St. John the Baptist Church Wolverley
Letter from Jan - June & July 2014
Letter from Jan
As many of you know, I met Chris three months before coming here to Kidderminster. And in those three months, I knew so much about him: about his mum who’d died when he was two; also the fun times he’d had in Guildford and at his church in Lye.
But there was one thing I didn’t know about him. How much he earned.
I found this surprising that he just couldn’t tell me, (trust me, it’s no BIG deal!!), because I come from a family who talked about money openly and honestly. I knew how much my dad earned and my mum earned so I understood why some years we couldn’t go on holiday.
I can’t work out whether most people are like Chris or like my parents. I do know that if our collections are not keeping pace with our outgoings, we are uncomfortable about what to do about this.
In the Old Testament there was a stipulation for the people of God to give a 10% of their income away (if people had no income there was no stipulation). Many Christians who earn still give away 10% because they want to be generous just as God is generous.
Let us be generous givers and if we are giving money to the church let’s celebrate this and if we are giving money elsewhere let’s celebrate this too.
I want the church to be solvent and to pay its bills. But I want far more that we as Christians are generous and can say I’m grateful for what I’ve been given and I’ll give away a proportion as a way of expressing my thankfulness.
If Chris was old school about money, I’m glad the church is new school. If you want to know exactly what the church spends its money on and where it gets this money from and what the diocese spends our money on, do ask a church treasurer. The church is trying to be open and honest about monetary matters.
Let us be open and honest with ourselves too about how generous we actually are.
Bishop John offers some thoughts on growing deeply as disciples by offering our money to God.
Where is your treasure?
"Do not store up for yourself treasures on Earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." (Matthew 6. 19-21)
What I want to do here is to ask you a simple question arising from that passage from St Matthew's gospel. Where is your treasure? It's strange how reticent we are as Christians to talk about money particularly in view of the fact that Jesus mentioned it so often. The parable of the talents, the dishonest manager, the story of the rich young ruler, the widows mite, the importance of serving God versus serving mammon - the list goes on and on. A quick count indicates that 19 out of the 47 teachings which are clearly parables relate directly to money or material possessions. And that is just the parables. If the frequency of his sayings in the gospels is anything to go on, Jesus talked about money every other day (or every other teaching): he knew how interesting and vital it is to people. Our Lord made more reference to money and possessions than to either prayer or faith - more than his sayings about Heaven and Hell combined. And he preached to rich and poor alike.
Why then was Jesus so concerned about something we tend to keep quiet about? It wasn't anything to do with a shortfall in Parish Share, it was much closer to home than that. Jesus didn't wait until things got desperate to teach about giving. He wasn't concerned with fund raising, he was concerned with faith-raising, and he knew that ultimately our security will be defined by what we depend upon. And in his kingdom, lasting treasure is measured not by what we have but by what we give away. For where our treasure is, there will our heart be also. Our giving will reflect what is really going on inside us. When Jesus said, "Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" he put his finger on our spiritual pulse. He knew the signs of spiritual vitality, and the blockage of the giving arteries that will be a serious risk to our health.
That we are created to be givers follows quite simply from the fact that we are made in God's image. It is when we give that we will most reflect the gracious God who formed us in his likeness. God's nature is to give, rather than to accumulate. When Christ did not exploit equality with God for his own use but emptied himself, giving himself to a death on the cross, he was expressing something very profound about God. Our God is in the giving business. He can't help it. It's just the way he is. Money Managers in the City would say that God has a real problem: much more expenditure than income. Praise God for his economics.
Although the instinct for self-preservation in us is strong, deep down we know that it is only in sacrificial giving that we will find and enjoy real life. Only in giving to others will we find the real joy and fulfilment we crave. Christmas reminds us of that. It's a sign of maturity when we move from focusing on what presents were received to the joy we can bring to family and friends by what we give.
