Event Name Sermon given at Matins on the first Sunday after Trinity 2016
Start Date 29th May 2016 10:00am

The Venerable Andrew Tremlett, Canon in Residence

During the sermons at Matins over the next four weeks, I will be considering different aspects of Christian Stewardship. 'Stewardship' follows from our belief that human beings are created by the same God who created the entire universe and everything in it. To look after the Earth, and thus God's dominion, is the responsibility of the Christian steward.

And that Christian stewardship extends not only to our care for the natural order, for creation, but in a more earthly, mundane way, how we use our personal gifts and resources to the glory of God. And further than that, stewardship extends towards our faithful handing on of the gospel in our contemporary society.

So over these four weeks, the sermons will consider our financial stewardship this morning; next week our use of our talents and gifts; in a fortnight's time I will speak about our global responsibilities; and then finally, I will be speaking about our stewardship of the gospel in today's society.

Paradox is one of the classic sources of humour. It has the supreme advantage over other techniques when it comes to challenging assumptions. George Bernard Shaw, in his 1924 play, 'St Joan', shortly after her canonisation, brings on a soldier who describes himself as 'A saint … straight from hell.' He goes on to explain that he gets one day a year off for the solitary good deed committed by accident in an otherwise totally misspent life!

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments", said Jesus. Or to put it another way from this morning's Gospel reading of John 14: 'Those who love me will keep my word'. It's a statement which underlies the paradox at the heart of Christianity.

We usually think of 'commandments' in the sense of 'orders'. But this is far from the mind of Jesus, when he says 'If you love me, you will keep my commandments'. Or as Jesus puts it here: 'Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them'. His commandments are quite simply a statement of 'how things are in the kingdom of God'.

To be in God, to be in his Love, is to be in a state here in the world which can only work this way: in order, ease and pleasure. Outside of God's love is a world of dis-order, dis-ease, dis-pleasure.

Insofar as we live 'in God's Love', we know the life of heaven here and now. Insofar as we fail to do so, the kingdom of heaven is a long way off—or a hell of a long way off, to be more theologically accurate!

So the first thing to say about our Christian Stewardship—our attitude to 'the things of this world'—is that it is in some sense a measure of the depth of our love for God.

There is no way that we can be ordered to love someone, it is not a thing that can be commanded. Rather, our love for someone else is a response, sometimes unbidden, sometimes we need a reminder, to their love for us.

And that's what Christian stewardship—whether of our money, our talents or our resources— that's what it's all about. God first loved us, and now we in response show our love for him, our gratitude for his generosity to us, not simply in the way we behave—which is clearly important—but also in the way we use the resources he has entrusted to us.

Regular members of any Christian congregation have an obligation to consider how they should support their Church community materially, as well as by their gifts and talents, of which I will speak next week.

So whether you worship regularly in the Abbey, or are here visiting from elsewhere, just take a moment to consider how faithfully you are using your financial resources to the glory of God and the building up of his kingdom. How are your responding to the love of God in Christ?

So you may be wondering how much you might realistically be able to give?

The first thing to say is that every person's circumstances are different, no two households are the same. Some may have particular burdens of others to support; some may have unexpected resources and be able to contribute more at a particular time.

Whatever you do contribute financially, this is first and foremost a response to God's generous love for us, and contributes to the mission and ministry of the Abbey or of your local Christian community.

And to answer the question: how much might you realistically be able to give? The most recent major report on financial stewardship in the Church of England in 2009, entitled 'Giving for Life', made the following recommendation: that Church members be encouraged to work towards an initial giving target of 5% of net income to and through the Church, with a further 5% to other charities and mission organisations. In other words, this is a restatement of the biblical principle of tithing in response to God's love for us, but recognising that much work for the furthering of the kingdom of God is carried out beyond the walls of the church by other charities and mission agencies.

Many people in church give regularly either through gift envelopes or standing order, which enables Tax to be reclaimed, or simply through the plate on a Sunday morning. Whether you do so already or not, please take this opportunity prayerfully to review your financial stewardship in your own community.

So let me summarise:
* Love cannot be commanded, but only given freely. This is at the heart of Christian stewardship whether it is about financial giving, the use of our talents or our global responsibilities. It is our response to God's love for us.
* We are blessed here to be supported by the generosity of so many tourist and pilgrims who provide nearly all of our resources. However, many Christian communities are stretched for resources and will warmly welcome your regular giving.
* Finally, I would like to thank members of this congregation for your support to the Abbey and, vicariously, to thank our visitors for the support you are giving to your own churches. Please use this occasion as a time prayerfully to consider your own response.

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