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next before Lent, Yr B, 19.2.2012
(All are to honoured for what they can commit to the common cause.)
In all the years that Dorothy and I have been at St Markís I do not
remember any sermon being directly about stewardship, that is about how we as
Christians make good use of our time, our talents and our money as members of
the Body of Christ.
In the Episcopal Church in the
For a long time the dioceses and parishes of the C of E were supported by
very substantial funds from the monies made by
the Church Commissioners. This
support has been decreasing, not only because of the present economic climate,
but also because with more retired clergy living longer, such as myself, the
Church Commissioners have been forced to set aside larger amounts for pensions.
Our Diocese of Birmingham not only is far from being one of the more
affluent dioceses, but it also has a lot of urban priority areas.
In the face of this challenge we can take pride in the fact that our
diocese has a well above average record for financial stewardship on the part of
But here are some of the facts about the situation that we face.
As many of you know, Nick was promised a second stipendiary priest when
he came, but this has since been withdrawn, thereby saving the Diocese over £40,000,
namely, the cost of the stipend, housing, pension, National Insurance, and
Council Tax. Or to put it another
way, it keeps the Diocese from going further into the red by another £40,000.
We have 169 parishes in the diocese, but only 36 of them contribute
enough into the common fund to cover the cost of a priest.
This is only one out of five parishes. Without the input from the Church
Commissioners the diocese simply would not survive.
As it is, nearly 2/3 of our income as a diocese is from voluntary giving,
and over 2/3 of that income is spent on parish clergy and housing.
St Markís has a very good track record for the amount of time and
energy, not to mention money, spent over the years in giving yeomen service to
the community in the name of Christ. But
even so, now is the time to look again at what we can commit, not least
financially, for the years ahead, as we prayerfully consider making our pledges.
If we turn to the NT for pointers, we find Jesus in Mark and Luke
commending the sacrificial giving of the widow who puts into the temple treasury
her two copper coins (Mk 12.41-44; Lk 21.1-4).
Perhaps Luke in the Gospel and in Acts has the most to say about
financial matters. In the Gospel we
have the story of the self-satisfied man who piles up wealth by building more
barns but then loses the whole lot by dying (12.16-21).
We also have the story of the rich man and Lazarus (18.20ff.).
In Acts Luke paints a very rosy and probably idealised picture of the
Also there is the story in Matthew (20.1-6) of the hiring of workers for
the vineyard, and all of them are paid a full dayís wages, from those who
worked all day to those who worked only one hour. If we reverse
this, we can see that it is the spirit of our giving that counts, not the
Let me leave you with this: when you review, renew, or make a new
commitment to our common purpose. When
we were baptized we became members of the Body of Christ, and, as St Paul
reminds us in 1 Cor, all members of the Body need each other, from the greatest
to the least, and all are to be honoured for what they can commit toward our
task and joy of showing forth Godís love in Christ here at St Markís and