Fr David's Sermon
17th November 2002
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Second before Advent
Ages ago I made a note in my diary to talk today about stewardship before we are invited to renew our giving for the coming year in Advent. Today's parable of the talents lends itself to this very well, but I'd like to begin with Zephaniah.
- 'Be silent before the Lord God!'
Being silent before the Lord is not something that we are very good at, within or without the church. We live in age of clamour and fragmentation. Actually it doesn't seem to have been so different for the people Zephaniah addressed in Jerusalem. They would soon be shaken out of their complacency by the day of the Lord, that he likens to the laying waste of the city.
Listening to God 'our refuge' is vital because I suspect we are unable to give without receiving. Stewardship is our response to God's grace, to what he gives us. The more aware we are of God's generosity in our lives the easier we find it to give. The trouble is we find it hard to receive. Why? - Sin!
To be silent before God and before the given ness of our faith is to open our selves to many possibilities. It is also to be open to self -discovery, to find where our own talents lay, so that we may exercise them to the full.
- 'The one who had received the one talent went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master's money'. The danger for all of us is that we dig in, bury what we have been given. Defence rather than advance becomes the order of the day. This becomes a temptation in the face of apparent decline. We hide the things of God, hang on to our cash and don't realise our full potential. Sin lays not so much in our wrong actions, but in what we have failed to do, in our failure to live our lives to the full. Good stewardship means being willing to dig a few things up!
- 'Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing'. Having admonished the Thessalonians, St. Paul ends on that positive note of praise. Here at St. Matthew's in our quiet way we are good at encouraging one another and building each other up. There is the mutual care and support that often goes on unseen but is much appreciated.
We have been doing a fair bit of digging recently with our building works. This is an outward sign of our desire to be open and welcoming to newcomers. In faith we have been spending our capital in the hope that it will lead to growth. The inter relationship of our flourishing toddler group, baptisms and family service has given us the opportunity to form relationships with a new set of people. A very necessary set of stewardship tasks involves bridge building as a befriending sidesman, coffee maker, and friendly neighbour in the pew. Such things are simple and lead to growth.
We now need to increase our income both to replenish our capital and to meet the ongoing costs of mission, ministry and maintenance. The challenge is to grow numerically, in faith and in giving. Currently we are running at a deficit both financially and in personnel.
- 'Well done, good and trusty slave.' We will want to hear those words of Jesus for ourselves, to know that we have been good servants, making much of all that he has given us, handing it on to those who will come after. Having considered all that he has given to us we will wish to respond; in our prayers with thanksgiving, in our acts of neighbourliness, in our giving to the work of his Church here a St. Matthew's.
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Last updated 17/11/2002 13:30:00 Author: Fr David Shepherd