FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT – A REVIEW OF STEWARDSHIP 2020

1st Reading:         Romans 5. 12-19

The Gospel:         Matthew 4. 1-11

Rev Deborah      (At the lectern)    

Today is the first Sunday of Lent and traditionally, we think about either something that we are going to give up or something we may take on. Following our Candlemas service, Sunday School have been reflecting on how they can be Christ’s light and use the time, skills and talents that they have. They are going to share some of this work with us now.

Sunday School       Present some of the work that they have been doing.

Rev Deb                    Thank you. It is good to be remind about how we use our time, skills and talents. What is also important is how we use our money, especially for God’s work. Money is a very important and very spiritual issue.

Heckler              (shouting from the congregation)

                          Oh no it’s not.

Rev Deb                    (looking very surprised)

                          I’m sorry, but it is, money is very spiritual.

Heckler              (shouting again)

No! You shouldn’t be talking about money in church on a Sunday.

Rev Deb          But of course you can.

Heckler              (walking to the front)

                          No, you can’t, its wrong.

Rev Deb         Don’t you know, that in the Bible, there are more than
                         two thousand, three hundred verses on ‘money’.

Heckler          Well of course. That’ll be the Old Testament.  They were always going on about it.

Rev Deb          No.  Jesus talked about money, and how we use it, or the power it has over us more than anything else.  Just think about all those well-known stories such as ‘The Widows Mite’ and ‘Zacchaeus’ and the ‘Rich Young Man’.

Heckler              Yes, He had a lot to say about rich people, didn’t He?  Camels and needles and all that sort of thing.

Rev Deb             Yes.  And yet, He wasn’t saying it’s wrong to have money, even to be rich.  Remember Him saying “So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?”

Heckler              So actually, He doesn’t mind us having money, as long as we are sensible and trustworthy with it? Are you saying that our attitude to money is what really counts?

Rev Deb             Yes, I think that’s about it.

Heckler              So how can I use my money as Jesus would want?

Rev Deb             Well, I think Jesus wants us to be honest and not to hoard our money, and not  be mean with it. Jesus challenged people to use it to help others in need, to give generously.

Heckler              But, we are to use it to look after ourselves, aren’t we?

Rev Deb             Oh yes.  Because after all God has given human beings this whole world and everything in it, in order that we can be fed and warm, have homes for shelter.  He gives enough for the whole world, but the problem is, we don’t share it out very well do we?  Most of us in this country have too much to eat.  Many people in some other parts of the world just don’t have enough.

Heckler              So you think it’s about sharing, do you?

Rev Deb              Yes, yes, I do think it’s about sharing.  I think it’s about looking after our family and also looking after our neighbours.

Heckler              Well, when Jesus was thinking about neighbours, he wasn’t, like, just thinking about Mrs Jones at No.6, and my other neighbour Mr. Smith at No.2 was He?

Rev Deb               Well, what do you think He was thinking about?

Heckler              Well, I suppose He was thinking about those people who don’t have any homes, like I see those people selling the ‘Big Issue’. And I suppose He was also thinking about those homeless and the hungry. I suppose he was thinking about those millions who live on less than £1 a day. In fact, I suppose he means that everyone’s our neighbour really, aren’t they?

Rev Deb             Yes, I suppose they are.

Heckler              Well then, whom else should we share our money with then, apart from those who need it, and our family?

Rev Deb              We also need to share it with our church.

Heckler              Our churches don’t need money!!

Rev Deb              I’m afraid they do.

Heckler              But I thought churches had ‘loads … money’.  All those church buildings around the country. And those investments looked after by those people in London, the Church Commissioners.

Rev Deb              Well, we do have a lot of buildings, but we can’t make money out of them can we while they are churches? And yes, there are investments given by very rich and generous people in the past.  But, the cost of a fair wage to clergy and paying them a retirement pension means that the interest on those investments is not enough. So, the money we do get from investments is given to the poorest dioceses in the country where the need is greatest.  And wealthier churches support churches in poorer areas through the parish share. That seems right and proper to me.

Heckler              Well, I suppose you are right there. So, what else does a church need money for then?

Rev Deb              Can I have the help of our children again?

                          We’ve the cost of the clergy

                          (put a dog collar on a child/or hold doll vicar)

                          And the cost of their home

                          (give a picture of the vicarage to hold)

                          Right, we’ve got the cost of training new vicars

                          (put L plates and dog collar on a child or doll)

And, we have also got the cost of heating and lighting the church.

                          (give a torch)

                          We need to pay for repairs

                          (give hard hat)

                          We’ve also got the cost of insurance.

Heckler              Does the church have to pay insurance?  Doesn’t God look after that?

Rev Deb              All churches pay insurance. Thanks to our insurance, we had the damaged vestments in the vestry replaced a couple of years ago. Our insurance has paid for the work on the organ caused by the water that came in by the roof up there. We have also managed to get a grant to sort out the roof so that the organ doesn’t get damaged by water again.

                          (briefcase)

                          Then we have to pay for the services – like the tuning of the organ and piano, worship books and candles. 

                          (candles & hymn book)

                          We also have the administration – like the photocopier. 

                          (paper & pen)

                          The cost of the hall

                          (mop & bucket)

                          Finally, sharing with the poor – both for their physical needs like food and water and the Good News

                          (tins of food and bible)

Heckler              (Looking along the line of children with props)

Goodness me!  That seems an awful lot of expense.  How much does that cost?

Rev Deb              Well don’t ask me.  Ask the Treasurer.

