all to become even better stewards of our resources. Naturally, much of the focus in coming weeks will be on our essential financial support of Grace Church and its ministries. I have some thoughts about that as well, and soon you’ll be hearing from me on stewardship of our financial treasure.

Money, of course, is not the only treasure we have been given. During this time when we are thinking carefully about stewardship let’s be sure to give some attention to how we use our time. Are there time-wasters that we could - or even should - remove from our life? Can we find the time to reach out to a friend or relative – especially if we know they could use a boost? Are we carving out some time for service to those in need? Finally, and most important, are we offering even just a few minutes a day in quiet prayer?

Although for each of us the answers to these questions will be different, as we focus on stewardship it is crucial to be mindful of how we use our precious and all too finite resource of time.