Stewardship Sunday October 2014
The Christian life is rather like being in training for a marathon. Those who take part have to exercise regularly and train rigorously to have any hope of completing the 26 miles. The race will be arduous and will make all sorts of physical demands upon the body. The pain barrier to be gone through, every muscle aching and still the finish line is not in sight. Sacrifices have to be made in order to get through the blisters and sore feet to hear the roar of the crowd as you pass the staging posts and the final spurt as you run through the tape at the end, at which point the effort, the hours of preparing, the mental pushing on when the legs were like jelly all become worth it. The sacrifices made make the end the more worthwhile.
Our Sacrifice for God means that the we are called to respond to God totally, with our time, our gifts, our treasures, with our lives - God asks no less. The Christian life will put demands upon us. The church, God’s instrument, needs our full support as we need the church’s full support. If we are to fulfill all that God asks of us we must remain as focused in our faith and life as we would be if we were about to set out in preparation to run the 26 miles of a amarathon.
Our giving to God, our financial contribution to the work and mission of God's Church, must be a part of this journey, it is in fact a telling part of our spiritual journey. If you join any organization, a golf club, a book club, a wine club, a flower club there will always be a financial commitment to be made.
The God who created this material world and who came into it and lived as man asks us that we also give back to him in the same spirit of generosity that he has given to us in creating us and coming to live among us, and saving us by his death and mighty resurrection.
I have a responsibility to preach about every aspect of our faith committment and usually on Stewardship Sunday I will hear; 'at least he didn’t tell the one this time about there being no pockets in shrouds’ and for the less humorous the grumble ‘the pulpit is not meant to be a begging bowl’. But the truth of the matter is, the church has to preach about money for two reasons
- because the giving of money is part of our expression of love for God and is therefore part of the Christian gospel,
- and because we all have a responsibility to find the funds not only to run and staff this church, which costs, Paul Cuerden our Treasurer, told the PCC a week or so ago, in the order of £2,000 each week this year. Of course that will only get us somewhere about breakeven point as things stand today, if we really want the mission of the church to move forward then we really could do with a lot more: who wouldn't want to see someone dedicated to children and youth work, or the development of bereavement care, or care for the elderley, or...I could go on - but our priorities in mission and evangelism will be being thought about on Wednesday evening.
Even the apostles realized how important money was to the ongoing life of the Church and as the gospel spread money would be sent back to Jerusalem.
‘Well Rector’ some may say ‘ the apostles didn’t have the church commissioners and Queen Anne's bounty to pay them - surely the church commissioners pay the clergy, we don’t need to!’ Well that just isn’t the case any longer, the grants that they used to be given to the dioceses have gone - the diocese of Chichester has to be self supporting and that means every parish within it must be self supporting.
I don’t want to give you lots of facts and figures which you could easily look up in the commissioners statements of accounts, there is only one figure that we need to keep in our minds and that is that we need to raise our overall income this year - realistically we need to find another £10-12,000. If we are to truly break even.
As we are all only to aware times are very hard. I know that each of us is affected in different ways with regards to our income. Growing families, fixed incomes, changes in the tax laws, but I do ask you to remember that the church is also affected by the economic climate, and that when it comes to our giving no Christian can put God and His Church at the bottom of their list of priorities.
I want us, as we’ve always done here, to think positively and I believe that all will be well, if we all remember the responsibility for finding the finances isn’t just mine or the churchwardens or our treasurers or our Parochial church councils, but it is ours as a Church family, and that as that Church family, we respond to God in the spirit of the Gospel.
I am not here to tell you how much you should give to the church, but to challenge you in Christ’s name about this - to ask you to think seriously about how realistic your giving to God is.
I believe that every member of the church should be a part of the planned giving scheme preferably using a bankers order or there are the weekly or monthly envelopes.
I believe that everyone who pays income tax should make a gift aid declaration whereby we can reclaim the income tax paid, which means that at the moment for every £1 we pay we can claim 25p back. This year this means an income of approximately £11,700 which hasn’t cost us one penny.
There is a named letter for everyone on the church electoral roll and spares for those not on the roll at the back of church ready to be collected, in it I ask each of you to think prayerfully with me about future giving to Holy Cross and I ask for responses, by Sunday November 16th when we shall offer to God our renewed pledges.
I do ask you to see your giving as a prayerful venture. All we have comes from God - He loves us so much he is prepared even to die for us. What is our response to such love and generosity? One thing I know is, that it must include my giving to God.
My understanding of the church is that I as your priest do not ask you to do anything that I am not prepared to do myself. And so I do ask you as your parish priest to join me in responding to God’s love by looking prayerfully at our giving, and I am confident that if we do it in that spirit we will not only find the increase necessary to break even, but that we will go further and be able to extend our work and mission which is what we all want to see and what we each believe that God is asking of us.