There are many ways to minster. This week, we hear from the Reverend Lisle Gwynn Garrity, who uses art as a tool for spiritual formation. In the piece below, she reflects on stewardship and the story of the prodigal son. Plus, as a bonus for church leaders planning for Lent, Lisle links these themes to Lenten worship and reflection materials (see the promo code at the bottom). As you prepare for Lent, may you find places to both cultivate and let go.
Adam Copeland, Center for Stewardship Leaders
Cultivating & Letting Go This Lent
Rev. Lisle Gwynn Garrity
Cultivate (verb): to prepare and use for the raising of crops; to foster the growth of; to improve by labor, care, or study; to refine; to further; to encourage.
Let go (verb): relinquish one’s grip on someone or something.
As part of my work, I lead a team of artists in ministry called A Sanctified Art. We collaborate to create multimedia resources for liturgical seasons. Each season, we work from the Revised Common Lectionary to develop a bundle of resources around a theme that emerges from the texts. We sift through the lectionary scriptures, searching for motifs and ideas to be woven together into an overarching theme.
This year for Lent, the lectionary led us to Cultivating & Letting Go. Cultivating requires effort, energy, intention, care. At the same time, the gardener teaches us that cultivating also necessitates patience, waiting, relinquishing control, and letting go. As we enter this season of spiritual gardening, we invite God to unearth in us what lies fallow, what needs to be tended, and what needs to die for new life to emerge.
KonMari Your Spiritual Life
Our Lenten theme finds an interesting resonance with the current cultural phenomenon introduced by Marie Kondo. Through her book and subsequent Netflix series, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Kondo is inspiring a global movement of decluttering. Thousands of people are reexamining dresser drawers, folding T-shirts into more manageable rows. Thrift stores welcome an influx of overstuffed bags of stuff for which we say “thank you” and goodbye. But Kondo’s work digs deeper than superficial home organization tasks. Through the KonMari method, she invites you to evaluate which items cultivate — spark — joy. Then she urges you to let go of the physical and emotional baggage that is weighing you down.
With influence from Japanese aesthetics, Buddhism, and Shintoism, the KonMari method recognizes that objects are not passive, not in the purely-complaisant-isolated-substance way we assume, for everything carries a dynamic state connected with great potentiality. Humans engage meaning and project relationships, and in return things affect us. Kondo’s teachings reveal how material goods are often a reflection of our inner world. Sometimes, our sense of self-worth gets all tangled up in the items we possess. Applying the lense of stewardship, we recognize that in order to cultivate abundant generosity, we must first let go of our fear of not having — or being — enough.
Cultivating Prodigal Grace
One of the Lenten Gospel texts in this year’s lectionary is the well-worn tale of the Prodigal Son. Like many, I often read this story with frustration and a bit of righteous indignation, placing myself in the shoes of the older son. Shouldn’t good behavior be rewarded? Why should someone’s callous behavior be dismissed without consequences? As author of Everything Happens for a Reason, Kate Bowler, might say: I’ve developed my own version of a prosperity gospel where I expect to be rewarded for my good deeds, and treated well for doing the right thing.
But what if we approached this story with curiosity about why the Prodigal Son splurges his wealth in the first place? Perhaps he throws away his money because he is trying to throw away himself. Perhaps he lets his material goods go to waste because deep down he believes he deserves a similar fate. In contrast, the older son hoards his generosity, believing material abundance and self-worth must be worked for, achieved, and gained by deeds alone. For both individuals, their wealth management exposes their feelings about worthiness.
In Luke 15:20 we see that the father is moved to compassion as soon as he glimpses his youngest son along the horizon line. He does not wait for an apology. He does not require repayment. Instead, he is moved wholly by his son’s return. He doles out grace just as lavishly as his son squanders wealth. The father lets go of measuring his son’s value based on how “good” of a steward he is, and cultivates worth rooted in unconditional love.
What might happen — in our homes, our churches, ourselves — if we let go of our fear of not being enough, and instead cultivate prodigal grace? How might your stewardship practices become an expression of abundant generosity?
“Prodigal Grace” artwork by Lisle Gwynn Garrity
For More Information
If you are interested in viewing A Sanctified Art’s Cultivating & Letting Go resources for Lent, click here. You can also view their entire inventory of Lenten materials here. Use the code LUTHERSEM at checkout to receive 10% off any of their digital resources.|
Rev. Lisle Gwynn Garrity is a pastorist (pastor + artist) who uses art as a tool for spiritual formation. Learn more about her work by visiting sanctifiedart.org and lislegwynngarrity.com.