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Kevin’s Sermon on Commitment 110916

Woolavington Commitment Sunday 11th September 2016 – Text Psalm 8

The Psalm Karen read as our first reading is all about status…status, meaning, "standing place", where we stand in the scheme of things, in the order of creation. I must confess Psalm 8 is hands down my favourite psalm; it’s the scientist in me marvelling at the sheer scale of the cosmos. The psalmist is standing looking at the heavens in sheer awe…"When I consider the heavens...the moon and the stars…we’re so small, yet you have made us a little lower than God, and crowned us with glory and honour. You have given us dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under our feet."

In modern society status is all about importance and importance seems so often to equate with power and power seems to equate with wealth and economic clout. We talk about status symbols, which are usually all very temporal and material; a big car or house, even the rather large luxury yacht moored incongruously alongside HMS Belfast on the Thames this week.

This psalm challenges us to think about our status in relationship with God and all of the created world – we stand firstly in a place of dependence on God for our needs, giving us glory and honour, dignity. And secondly in a place of responsibility to the rest of creation, the flora and fauna and the environment. And all of humanity stands together in this same status in relationship to God – none of us are any more or less important than any others, although some of our politicians and leaders would have us think that citizens of the UK or the USA are more precious than any others – not so. We are all have equal status and everyone deserves dignity. Our status, all of us, is a little lower than the angels; God regards us that highly – wow!! And in responsibility to the rest of creation.

So I think the first point to be made today in a Service of Commitment is that with God supplies our needs. Over the next couple of weeks, we celebrate Harvest – a chance to give thanks particularly for God’s gifts to us in the form of our food and those who work to bring it to our table. But when we think of our needs we must also remember our skills and talents. And, if we are given skills and talents, the psalm reminds us of our responsibility to use them as good stewards of all God has given us. Not to use our skills and talents to serve God is a failure to recognise that those gifts come from him.

I have written to all of you who are regulars in the congregation or on the electoral roll of the church to thank you for all you do with your skills and talents, and indeed time, in your different ways – thank you. It is appreciated. Today is an opportunity to re-assess what you do; maybe reassess how much you do and what perhaps you could do to be a better steward of the church here in Woolavington. Maybe it’s time to change, to try something different. To commit to something that may be a challenge to you.

And even our worship, as part of our response to God, is a commitment. Time to come to church. I’m preaching to the converted, because you are here! In last Sunday’s Gospel Jesus reminded the crowds that nothing is more important than discipleship. If we choose to follow Jesus as his disciples, recognising his love for us, it is a commitment to put him first, not merely regard our church membership as an afterthought, for when it is convenient or only on Sundays when we feel like it. Faith is a 24/7 commitment. I said last week, it’s a commitment that means even if we have visitors for the weekend, we put our worship first. Of course, rest and break are important and biblical – God rested – overdoing it is not best service either; it’s all choices.

And, secondly, although I recognise it is particularly hard for many of you who share your income with others who do not necessarily share your faith or who are on income dependant on interest rates, putting God first includes our money. In our budgeting to decide what we give to the church financially, we should be willing donors to support God’s work, and make our decision of how much to give a priority, not only from what is left over. And that may mean hard choices, sacrificial choices.

I’m not asking you to do anything I don’t do, and I don’t find it easy to talk about money. And I’m certainly not going to give you a formula for how much you should give. It is not for me to put a figure on your commitment. It is your decision of course. We all have to make choices. What I would ask is that you consider prayerfully and mindfully, if you have not already done so, your financial commitment. It is very easy to give the same for years, and proportionally therefore for our giving to stagnate and diminish. Especially with a standing order it is easy to just let it be and forget all about it; I’ve done it. Our personal review of our giving should be a regular and conscious decision as part of our response to God’s generosity and mercy to us. And his generosity and love are unconditional.

So why does the church need so much money? The Church of England, for all its faults, is a church that exists for every member of this country. Much of my work is not with members of my congregations, but in the schools and with people asking for weddings, baptisms or funerals, or just talking in the street. You are as aware as I am that to preserve the role of a local parish priest into the future is going to be a challenge with diminishing membership in village churches, not just here but across the country. To fund all this the church has a common fund. The responsibility of our contribution to the diocesan common fund for a small church is a major expense. Bigger town churches pay in more than they get back in terms of ministry. We and most rural churches get back more than we pay in, even if you have a shared priest. But we are part of the bigger picture, the nationwide church, and it is a serious commitment for our PCC that we should try to pay our contribution to the diocese in full. I hope we can. The responsibility is ours, the members of the church, to do so, if we believe in the future of the church here as serving the people.

So to sum up, let’s get back to status and Psalm 8. Status has nothing to do with money or possessions; the world has got it wrong again.Status is to do with our relationship with God, each other and the created world. We are afforded a position a little lower than the angels, valued highly by God, and, in his mercy, he gives us all we need, if only we share it fairly. In this position we are entrusted with responsibilities, to the environment, to each other and, of course, to our faith. The future of the church depends on us. The responsibility is ours. We are stewards of creation and the Christian faith, and, if we say we are disciples, then our response to those responsibilities is to consider consciously and prayerfully our commitment in terms of time, talents, skills and money.

Thank you seriously for all you do and what you give already.

Thank you for taking the time to consider what you can do and what you can give in the future.

God bless you all.

Let’s stand for a prayer of commitment in our stewardship…

Father God, enable us with generous hearts to use the gifts we have received from you…our skills, talents, time and money, to serve others, faithfully in this place. Amen.