Vicar's Stewardship Sermon 29 April
Stewardship Renewal Sermons: April 2018
Canon Chris Humphries
St Mary’s, Whitegate and St Peter’s, Little Budworth 29th April
3. Time to spare and share
Bible readings: 1 Corinthians 12. 12-27; Luke5: 27-38
Today is the last of our series of Stewardship sermons.
Two weeks ago we thought about “Our generous God” and reflected on the abundance of God’s good gifts to us. Last week we considered our response, and focussed on Zaccheus and the huge change that took place in his life when he took Jesus seriously, with his money and possessions being part and parcel of his offering to God.
This week it’s about our time and our involvement in the church.
But what is the church?
Someone said that “The church is the world’s most extraordinary club. The entrance fee is nothing, the annual subscription is everything, and the society has been formed for the benefit of non-members.” So this worldwide body of people exists to reach out to non-members and love and serve them for the sake of Christ.
Last Tuesday some of us met at St Peter’s and thought about different pictures and models of the church. Peter Hayward was keeping count – I think we came up with about 12. Some are mentioned in the Bible, while some come from other sources. Each highlights in its own way how we belong together, and how we need each other. Let’s think about some of them:
For instance consider a hive of bees. They are led by a Queen, and so is the Church of England! The effort each bee puts in is phenomenal. They fly 55, 000 miles (2.2 times around the world) just to make one pound of honey. It is interesting that on its own a bee would be pretty useless, but as a hive they are incredibly powerful; and the output of honey is a real gift and blessing. Likewise, the honey of the word of God, and our Gospel message is the sweet message of life for a world that, too often, is fed with lies and falsehood.
Or consider a grape-vine. This picture of the people of God goes back to the Old Testament and was a symbol of the nation of Israel, with God seen as the gardener or vine-dresser. Jesus referred to this and said that he is the vine, and we are the branches. We must be grafted into him if we are to bear good fruit.
Then there is a nautical picture, that of the fleet or flotilla. Atlantic convoys in the second world war were stronger and safer from the threat of German u-boats if they were well organised, sailed together, and had the protection of the more powerful ships.
Back to the bible, we can say that the church is like a flock. Jesus is the good shepherd and we are the sheep. He promises to protect us, and to guide us to safe pasture. The extent of his commitment and love is clear when he says that he will lay down his life for the sheep.
The Iona Community also uses the picture of a flock, but this time a flock of wild geese. The wild goose is the Celtic symbol of the Holy Spirit, and is the logo of the Iona Community.
It’s a fact that Geese in flock have 70% greater range than a single goose on its own; geese in formation fly 75% faster than single geese. In the church we need to keep learning the strength of sharing; sharing tasks, sharing challenges, sharing worship, sharing our lives. These are the hallmarks of a community of faith.
All these pictures tell us something useful about what the church is, and our place within it.
In today’s first reading, we heard St Paul talk about the church as a body, with Jesus Christ as the head. You might be a toe or an ear, an elbow or a finger. What is clear is that everyone is needed, whether they think they are important or not. The contribution of every part of the body is vital for its life, health and well-being. If the body suffers then every bit of it is affected. If things are going well, then the whole body appreciates that and is encouraged.
This is an important concept for us as we consider our own involvement in the church here, and the offering of our time. These days most folk are busy with all kinds of things, so we must think something worthwhile before we make it a real priority. My hope is that you will see the mission of our church here at St Mary’s/ St Peter’s as vitally important for us personally, and for the people around us. Our church needs to be a beacon of light and hope in a world and society that is increasingly confusing and worrying for many. On our own we could not hope to influence our local community for good, but as a church, as a body, we can really make a difference. Don’t sit on the sidelines. Be part of it. Consider carefully how you could be involved, what you could do to help God’s work to go forward right here in Whitegate/ Little Budworth.
All offers of help or participation will be gladly received and appreciated. Just have a look at the various tasks and jobs listed in the Stewardship leaflet. From serving on the PCC to flower-arranging, bell ringing, coffee rota, there are a multitude of things large and small that keep our church body ticking over in the work of the Lord. Take a moment. Is the Lord calling you? Be sure that if he gives you a heavenly nudge, then he will also provide the energy , time and wherewithal to do whatever it might be.
Finally, our Gospel reading highlighted one of the lesser-known pictures of the church. Jesus is the bridegroom and we, the church, are his bride. I’m taking several weddings over these coming weeks and I love seeing the devotion and love that couples have for each other. They reach a point where they want to declare their love publicly, and be joined as husband and wife.
The love of Jesus for each of us, and all of us, is just as profound. When we undertake anything in his name, he will uphold and protect us, inspire and enable us, because quite simply he loves us.
