Sunday, 23 February 2014

The Missing Piece

There’s nothing worse than doing one of those big Christmas jigsaws later in the year, only to find that someone has got there before you and there’s now a piece missing!

For many of us the issues surrounding ‘giving’ and ‘generosity’ are a bit like that. Whilst we’ve put together many, maybe most of the pieces of how we give our time, talent and money used by God through His church, there are often some blank spaces, and some of the pieces of information that we have assembled, need putting together.

How we use our time and our talent and our money are expressions of our own personal priorities and ultimately an indication of the place that God has in our hearts and lives.

Because all that we have to give isn’t ours anyway.

At the offertory before the Eucharist, in the Alternative Service Book 1980, we used to say words from 1 Chronicles 29:11 - Yours, Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the splendour, and the majesty; for everything in heaven and on earth is yours. All things come from you, and of your own do we give you.

Christian people believe that everything comes as a gift from God. God gives because He loves - it’s in His nature. He cannot stop Himself.  We only receive what we have because it is given to us by Him - our gifts, our skills, our money, our job etc. which we should in turn offer back to Him joyfully and with thankfulness.

How we give our time or talents and our money changes over time and with changing circumstances - we need to reflect on that openly and honestly at each stage of our life. What remains unchanging is the need - God longs for you to respond to His generosity and grace to us.

What we give gives life. Just as God brings everything in creation to life - so does what we give to the church. It doesn’t just pay the bills, but enables us to play a part in responding to God’s mission in the world, which in turn gets us caught up in His giving and sharing of new and eternal life with the world.

As we enter the season of Lent, many people think we are called to live more austerely, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. The fasting and prayer that are hallmarks of this holy season are about reminding us that we rely on God for all that we have and all that we are.

To help us focus, preaching in Lent will be about the call of God on each of us to give and to live generously in response to His love for us, and our study groups (using the excellent ‘Life Balance’ course) will recall us to making time for ourselves, for others and for God.

I will be writing to you, thanking each of you for the ways that you have generously supported the work of God’s church over the last years, but also asking you prayerfully consider what new ways you could see your time, talent and money used for His glory and for the furtherance of His Kingdom amongst the people we live and work and worship.

In the meantime, join me in praying this prayer daily in Lent:

O Lord, giver of life and source of freedom, I know that all I have received is from your hand.
Gracious and loving God, You call us to be stewards of Your abundance, the caretakers of all you have entrusted to us.
Help us to always use Your gifts wisely and teach us to share them generously.
Send the Holy Spirit to work through us, bringing Your message to those we serve.
May our faithful stewardship bear witness to the love of Jesus Christ in our lives. We pray with grateful hearts, in Jesus’ name. Amen.