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  • vicar29

Good News and Generous Giving (John 14: 15 - 21)

Today, and for the next couple of weeks, I am inviting St Andrew’s Church family to talk about money. I am unashamedly asking us to talk about money. It may not be a very British thing to do, and until recent generations it was not something that had to be done at all in the Church of England, so I am aware that this may come with a degree of discomfort. And yet I am unashamedly inviting us as Church Family to talk about money as part of a planned giving campaign here at St Andrew’s.

Today, I want to think theologically about money. Because we rarely talk about money at Church, we tend to assume that it is not very theological to do so. In fact, the reverse is the case. In the Gospel accounts Jesus mentions money 24 times. In comparison, he only speaks about prayer 17 times, so I think we can safely say that money, and how we use it, was an important subject to Christ.

Having organised the dates for this Planned Giving campaign back in November, I turned to this week’s reading in the hope that I might find one of Jesus’ many saying about money as the set text. But no such luck. My heart sank. I looked again. And I began to see.

Today is the Sunday before Ascension Day. In our reading from John, we find Jesus preparing the disciples for his Ascension, the time when the world will no longer see him. After Easter, as we have heard over the last few Sundays, Jesus appeared to his followers in many different ways and in many different places. Then, at some point, whether it was after the symbolic 40 days or another unspecified time frame, Jesus stopped appearing. He returned to be with the Father in eternity.

I often wonder why. Why, if he was in an eternal, resurrection body, did Jesus not just hang around. The whole faith thing would be so much easier if he had. One of the reasons I think that Jesus did not hang around was because God needed to let the Church get on being the Church. And that would be quite difficult to do if Jesus were here to lead it himself.

During his earthly ministry, Jesus had given his followers instructions about what they should do. Through what he said and what he did, Jesus set the pattern for the Church’s ongoing ministry. So what did Jesus expect the Church to do? If the Church is to continue Christ’s work on earth, what specifically is that work?

Several things spring to mind:

Probably nothing too controversial there.

I wonder what you notice about these things, these tasks for the Church?

For me, today, one thing really stands out. These are not tasks for a Sunday morning. These are not things that only happen between 10 am and 11 am on a Sunday. This is the work of the Church 7 days a week.

Our worship of God here at St Andrew’s happens every single day of the year. Every day prayer is offered by this Church. That is our core activity, and as well as our own private prayer, daily corporate prayer and worship day is the heartbeat of this Church.

And then, this Church’s work continues. On Bank Holiday Tibbs Dementia Care hosted a Coronation Party for 150 people in our building at 24 hours notice. On Tuesdays the website is updated so that those who are seeking God can find out about our community of faith. On a Wednesday, Citizens of Bedford, supported by this congregation, met with Mayoral candidates to hold them to account about homeless policy. On Thursdays, the Talking Elephants group, meets to support those who are grieving. On Fridays, Coffee and Company offers just those things to those who are lonely. On Saturdays we hold Messy Church for young families. And every single day of the week, people come to find peace and solace in this Church, to seek God here.

This ministry, this Monday to Sunday ministry of the Church continuing Christ’s work, needs resourcing. As John’s Gospel suggests, we are resourced by the Holy Spirit. And we need financial resources. We need money. When you give to St Andrew’s, you are not paying for membership, membership of God’s family is free! When you give to St Andrew’s are not paying an entry fee for the hour’s worship you engage with; we are not a theatre. You are not even paying a subscription to ensure that the Church is here when you want to come back.

When you give money to the Church, you are resourcing God’s mission in this place, the mission and ministry this Church is called to carry out on Christ’s behalf. The mission and ministry which goes on every day of the year. Binding up the broken hearted. Setting the captive free. Feeding the hungry. Looking after children and widows. Protecting the vulnerable. Visiting prisoners. Making new disciples. Yes, some of this will benefit you directly. But much of it won’t. That’s sort of the point of mission, that’s why we give to any charity; because we believe in the work they do even though we don’t benefit from it ourselves.

So I suppose the question is; how much do we believe in God’s mission at St Andrew’s? How important do we think the work of this Church is, even when we are not here? How much more could this Church do for Christ? And does what I give to this Church reflect that? These are the questions we are invited to ponder and respond to as together we ensure that mission, that ministry thrives into the future.

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