                          (Shouts out to Treasurer, who answers  £…….. per week)

Heckler
              Wow!  And where does all that money come from?

Rev Deb             Firstly, we get the money from fees, don’t we? Weddings, funerals and baptisms – although a proportion of this goes to the diocese.

                          (Bouquet, baptism candle)

                          Secondly, we have the Church Fair, social events, Lent/Harvest lunches, and various fund-raising events.

                          (Apple pie/cakes)

Money from the groups using the church house Joan so capably organises and from the youth and community centre – both of which are self-sustaining but also contribute greatly to our funding.

                          (Cup of tea)

                          Magazine

                          (Magazine)

                          Special Donations

                          (Money box)

                          Legacies & Investments

                          (Angel/Angels Wings)

Heckler
              But that leaves a huge gap.  Where does the rest of the money come from?

Treasurer          Well, from people who are members of the church.

Heckler              So……How much do the people who are members of the church have to pay, Mrs Treasurer?

Treasurer          Well, if it doesn’t add up to £……….  amount of money each year, we are in trouble.

Heckler              (Exclaims!!)

                          That’s a lot of money!  How much per person per week?

Treasurer          £…….

Heckler              (Repeats the amount of money – and says)

                          So,  £….   is what it costs.  So, if we all give that amount of money every week, we’ll be OK – like a club subscription.

Rev Deb            (Jumps in quickly)

                          But we are not a club.  And it’s very important that we realise we are not a club.  It would be really wrong to ask everybody to give the same.

Heckler              WHY?

Rev Deb                    (sighs)

Well, let all the children sit down. 

Heckler              Why don’t we run like a club then? We could have tickets, couldn’t we?

Rev Deb               No, No, No. Because the story about the Widows Mite and the Pharisees, was just meant to say that.  Don’t you remember it?  The Pharisees and the priests were wrong to ask the widow to give everything she had.  We mustn’t ask people who haven’t got enough money, to give what they can’t afford.  People who have more, should give more and those who don’t have much shouldn’t be asked to give much.

Heckler              Well, ok then, no subscription!  But how on earth do we decide how to share?

Rev Deb              The thing to do is to look at how much God gives to you – if it’s a salary, a pension, or pocket money.  Then we look at setting aside a proportion of that money to share for God’s work in the church and the world, just like we set aside some for caring for our family and our needs.

Heckler              So you look at how much you’ve got … and then how much of that to share?

Rev Deb               That’s right.

Heckler              Ok, I’ll do that – but what you’ve been talking about is not about money as much as faith!  I can see now why it is important to the church and other people that we share our money to help run the church and give to others in need.  But is it important to us, to share?

Rev Deb               Yes, it is.  Because it is part of our worship of God.  So, when we put money into an envelope, or when we give money to the homeless, we are actually saying ‘Thank you’ to God and we are actually helping His will to be done.  It’s no use praying the Lord’s Prayer ‘Thy/Your will be done’ – unless we help to make it happen. 

Heckler              It’s a bit like putting your money where your mouth is really, isn’t it?  Worshipping with our money as well as our hymns and prayers.

Rev Deb             Yes – you’ve it.

Heckler              It is all very well to ask for money, but what about reducing the costs within church?

Rev Deb              The PCC have looked at how we can reduce our costs. We have recently changed our utility providers to a more eco-friendly and cheaper provider. We try to be careful in our purchases, and our use of resources. We have a number of people who help us with jobs for us either for free, at cost or at a good rate. We have applied for grants and funding. We try and be good managers of the funding that we have.

Heckler              OK. I get all that but why are we doing this now? Why are we thinking about money on the first Sunday of Lent?

Rev Deb              The PCC decided that once a year we should have the opportunity to review what we give. We may think I am happy with what I am giving, it is all I can afford – and that’s OK. It may be on reflection that we think ‘I can give a little bit more – I will increase my direct debit’. It may be that we decide that can’t increase our giving at the moment, but we will put some additional money on the plate, as and when we can. The important thing is that once a year we review before God what we can give.

                          And why Lent? Lent is a time when we think of a season of penitence and sacrifice. In the gospel reading today we heard about Jesus being tempted and yet standing firm. During Lent we may decide to give something up or take something on. Some of us this year of service, may be thinking about taking on 40 Acts of Kindness. Lent is an opportunity for us to reflect for ourselves on the money we give, why we give it and if there are any changes to be made.

Heckler              So, how do we give our money?

Rev Deb            Over to you Hedley.

Hedley               Thank you Reverend Deborah, our heckler Laurel. our treasurer Anne and our young helpers for helping us to understand the need for us to increase the amount of money that we give to our church.

                          The simplest way that we can give money is by putting cash on the collection plate. The only problem with this is that the amount can vary from week to week. A better way is to decide to give a regular amount each month in an envelope. The third way is to give a regular donation to our church from your bank account each month by a Bankers Order. If you pay Income Tax we can reclaim a quarter of what you give as Gift Aid. Sometimes we have collections at special events and we have yellow envelopes so that the donation may also be Gift Aided.

                          Since July when I made an appeal twentyfour members of our Church Family, almost a quarter of our regular givers, have decided to increase their giving. This is wonderful but it would be even more wonderful if more could do this. If you need any advice or a box of envelopes or a Bankers Order Form see me or my wife Angela 

Heckler              OK, thanks. I get it. You can carry on with your sermon now!

Rev Deb              There’s no point now – we’ve covered everything I was going to say. Amen


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