In the gospel reading it was the unlikely figure of Levi, Matthew, the tax-collector who Jesus was calling “Follow me”. We still remember Matthew because of his positive response. “And he got up, left everything, and followed him.”
So focus on the picture of the church that inspires you, whether that’s to do with bees, boats, vines, sheep or geese! Know yourself to be included in the love given by Jesus the bridegroom to his bride. You are important to God, and have been blessed with gifts and talents that are needed as part of the body of the church right here, right now.
Do look at the list on the Stewardship leaflet, and fill in the pledge of support form. We are strong together, and the church has always been able to fulfil its mission when its members recognise that God’s call is not confined to the clergy, but that his voice speaks to each individual, with unique gifts to be used and valued. As Paul told the Corinthians:
“Now you are the body of Christ, and individually members of it.”
Vicar's Stewardship Sermon 22 April
Stewardship Renewal Sermons: April 2018
Canon Chris Humphries
St Mary’s, Whitegate and St Peter’s, Little Budworth 22nd April
2. Open hearts and glad response - Christian giving
Bible readings: Luke 19. 1-10 and 2 Corinthians 9. 6-10
“Now, Zaccheus was a very little man, and a very little man was he.
He climbed up into the sycamore tree, for the Saviour he wanted to see.
And as that Saviour passed that way, he looked into the tree,
And said “now Zaccheus, you come down, for i’m coming to your house for tea!”
Ever since I was a child I’ve loved that Sunday School chorus;
Perhaps I knew instinctively that I’d grow up to be vertically challenged!
I’m only 5 foot 4 inches, and of course I don’t agree with the T.V. programme that dared to suggest that shorter people have a lower I.Q. (Intelligence quotient)
This programme also touched on the issue of whether all blondes are really dumb, and whether your I.Q. is higher if you can curl your tongue!
Zaccheus may have been able to curl his tongue; however, as a Jewish man he is very unlikely to have been blonde. The only thing we know for sure is that he was short.
I guess that he had a pretty good I.Q. – he was good with figures, could swing the percentages in his favour, and he was cunning and astute.
Perhaps just the sort of chap to have on board for our Stewardship Renewal. Really ?
Well, as it turns out, yes!
Because, more important than whatever his I.Q. happened to be, he recognised the importance and impact of Jesus in his life.
It all started with the visit Jesus made to Jericho, Zaccheus’ home town. Zaccheus had status in that community – a status grudgingly given. He was the chief tax-collector, and as such was in league with the hated Roman occupying forces; and yet there was something about Jesus that fascinated him, enough to make him act out of character, join the throng, and climb a tree to get a better view.
Jesus noticed the unlikely figure among the branches. He spotted the potential, he understood that within Zaccheus there was a yearning, a discontentment with his life as it was, even a glimmer of faith that could be fanned into flame.
“Zaccheus, hurry down, I must stay at your house today!”
Let’s look now at today’s theme of Christian Giving, and come back to Zaccheus later on...
It’s good for any parish to have a Stewardship Renewal as a regular prompt to review our giving to the church and to this parish of Whitegate/Little Budworth.
As we do this, we remind ourselves of the facts of financial life – our parish share of 45 thousand pounds/ 25 thousand pounds to the Diocese of Chester being the biggest single amount that we have to find each year, in order to pay for full-time ministry in these two parishes. In recent years we have managed to pay this amount in full, through monthly instalments. But, as with so many commitments, it is a real challenge every year, and we are so grateful to our treasurers who keep us grounded, with the facts and figures before us.
The total amount we need to find each year to keep our churches going is just over £80 thousand pounds (St Mary’s), and around £50 thousand pounds (St Peter’s).
Regular planned generous weekly giving is the proven way forward, using Gift Aid and Standing Orders to full effect.
It’s true that fundraising can be great fun, and a great help, but our bread and butter income comes via regular giving from that core of people who attend St Mary’s and St Peter’s, see the need, realise the implications, and give their generous financial gifts to enable our ministry and mission to flourish.
Of course, we always need to emphasize the difference in circumstances that people are in. £5 for one person will be like £50 for another. The only thing I ask, or actually that the Bible asks, is that we see Christian Giving as a key part of our own spiritual commitment; that we work out how much we can give carefully, prayerfully, and above all that we give cheerfully!
How did St Paul put it? “God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9.7)
And he goes on to say “God is able to give you more than you need, so that you will always have all you need for yourselves, and more than enough for every good cause.”
St Paul puts his finger on how we should give, our attitude and our motive, and then encourages us to look to God, trusting him that our daily needs will be looked after:
“Give us this day our daily bread.” Yes, that’s a good and right prayer. God is concerned that we are properly fed and clothed, valued and loved.
