Sunday, 23 June 2013
As many of you will be aware very soon now a letter will be received from Bishop Bob and myself outlining a suggestion for our Christian Giving.
Some people may be worried about this, and I have been asked by the Vestry meeting this week to address your concerns this morning.
The reason the letter has been raised is clear from the recent notes from Bob in the pew sheet and as explained in the letter. We need to be assured that St Magnus will survive well on in the years ahead and currently there is real concern about running an increasingly deficit budget. The building of St Magnus church began just over 150 years ago. The work of the Scottish Episcopal church in Shetland is of course much older and it was based purely on Mission and outreach to the communities of Shetland.
Today we have the responsibility of maintaining and building on the vision of our forebears, and recently in the diocesan prayer cycle we have been praying specifically for the courageous vision of St Magnus Church today.
Christian Giving is a part of our discipleship. There are many times in the Bible in which our relationship with our belongings and this of course includes our money, is explained.
As Christians we are encouraged to see everything as belonging to God, and our offertory prayer brings this to the fore as we say all things come from you and of your own do we give you. As we also heard in the OT reading from which the prayer is taken.
Elsewhere we are told that we should give a worthy portion, and this is also illustrated by the example of the widow who gave a worthy portion to the Temple treasury and was praised by Jesus and used in example.
The problem comes though when we try to assume for others. It is for us to know what our worthy portion is. It might have appeared that the widow gave very little, but the proportion she gave was in fact worthy.
Thessalonians and Galatians speak of our giving being dependable and regular and we must make sure that this is the case. On a practical basis we need to know what we have coming in so that we can budget for the Mission we get involved in. It is for these reasons that giving by Standing order and hopefully if it is appropriate by Gift Aid too, is the best way to give. At last week’s vestry meeting we easily spotted that the collections vary a lot but the standing orders stayed regular.
Our giving should also be done joyfully, remember the phrase about God loving a cheerful giver! The New Testament Church was a giving church and there are many times when the mention of generous giving is outlined and evidenced. Paul’s mission often involved collecting money for other parts of the church as the needs arose.
The letter is trying to help us understand some of these principles.
It is important to stress and to pass on the message too if you meet others who are concerned, that if you know in your heart that you are giving all that you are able to then ignore the letter completely. As Bishop Bob stresses, if this is the case that you are already giving your utmost then ignore the letter and be thanked.
We are asked to give prayerfully. So pray about this please. Only you know your circumstances and do not let others tell you what they are.
Our Faith should touch and include all our living, and this of course means all that we are and all that we have. We believe that God is generous in what he bestows on us, and our giving back simply reflects this generosity.
All of us have demands placed upon us from many quarters. Of course St Magnus Church too has demands placed on it which also have to be met. We cannot choose not to meet the demands and still expect to be here.
Our Christian Giving is not “what we can afford” on a time by time basis. This would be more appropriate to a charity collection in the street or in the envelope pushed through the door. Our Christian giving should be thought through, planned, committed and regular.
The courageous vision of our forebears continues to demand of us. God is still calling us to be faithful prayers and givers.
I stress so strongly that if you are already giving all that you are able then ignore the letters. And let no one try to tell you otherwise.