Monday, 31 October 2016

What's it worth? - Sunday 30th October 2016

Whenever we buy something, we do a calculation in our heads concerning what it will cost us and what it is worth to us. Different people value things differently. We did a test. We took a look at Picasso’s painting "Nude, Green Leaves and Bust”. The most anyone in St Catherine’s was prepared to pay for it was £200 - a long way short of the $106.5 million that someone else paid for it at auction in 2010!
So, how does God value our financial offerings - be they to a church or to any charitable cause?
Jesus was seated near the Temple treasury, teaching his disciples, while worshippers and tourists made their obligatory financial contributions. He saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins and drew his disciples' attention to it. “This woman has given more than all the others,” he observed. "They gave out of their wealth, but this woman has given all that she had to live on.”
God is not interested in the numerical value of our donations, but is interested in what our offering is worth to us. God doesn’t measure in sterling, euros or dollars, but in love and generosity. When we consider how much to give to a church or charity, it is not enough to look at the numbers; we need to look into our hearts. Often we give just enough to satisfy our conscience. That's not very satisfying. But if we give just enough to put a smile on God's face, we might find that the smile will visit our face too.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Treat yourself - Sunday 9th October 2016

It’s so easy to take life for granted, and once we get into that habit, we start to assume that we have an inalienable right to be healthy, wealthy and happy. How can we prevent ourselves from slipping into that thinking?
When Moses was preparing the Israelites for their new life as peasant farmers in their own land, this was one of the factors that needed to be addressed. His proposal was to establish two points in the year for some deliberate thankfulness. These were not to be solemn occasions in which people were expected to grovel before God saying “I am not worthy.” Not at all. These moments of gratefulness were intended to be indulgent parties. Moses instructed: 'With money secure in hand, go to the place that God will choose; spend the money on whatever you wish - oxen, sheep, wine, strong drink, or whatever you desire. And eat there in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your family rejoicing together.’
In so many Christian communities, the ‘tithe’ (a tenth of one’s income) is used as an intense fund-raising tool, as people are requested to make a substantial donation to their church. The line is: 'God gave you this money, now you must give 10% of it back.’ That is not what Moses was suggesting. Moses, in partnership with God, was calling for a massive and joyous feast. What parent would give their child a sum of money for their birthday, and immediately ask for a tenth of it back? Our heavenly father is not like that. He provides for us and asks that we devote at least a tenth of that provision to treating ourselves. God is not glorified by his people tightening their finances in submission to a religious law. He is glorified when his people loosen their proverbially tight belts and give themselves and each other a treat in his honour. 
God is our heavenly father, not our heavenly tax inspector.

Monday, 3 October 2016

So Well Known - Sunday 2nd October 2016

We know more about King David than any other character in the Bible. Not only do we have a wide range of surprisingly honest stories, spanning from his early teens to frail old age, we also have a stack of poems - lyrics to songs - that are reliably attributed to this remarkable man. So we don’t just know what David did, we know how he thought, and how he felt.
Many of David’s psalms reveal the insecurity of power, and show us a powerful man who was constantly looking over his shoulder for fear of attack. But there are other psalms that reveal David, son of Jesse, to be a deep and passionate thinker, attentive to the most fundamental questions of life.
In Psalm 139 David reflects on the experience of knowing, and being known by, God. "You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away. Even before a word is on my tongue, you know it completely.” He further contemplates God's inescapable knowledge: "Where can I flee from your presence? If I take the wings of the morning and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me.” Then David switches from that wide poetic perspective to one of extreme intimacy: “You knit me together in my mother’s womb. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.”
There have been many occasions in the history of religion when the all-knowing nature of God has been used to frighten people into submission. But David expresses no fear. For him, the eternal presence of God is like a thick duvet on a cold night. God’s presence is the only place that he feels safe and secure.
Jesus, on occasion, was called ‘Son of David’. This can’t have been because Jesus was a warrior or a politician because he did not model himself on those aspects of his famous ancestor. Jesus was the ‘Son of David’ because he too opened people’s eyes to the gently powerful, merciful love of God. To employ the most famous poetic reflection of the young shepherd turned great king: "God is my shepherd. I will lack nothing."