Financial crises in churches and dioceses are opportunities: opportunities compelling us to discover who and what we really depend upon. We give not just because others have a need or because the church needs it for its mission but for our own good; we were created to give and will be frustrated spiritually and stunted in our growth if we don't. God doesn't need our money. He wants our hearts. But the fact is that our hearts are very closely connected to our cheque books. The cords that bind them are many and strong. Some of us have bad memories, but I bet there is no one reading this who can't remember immediately where they bank. We know it in a heartbeat. And what is written in our bank and credit card statements tell a story where our true religion is really found.
In Old Testament times, God gave his people the gift of the law. In Leviticus 27 he commanded them to give a tithe, 10% of their crops and herds back to him. The tithe was a holy reminder that whether they were rich or poor everything the people had belonged to him. The profit Malachi said that to do less than tithe was to rob God (Malachi 3.8).On top of that tithe, the Israelites were to give special offerings on specific occasions. In addition to that, they were also to give alms to the poor as needed. That was the minimum commanded in the scripture.
Jesus criticised Pharisees who were tithing spices while neglecting weightier matters, but he didn't dismiss tithing (Matthew 23.23).There is not the slightest evidence that the very first Christians stopped tithing, providing offerings, and giving alms. In the New Covenant in which we have been giving the gift of the Spirit and every spiritual blessing, God says, "Give as you have prospered". Have we prospered any less than the people of Israel? I tithe and have received many blessings as a result. For the fact of the matter is that the way in which our gracious God orders the creation means that the more we give the more will be given back to us; "Give and it will be given to you; good measure, press down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back".
In my experience it is the poorest of people who are the most generous. I was vicar of a church right in the heart of inner city Tyneside and I moved from there to Ely Cathedral. I was shocked to discover that, with congregations of roughly equivalent size, giving in Ely Cathedral was less than on Tyneside. That's not in relative terms, that's in absolute terms: prosperous Ely as compared with impoverished Tyneside. And that's a picture I have seen reflected the world over - travelling in Africa and Peru and seeing the extraordinary sacrificial generosity of people there who, frankly, are a lot more cheerful than much more prosperous people in England.
Why don't we dare to embark on an adventure of giving? Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could start a renewal movement in the church based on the neglected gift of the Spirit, the gift of radical giving? It's fun to give away money that belongs to someone else. Everything we have belongs to someone else - to God. Where our treasure is, there will our heart be also. Our heart should be committed to giving for we were created to give. Give for Life - giving in order that we might have life and conform more completely to the image of the God who created us, to be truly Kingdom People.
From the Parish Registers
Isabella Diva Curty-Pitt; 12thJanuary at St. Peter’s, Cookley
Gabriel John Curty-Pitt; 12thJanuary at St. Peter’s, Cookley
Dylan Joseph Stewart Roberts; 27thApril at St. John’s, Wolverley
Dexter Joseph Spare; 11thMay at St. Peter’s, Cookley
Aston Joseph Price; 11thMay at St. Peter’s, Cookley
Noah Zackary Price; 11thMay at St. Peter’s, Cookley
Stuart James Thorpe and Lynsey Dawn Bache; 2ndMay at St. John’s, Wolverley
Doreen Edith Evans of Wolverley; 7thMarch at Wyre Forest Crematorium
John Quinn Billingsley; 8thApril at St. Peter’s, Cookley and Wyre Forest Crematorium
Edward Harris of Cookley; 28thMarch at Wyre Forest Crematorium
Robert Trevor Hodgson; 16thApril at St. John’s, Wolverley and Wyre Forest Crematorium
Margaret Monger of Wolverley; 17thApril at Wyre Forest Crematorium
Anthony Andrew Harrison; 22ndApril at St. John’s, Wolverley
Margaret Frances Perks; 23rdApril at St. John’s, Wolverley
Dorothy Garbett of Wolverley; 8thMay at Wyre Forest Crematorium
David Albert Freeman; 8thMay at St. John’s, Wolverley
Derek Gordon Wren; 13thMay at St. Peter’s, Cookley
Malcolm James Green; 1stMay at St. Peter’s, Cookley
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