In giving we receive. That’s what we called it this time last year when we launched a giving campaign to increase our financial income. It ended two weeks later with a Harvest Lunch of Thanksgiving. I was delighted with the result. We increased our income, including gift aid by just under a third. There was much to be thankful for.
However we were starting from what I felt given our number and our relative affluence was a low income. Consequently though we’ve made good progress there is more to be done. We are still some way short of meeting our commitments not least to our diocese through our parish share. We have not paid what we have been asked for over a number of years which is something of an embarrassment.
Yet we will get there not because I stand here and make you feel guilty, I don’t want to do that anyway, but because we are growing and know that our giving is central to who we are as followers of Jesus Christ.
Money is of course part of our life. We need it to pay the bills, to support those whom we love, to enjoy our life and to be free from worry. I am not immune to those feelings, quite the opposite and so I have to keep asking myself, as we all should, whether these notes have an excessive hold on me.
Jesus knew about that hold, he knew that money could get in the way, he said ‘where your treasure is, there your heart will be too’. These are words that make me wriggle a bit because if I’m honest I could be more generous. I could give more and perhaps if I followed the example of the churches of Macedonia we heard of in the Epistle I would give even beyond my means.
But that would be foolish, we need a bit of wisdom too, however our approach to life and therefore to money is underpinned by what we say week by week at the beginning of the Eucharistic Prayer for ‘it is right to give thanks and praise’.
Part of that thanksgiving is what treasure we choose to give, knowing that all we are and ultimately all we have has been given to us by God. ‘All things come from you’ is how one offertory prayer puts it, ‘and of your own do we give you.’(1)
All things come from you and of your own do we give you.
We give then, not out of guilt but out of thanksgiving. And we give joyfully, it is ‘our duty and our joy’ and is good for us, giving changes us and helps remind us that we find our identity not through what we have but because we are beloved children of God, made in his image and called to grow into his likeness.
God’s nature is to give, he creates, gives life, sustains, inspires. In Jesus we see that God who gives made visible. At the heart of our worship this morning too, we are given the bread of life.
Consequently when we give generously and joyfully we become who we are meant to be. I think that’s the vision the church in Macedonia had caught to return to that first reading, they ‘overflowed in a wealth of generosity.’ We are invited to do the same and it is good for us, part of our spiritual wellbeing.
So this is our yearly invitation and reminder to, as I will, look at what you give to St. Mary’s and the wider church. To amend that standing order when you next go online, to think about what goes in that envelope, and if you’re not part of our planned giving scheme then to join it.
And I say all this as a fellow pilgrim who struggles with this stuff too, but yet one who has a particular calling to remind us who we are as the people of God.
Thank you for your support, we are a lively and vibrant community of faith, there is so much to be thankful for, and as we look to the future, so much to be hopeful for as we seek to grow the church here. This time next year, I’d love to think that the gap between our income and expenditure had shrunk a bit more, or indeed disappeared altogether, we shall get there.
I want to finish with a little story from my days as an ordinand. One of my placements was to visit folk on ward at the hospital in Oxford. There a patient gave me a list of inadvertently humorous church notices or words taken from a sermon. My favourite was from a notice sheet which read ‘Low Self Esteem Support Group will meet Thursday at 7 p.m. Please use the back door.’
However for today this one seems particularly appropriate as the priest said “I’ve upped my giving, now up yours.”
May God continue to richly bless our life and ministry together here and may he grant us generous hearts. Amen.
|↑1||1 Chronicles 29.14|