And that is the new way of looking at life that Zaccheus suddenly realised made sense. Wow, what a change, what a turnabout it led to.
We could consider a lot more facts and figures, and we certainly need to sit down and look realistically at our own resources and circumstances. But what we need to do above all in a Stewardship Renewal is to recapture that joy with which Zaccheus responded to Jesus. How he welcomed him into his house, the spirit of openness and generosity that enabled him to get his finances on a proper footing; in his case giving half his goods to the poor, and paying back those he had cheated four times over.
For Zaccheus the key point was that Jesus cared. The local community in Jericho didn’t like him, they despised him. But Jesus sought him out. He spotted him up in the tree. He didn’t condemn him or write him off, but he wanted to come to his home and spend time with him. It was like a miracle.
Jesus spots the potential in you and me.
He spots the goodness in each one of us, just as he did in Zaccheus, and he loves each one of us just as much as the next. In return, he simply longs for us to respond; to be open-handed and joyful in giving of all that we have, of all that we are, so that God’s kingdom of love may go forward.
O God, the source of our being, sustaining us by the breath of your Spirit, we thank you for every blessing we receive from you.
Help us to reflect your generosity, and to respond joyfully by giving of ourselves, of our money, our resources and our time, that the work and mission of St Mary’s Whitegate and St Peter’s, Little Budworth may be strengthened and your kingdom of love increase.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord, who gave himself that all may find fullness of life.
Read the story of Zaccheus to your children in “The Magpie’s Tale” by Nick Butterworth and Mick Inkpen , published by Candle Books.
Vicar's Stewardship Sermon 15 April 2018
Stewardship Renewal Sermons: April 2018
Canon Chris Humphries
St Mary’s, Whitegate and St Peter’s, Little Budworth
1. “Our generous God” 15th April
It turns out that Facebook is not all bad news. It allows us to see some pretty amazing things in God’s wonderful creation. Yesterday Barbara called me over “Chris, come and look at this!” Before my very eyes were baby Stingrays, their tiny bodies moving like little dancers in the water, gingerly feeling the potential power of their watery wings.
And Television, if we pick and choose wisely, is still a great window on the world, taking us to places across the globe that we could never hope to see first-hand. It has certainly kept the presenter Sir David Attenborough young and youthful into his old age, as he delights in the diversity of plants, animals, birds, fish and eco-systems.
Closer to home, Spring is my favourite time of year, with glorious Easter flowers followed by buds and blossom all around. I think that the warm days forecast for this coming week will bring out more of that particular vibrant fresh green in the hedges and woodlands of this lovely area of mid-Cheshire.
I’m waxing lyrical about all this because I believe it is the right starting point for a Stewardship Renewal in our two parishes. Stewardship recognises that in this earthly life we are in fact owners of nothing. We are here for a finite period of time. Everything we have as human beings is temporary, lent to us for a while. Will we use it selfishly and indulgently, or balance the use of our time and wealth by considering the needs of others, and using our resources to further the important work of the kingdom of God?
Look around you and take a moment to think about your own place in time and eternity. People phrase their reaction to good, secure and happy circumstances in different ways. Some will say “ I am lucky. Fate has smiled kindly upon me.” Christians will progress further to the phrase “God has blessed me.” This acknowledges our belief that God is our Father, and the originator and sustainer of all that is good. He delights to bless us and answer our prayers. Even when times are tough, we can perceive the hand of God in our lives, upholding, undergirding, bringing blessing.
So this morning, in this first sermon of three, I invite you to look at the world and its beauty, at the incredible loving details of life on this planet, and to attribute it not so much to luck, or fortune or fate, but to God.
In the Old Testament, the book of Psalms is the hymnbook of the Hebrew people. Our first reading was part of Psalm 104. It’s very upbeat, a paean of praise to God... “O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. Yonder is the sea, great and wide, creeping things innumerable are there, living things both small and great.”
Here we find our starting point: acknowledging that we are creatures made by a creator. The world didn’t come from nowhere as a random assembly of atoms. People of faith always see a greater purpose and pattern. The writers of many of the Psalms, including this one, do what comes naturally. They look around them, and up to the heavens, and they respond by writing down words of thanksgiving and praise.
Poets and hymn writers in our own day do the same. Words I remember from my boyhood continue to inspire me: (SING) “Count your blessings, count them one by one; and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”
So, personally, I do just that. I count my blessings. I think of my wife and family, and reckon I am indeed a lucky fella! I consider my circumstances today: a Sunday lunch to look forward to and a warm house to live in, and acknowledge that I am certainly more fortunate than most of the world’s population. God blesses us in so many down to earth practical ways. We trust him, and he gives us each day our daily bread. More than luck, more than fortune: brothers and sisters, we are blessed indeed.
