Fr David's Sermon
7th December 2003
Each Advent at St. Matthew's we are invited to renew our stewardship for the coming year, so I thought I'd share some thoughts about this with you.
Behind all that we do as Christians is God's covenant with his people. A covenant is a solemn, binding, agreement between two parties. It often involves the exchange of goods or services and includes an element of promise.
In the Old Testament God made a Covenant with his people Israel. He promised to be their God forever, to go with them and to rescue them. The Law given through Moses was a sign of this. In the keeping of the Law the people were responding to God's gift.
In the New Testament, a new Covenant was established through the coming of Christ and through his death and resurrection. As Christians we respond to the generous grace of God in lives of worship and loving service.
There is of course a major difference between the Biblical covenants and ordinary human ones. God remains faithful and absolutely trustworthy even though we do not. The offer of total, loving forgiveness is always there. It is an integral part of the Covenant between God and his people.
That is always our starting point when we prayerfully consider our response. We begin by recalling what God has done for us and then we respond in love.
At St. Matthew's we will be thankful for all that we receive from one another through the life of our Church. We will be grateful for our beautiful building, a sign of God's presence and an aid to our worship. We will wish to seek new ways of sharing our faith with others. This is itself an act of faith in the future. We have given concrete expression to this in our building work on the hall. This has already born much fruit through increasing use of the hall and therefore wider links with others in Oxhey and beyond.
Our ongoing exploration of the best means of improving access to our Church is further evidence of our desire to look outwards and share our faith. Hopefully the embarrassment of watching frail, elderly or disabled guests struggling into the church for weddings or funerals will soon be but a memory, as will similar difficulties faced by some of our regulars.
Another key area for our response to God's grace is vocation. God calls, we respond. Our membership of the Church enables and equips us to fulfil our vocation to serve God in the daily circumstances of our lives at work, in retirement, at school or at home. The main response to vocation will thus be expressed away from here.
However we will also wish to think about how we can use our talents here at St. Matthew's. There is scope in this to ask whom God is calling here to ordained ministry or to Reader Ministry. Future developments in the life of the Church of England are leading to a greater diversity of patterns of ministry. What will our part be in all that?
In the coming year our PCC will be considering our response to the Watford Deanery Plan. Essentially this about how we can work more closely with neighbouring parishes. Exciting developments include the Town Centre Chaplaincy and plans for a deanery youth worker.
There is also an ecumenical dimension to this. I deliberately began by talking about Covenant because of a very encouraging initiative that our PCC is undertaking with Bushey and Oxhey Methodist Church, following on from a PCC meeting attended by their minister, Rev Chris Jones. We were wondering how we might respond at a local level to the National Anglican-Methodist Covenant. This is an agreement by our two Churches to work towards unity. Unlike previous abortive unity schemes it does not seek to begin with institutional unity, rather to work towards it. What we wondered, could we do together?
As well as practical matters we felt it would be good to have a joint service. Chris Jones suggested that we might like to share in the annual Methodist Covenant Service. This is a rededication of our lives to God. He also generously offered to come to St. Matthew's for the service. So to cut along story short our two congregations will come together for the Covenant Service on Sunday 11th January at 11.15am, followed by lunch. We will also formally commit ourselves to the National Covenant, to work at a local level towards greater unity.
Such a meeting together obviously involves some sacrifice, of place, time, familiarity, principle but that is no bad thing. Overall the result should be great gain as we share with one another to give thanks for God's blessings and to rededicate ourselves in his service.
To end I invite us all to prayerfully consider how we wish to respond to God's generosity in stewardship of our time, talents and money. I also wish to express our thanks for your generosity over the last year.
Yours, Lord is the greatness, the power, the glory, the splendour, and the majesty;
For everything in heaven and on earth is yours.
All things come from you and of your own to we give you.
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Last updated 07/12/2002 09:00:00 Author: Fr David Shepherd