May the words of my lips and the mediation of my heart be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.
We heard from St Paul those words that ought to make any discussion of giving easy – ‘God loves a cheerful giver’. Amanda flagged this address some weeks ago and given the topic I am somewhat surprised that anyone is here. Thank you for being here.
I will come back to that but I want to start somewhere else. Some of you will know the UA Fanthorpe poem about the birth of Christ and the visits of the shepherds and wise men which finishes with the wonderful verse
….this was the moment
When a few farm workers and three
Members of an obscure Persian Sect
Walked haphazard by starlight straight
Into the kingdom of heaven
In our reading from St John’s gospel we are reminded of this event.
God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life
UA Fanthorpe captures the sheer improbability of this amazing event. I love the line ‘ a few farm workers and three members of an obscure Persian sect’
God gave his son. There is no greater gift.
So what should we do? And indeed why should we do anything?
At the end of Matthew’s gospel we find the Great Commission – ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations ….and behold I am with you always to the end of the age’.
We cannot do this whether here in the Valley or indeed anywhere else in the world without resources. This is what Paul means when he talks about’ supplying the needs of God’s people.’
For me it is all relatively simple. We have a job to do; we have a Gospel to proclaim. We are also blessed here in the Valley with four wonderful churches which have been loved and cared for for hundreds of years. We should never forget how lucky we are to be able to worship in churches where in TS Eliot’s words prayer has been valid for generations.
We are blessed to have Amanda, the clergy team and the army of volunteers who keep all our activities going. There is a leaflet at the back of the church which sets out the sheer range of our activities.
We have been told in The Great Commission to go out into the world and make disciples. We can see the value day in day out of what we are doing here in the Valley. But it costs money.
The little leaflet shows that it costs around £130,000 a year to keep our activities going. When I last talked from the pulpit in January 2014 we had just had a difficult year financially. The last two years have been much better. But we rely as the bedrock of our finance on regular giving.
Such giving can never be compulsory. Nor should it be. Paul tells us
‘Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give not reluctantly or under compulsion’
But we do have to look at how much we value God’s work in the Valley and then work out how much we are prepared to give to support it. For without our giving there will be no church in the Valley. Every time I drive past the beautiful but now redundant church in Itchen Stoke I see a clear picture of what will happen to our churches if we fail to support them.
So what do I, as PCC treasurer, want you to do. Again it is simple. Pray. Think about what you can give the church here in the Valley. If you are already giving on a regular basis and are willing to increase your level of giving that would be wonderful. Many people can now adjust their giving on-line but if you need any help contact Madeline in the church office or me. If you are not a regular giver but would like to become one please use the Parish Giving scheme. Again details are at the back of the church or available in the parish office.
I have sometimes tried to suggest what might be an acceptable level of giving. I will not do that here but if anyone would like to talk more about what we need to do to achieve our financial goals and what that means on a per family basis I am always happy to have that discussion.
But back now to the words of St Paul – You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion. God loves a cheerful giver. St Paul says it all much better than I ever could.