Luke 18:18-30

21st Sunday after Trinity

St Barbara’s; 16.10.16

Rev Tulo Raistrick

Our Gospel reading tells the challenging story of the rich young ruler who wanted to follow Jesus. Jesus asks him to give away his wealth and then he would be free to follow him. The young man struggles. He was willing to live a holy life and keep the commandments, but parting with his money was a step too far. I don’t know about you, but I can identify with him.

The subject of money and giving is a sensitive one, isn’t it. It easily raises emotions of anger, guilt, despair.

Its not an easy thing to be asked to do – to give away your money. And yet Jesus’ response to the disciples at the end of the story gives us the key to why Jesus made this hard challenge. Those who give things up in following him will receive far more. In giving we receive a blessing far beyond what we gave. As he says elsewhere, it is more blessed to give than to receive. Giving opens up to us the doorway to abundant life.

So this morning we are going to be thinking about our financial giving, and in particular, our financial giving to the church. Like with the way Jesus saw it as he spoke to that young man in our Gospel story, I want us to see it as an opportunity, an offer, to be blessed, to experience life more fully, rather than a duty to be reluctantly performed. Indeed, as we know, God delights in a cheerful giver. He would rather we gave less with a cheerful heart than more with a grudging one.

Just as Jesus gave the rich young ruler the opportunity to reflect on his giving, so we begin today an opportunity for us all to reflect on our giving too. Its an opportunity, not a compulsion. It maybe that as you reflect upon your giving, you may choose to keep it as it is, or possibly, due to changed circumstances, you may choose to reduce it. That is fine. As Paul reminded the early churches regularly in his letters to them, it is the spirit in which we give, not the amount, that is so important. But I hope that for some of us this will come as a welcome opportunity to think about and actually increase what we give to the church too.

The PCC felt it would be helpful if I was to give a bit of time in the service to explaining a little more about the finance of the church.

In some ways it is helpful to think about our church finances like you would think about your household finances. There are certain costs that you know you have to spend your money on – gas and electricity to keep your home warm and lit, especially in the winter months; household goods, such as toilet rolls, soap, cleaning products. There are the costs of wear and tear: replacing that hallway carpet that has become threadbare. Inevitably things break down or need fixing, and it costs money to repair them or replace them. We have to pay for contents and building insurance too. Our church building is no different. All the costs above apply to the church as well. To pay the heating and lighting bills alone every year costs us in the region of £4-5,000. So just like with a home, there are costs of keeping our church building ticking over.

Along with our building costs, we also have costs to do with living out the purpose of being a church. Our purpose, the reason why we exist, is to worship God, to offer him praise, to grow in faith, and to reach out with his love to the wider community. Some of the things that enable us to do that cost us money. By far the biggest cost to us as a church is me, the vicar. As a church, you generously pay my salary, housing costs and pension, and I in return work with you to build a community who is worshipping God, growing in faith and reaching out with love. Whether you feel you get value for money is a different question and I’m happy to talk about that another time, but that is a significant cost. And then there are other things that cost money that help us fulfil our purpose as a church: the resources and craft materials that we use for our children’s work and Buzz at St B’s services; the cost of printing our parish newsletters that communicate about the life of our church around the parish; the cost of our church music, through organist fees and licences to use music.

Buildings; ministry. A third area is giving. It has always been an important principle for us as a church that one of the ways we express God’s love is through giving. So we give to poorer parishes in Coventry; we give to organisations working amongst people in need in our city, such as Coventry City Mission and Carriers of Hope, and to those working internationally, such as CORD. And the diocese ask us to help support the training of new ministers too.

So every year, we spend and give almost £85,000 a year, or about £7,000 per month. That is a significant amount, though one that our PCC works very hard at ensuring is appropriate and prudent, and not in any way excessive.

Like with a home, if you are spending money, that money needs to come from somewhere, a salary or a pension.

Well, for us as a church, the vast majority of the money comes from us, the church members. It comes through our giving – through the Sunday collection, the envelope giving, the standing orders. When we last had a stewardship campaign two years ago we had an amazing response. So many of you responded so generously. Our church giving, and the amount we were able to add on to that through reclaiming tax, has increased tremendously. A huge thank you to all of you.

The other place where our money comes from is from the letting of our church hall and meeting room.

We get a small amount of money from other things, but those are our two main sources of income.

Well, back to our household accounts. Imagine if every week or month, you are spending more than is coming in, but fortunately, a few years ago, you had received a generous gift from a distant relative, and so every month you had been dipping into this gift to meet your short-fall. It didn’t seem a problem until you began to realise that the money in the bank was beginning to run out.

Well that was our situation as a church a couple of years ago. We were spending more than £8,000 more than we were getting in every year, and our funds that we could draw on (that had been the result of generous legacies) were getting much smaller. As a result of people’s response two years ago we have made significant progress to addressing this situation which is fantastic, but we are not quite yet paying for our day-to-day costs through our regular income, and it would be great to put ourselves in this position. Increased giving would also enable us to pick up some wonderful opportunities to invest more in our children’s and young people’s work.

Over the next few weeks, we would love to offer you this opportunity to prayerfully consider your giving. In the letter you’ll receive you will get more information – pie charts explaining our current income and expenditure, and standing order forms.

We recognise that there may be many questions too. Please come and talk to me or the church wardens, or if you would prefer, fill in the Question and Comment card in the envelope. We will have a Question and Answer session straight after the morning service in three weeks time where we will try and answer those questions.

And because sometimes we know that without a deadline we can forget to do things, we are encouraging you to have made any commitments you want to make by 20th November, five weeks time.

Please hear again. There is no compulsion to do this. But just as a church want to give everyone opportunities to worship and serve God in many ways, so we want to give everyone the opportunity to reflect on this aspect of our worship and service too.

May God guide each of us as we prayerfully consider our giving.