Then let’s think about this special season of the Church’s year. Today is the Third Sunday of Easter, and the resurrection message dominates our worship and singing. “Christ is risen: he is risen indeed!”
We are an Easter people. Our world view, our perspective on life has to come through the lens of the empty tomb. “He is not here. He has risen, just as he said he would” If we are frightened or alarmed by news headlines about chemical weapons and cruelty, confrontation and cruise missiles, the words of our living Saviour come to us again “Do not fear, do not be afraid, for I am with you” This promise of Jesus, the promise of his presence at all times is the rock and foundation of our faith. That’s why I’ve entitled the Stewardship Renewal “Jesus – Alive in us”
He loves us unconditionally, and he loves us to the end. All may not be rosy in our own lives, and we may be facing problems and difficulties. In such times, we remember Christ the crucified Saviour, who shared our human suffering and pain.
We may be burdened with guilt and a sense of failure. Yet at every service here in church we hear words of forgiveness and pardon proclaimed when we confess our sins and shortcomings. Take them to heart and let Christ liberate and encourage you. Jesus is Alive, and has conquered sin and death.
Finally, this morning’s Gospel reading was taken from the Sermon on the Mount, so picture yourself for a moment, 2,000 years ago, sitting with the disciples on the mountain. It’s a lovely day, there is a cool breeze on the hillside and Jesus is radiant, smiling warmly, teaching the crowd by examples and illustrations from what they can see around them.
“Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. Strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, all these things will be given you as well.”
Yesterday morning there was further excitement at the Vicarage, this time from the bathroom window: the house martins have returned ! Yes, they do make a mess on the path below, but it’s worth a bit of clearing up to witness the amazing nests they build under the eaves, the way they feed their young, and the joyous swooping across our garden in search of tasty insects to bring home.
“Look at the birds of the air” So over these next couple of weeks, why not take the opportunity to reflect again on your own life, and the life of our churches. Are we lucky, are we fortunate, are we blessed?
My hope and prayer is that we will all find a fresh realisation and acknowledgement of God’s goodness that enables us to consider our response, and renewal of commitment.
Our God is generous, and gives to us abundantly. What shall we give in return?
Minnows - Come & Join UsPublished: Tuesday 20 March 2018 09:24 AM
Minnows is the name for our babies & toddler group. We chose this name because the fish is a symbol of the Christian faith, and the toddler group is the very first step many of our children take on their journey of faith, and the minnow is a tiny fish!
A typical session might include a Bible story, a song and a craft activity, led by our Children’s Worker, or the Vicar with his guitar.
There is also plenty of time for free play and important interaction with other children, and time for adults to chat over a cup of tea or coffee. At the moment we have several mums with young babies as well as a few toddlers attending, together with dads and grandparents, and even great grandparents! (the group is as important for the adults as it is for the children).
We meet every Thursday during term time between 1pm and 3pm in The Mews, Whitegate (the building between the church and the school). We would love to see you.
Contact: Pastoral Worker Pauline Hayward – 01606 591766
or email email@example.com
Children’s Worker Teresa Finney
01606 889311 / 07437 322163
or email firstname.lastname@example.org
for more details
Harvest Supper - A Dickensian Evening
We had a most enjoyable evening back in the Mews this year. The room was decorated with lanterns and Hydrangeas, the food was second to none with a delicious main course of hotpot and savoury dumplings followed by scrumptious meringues with compote or apple pie and cream or ice cream. Martine and Renata took charge of the kitchen, learning how to use all the appliances they then prepared and served the food through the hatch, which is a real asset.
The guests arrived, many in costume and they looked splendid, the quiz and entertainment was fun and we learnt a few things along the way. Andrew Millinchip joined us for a short while in order to accompany the vicar with his excerpts from the musical Oliver. The other items in the programme were very enjoyable and thought provoking.
As usual the raffle went on too long and the noise in the Mews rose while the last drops of wine were drained from the glass and the thankyous were announced and there were lots of compliments for the Social and Fundraising team for which we are very grateful. After clearing the debris of the evening, everyone went home tired but happy with an evening spent in good fellowship. We raised £490. 60 for our funds so a big thank you to everyone.
Tuesday 15th August 2017 saw some thirty people attended a summer lunch at the newly refurbished Mews.
A very calm atmosphere prevailed, provided by resplendent decoration and rustic woodwork.
The room was enhanced by colourful tableware, flowers and the sunshine! Excellent food provided by Chris and Linda, ably aided by Alan, was enjoyed by all. Many thanks to them, from everyone.
Linda & Chris would like to add their thanks to everyone who came and supported the lunch, together we raised £176.64 for church funds.