Giving Sermon, Advent Sunday 2009
May I speak in the name of the Living God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
It always used to make me angry whenever there was a sermon about money. So angry that I didn’t want to hear what was being said. I disliked they way they made
me feel guilty, and I hated leaving the church feeling awkward and uncomfortable.
So there’s no one more surprised than me to be standing here today preaching
It’s over 8 months now since Father Bob first ambushed me in the queue for the pie and peas at Ulric’s race night; he had that smile on his face that suggested he was about to volunteer me for something. He asked me if I’d like to consider taking on
the role of ‘Parish Giving Officer’ for St Giles. So I asked him what that was, and
when he explained that it was about money my heart sank. He did say that I didn’t
have to decide right away. That I could take my time think about it, but if I was interested he’d take me to a taster evening to see what the being a ‘Giving Officer’
was all about.
So two weeks later I found myself in the church hall of St Thomas Bradley, Listening to Brian Morris the Stewardship and Resources officer and Peter Townley ‘The
Archdeacon of Pontefract’. They spoke about Christian Stewardship, money, and its relationship to the Church and to God. I wasn’t sure I liked what I was hearing, but at
least I listened. At the end of the evening Bob asked me what I thought, and I told him I wasn’t sure it was right for me with all this talk of money. He smiled and said
not to worry, there’s a training day coming up soon you can decide then.
The second meeting was held in a marquee on the lawn at the Bishops Lodge in Wakefield. Father Bob, Father Ian and Bob Battye were all there to make sure I didn’t run away. I soon discovered that what I thought was just a training session wasn’t that at all. It was a service for the commissioning of giving officers. Ambushed again, and by three of them this time! Before I could turn round and have a word with Bob I was up on my feet in front of the Bishop being commissioned.
I went home that night feeling worried, uncomfortable and still unclear in many respects as to what was expected of me.
A training morning was held at the Cathedral School, Wakefield back in September. By this time I was a little more clued up. I’d been on that wonderful Yorkshire invention t’internet and done a little research on Christian Stewardship. The
Wakefield Anglican web site was very good and it was there that I picked up the following definition of stewardship.
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Christian Stewardship is 'what we do after we say we believe'. It is a tool to help both individuals and churches grow in depth of discipleship, and in generous response to the love of God’
It went on to say that Christian Stewardship is inclusive not exclusive. Not just about money. It’s about the whole Christian life – about discipleship – about learning to
The training morning covered quite a number of topics in a very short time. We talked about personal discipleship. What the bible says about giving. About the role of ‘Giving Officer’ and about what the role entails.
At the end of the morning we were piled high with leaflets and training information and sent on our way.
So there I was recruited, commissioned and trained all in less than six months. When I got home I sat at the table with all the papers stacked up in front of me. The first thing I picked up was a ‘Training Manual for Parish Giving Officers’. The first
section was entitled ‘Money and Me’ with the sub header ‘Personal Discipleship’. It
encouraged the reader to spend some time reflecting on their own feelings with regard to giving.
Reflecting on my own giving as been the most difficult thing I’ve had to do over the last few months. The Apostle Paul tells us that God Loves a Cheerful Giver. He talks about giving in Grace, responding to the Lords generosity by giving with an open heart. I don’t know if I could hold my hand up and claim to have ever ‘Given in Grace’. Giving for me had always been a last minute scramble before church to find a few loose coins to pop into the plate. I’d never planned what I gave to the church. In fact
when I worked out my weekly outgoings the church didn’t even make the list. For
the first time in my Christian life I’d been forced to stop and think.
I came back to the Church as an adult in December, 1986 and I’ve been attending on
a regular basis ever since. That’s 23 years of haphazard offerings, given without
thought or love. 23 years of tipping God with my small change.
So how to turn round the bad habits of a lifetime? The training day in Wakefield helped me when it came to reviewing what I thought about giving. The talk of budget deficits didn’t sway me. I’m not an accountant and most of the money talk
went straight over my head. It wasn’t the graphs, pie charts or power point
presentations that gave me insight. Listening to people talking about Gods grace, and our response to his generosity however, did touch a cord. I realised that I’d
been looking at the offering in the wrong way. I’d finally made the connection
between the collection plate and God. Funding Gods mission is as important as it was in the days of Paul. Transforming peoples’ lives through Christ is as relevant
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today as it ever was. We are all stewards of our faith. It is our responsibility to hold the flame of truth high throughout our lives.
So how much should I give weekly to fund god mission? As you can see my relationship with the plate in the past hasn’t really been a good one. But now it’s not
the plate I’m giving to. I’m now giving my offering to God to do with what he will. Over the last few months I have had lots of time for private reflection and prayer. I no longer get angry when I hear people talking about money and God in the same sentence. I’ve now started to plan my giving. That is ensuring that I’ll give the same
amount for fifty two weeks of the year and that will ensure that the church will be guaranteed a regular income from me.
And when I go jet setting off to the Bahamas, shooting the rapids in Canada, or a weekend in Filey, the Church will still be receiving my money.
There was lots of talk at the training morning about proportional giving. How much should I put in the plate? The church has guidelines, but I emphasise only guidelines, for the amount to be given. They suggest 10% of your income after tax; that being 5% to the church and 5% to a Christian or secular charity of your choice.
There is in truth no set rule for the amount to be given.
Paul in his letter to the Corinthians said this:
‘Each one of you must give as you have made up your mind. Not reluctantly or
under compulsion. For God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work’.
In this leaflet, which I’ll be handing out after the service today, there’s a breakdown of that reading for you all to meditate on. There’s also a section dealing with
methods of giving such as Standing orders and regular giving envelopes.
So finally what does a giving officer do? Well it’s my job to promote generous giving
and encourage growth in this parish. Encourage is the operative word there. I’m not
here to pester you or fill anyone with guilt and I don’t want to make anyone feel
angry. All I’m asking is that people leave here today with this leaflet, and take a little
time to consider regular planned given. Giving from the heart; giving in love; giving, not reluctantly, but generously in response to God’s love.
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit
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