SERMON BY REV JAN CROMBIE
PENTECOST SEVEN : Commitment Sunday 28th July 2019
Hosea 1: 2-10; Psalm 85; Colossians 2: 6-15; Luke 11: 1-13
With the prayer your Son taught us always on our lips…. the words of the Collect this morning remind us of the framework and the lens of how we encounter the Word of God, and indeed life itself. As we ponder the dramatic metaphors from Hosea describing God dealing with Israel, we move to the psalm to find the hope of mercy in God’s wrath and displeasure. When we turn to Paul, and his letter to the new church in Colossae, we also find stern words against wrong teaching, against the culture of mixing Christ’s instruction with the popular philosophy of the day. That warning is certainly very relevant, through the ages, and today.
Paul, as always, is so strongly Christocentric – “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him and established in faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” This is actually a wonderful way to express the culmination of the month of July and the focus, and our response, of stewardship of the parish.
We have received Jesus Christ.
We are to continue our lives in him – rooted in him, building up in him.
We have established that relationship in faith, as he, Jesus, has taught us.
And we are to abound in thanksgiving.
It is the ‘abounding in thanksgiving’ that becomes the stewardship of our lives …. the definition of stewardship being “the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care”. We, as Christians in community, have been entrusted to care for many things….
- for the Word of God, to uphold it, respect it, speak it, follow it, not neglect it
- for the Sacrament of Christ, to reverently and regularly break the bread together
- for each other, as members of the Body of Christ, and especially the children
- for the work of Christ’s church, and his commission, found at the conclusion of Matthew’s Gospel, to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.”
- for creation, all that God has made and keeps making
- for the transformation of injustice and violence into peace and reconciliation
- for the care of the needs of others in service and good works
So Christian stewardship is extensive and carries great responsibility. The response to the word ‘stewardship’ in the church is often … oh, it’s about money. It is only one aspect. To work with these responsibilities we know we need a healthy base, a community growing in faith and sharing the resources of each other. Financial resources are part of what we have been entrusted to give and to manage . As we emerge from six years of catching up with healthy financial giving, we will be enabled to discern one aspect of our capacity to work God’s mission. We have all been asked to prayerfully consider our financial giving and today we will bless the commitment indicated for the next 12 months.
As we know, this is just one aspect of stewardship. The most significant response to the responsibilities of what we have been entrusted to care for, God’s church, is actually the whole of us. Everything we do, our very being. At the very heart of that is our own relationship with Christ, and (in Paul’s understanding) our commitment to be rooted in him, to build up in him …. that is, to grow in him. Conversion into Christ is life-long, and we need to take seriously our faith formation, our growth in that journey of developing faith. God, in faith, has entrusted through his grace, faith in us to do so. This is why God was so angry with his people Israel that we hear from the prophet Hosea – he likens them to a prostitute, forsaking the Lord. Through it all, though, God will not let his people go… the thread that holds the grand narrative of the ‘before Christ’ time is the same thread of the New Testament – the redeeming love of God.
Yes, I do hope and pray we will be able to rise above our financial deficit operational pattern. This will give confidence to continue to imagine new things in God’s mission. My main hope and prayer though is that we will continue to grow in faith together – in worship, in regular small groups gathered around the word of God, in living out care of others in practical ways, and in offering hospitality and companionship to a world lost in the ways of distraction away from Jesus Christ. As I said on Friday night, we are noticing that one of the key emerging needs in our community is to find spaces where people can gather and be human together – to listen to each other, to share hospitality. The church used to be the ‘village green’ – it is timely to reclaim our situation in the neighbourhoods of humanity.
The theme for the parish this year is “Strengthening Community” – and it seems to me we have done some wonderful things in that spirit already. This month is a strong indicator of that – the community Booksale come fete next weekend, the Community Forum on Loneliness 18 August, Foodies and Friends 21 August, and the continuing gathering of people in Messy Church.
Next year I am proposing that our parish theme be “Strengthening Faith” for the reasons I have articulated above. It also sits with the broad progressing missional model of Belonging, Believing and Behaving. As we connect and build a community where people find a place to belong, we need to be ready and proactive about offering opportunities for the questions, teaching and development of ‘what we believe’. Through that development comes the maturity of ‘behaving’, that is, the stewardship response of life in Christ.
What a wonderful journey we are on together. What a wonderful faith community this is, as we live out our faith together and in the whole place of our lives with families, friends, work, community, life. May God continue to bless us in our commitment to Christ, and our commitment to join in the mission of God, as God calls. Amen.