Vicar's Musings for Ordinary Sunday 28
9 October, 2016
I recently heard an amusing story of a family coming out of Mass. The Dad said to his wife, "Father's homily wasn't very good." The wife added, "Yes, and the choir was a bit off this week." Their small son was listening to everything his parents said and he spoke up. "It seemed OK to me," he said "especially considering it only cost us two dollars."
That is one approach to parish giving: all care and no responsibility. We have all experienced this, in ourselves or in others, I am sure, so it is good to shine the light of the scriptures on our patterns of giving every now and again, to see how we look.
Numerous scriptural references give clear suggestions on what and how we should give. An ancient pattern is set in Genesis 14:19-20 by Abram, in a passage sometimes entitled "the first tithe": "[God] blessed him and said, 'Blessed be Abram by God Most High, maker of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!' And Abram gave him one-tenth of everything." Giving is a primal human response to an awareness of being blessed by God; it is a thank-offering. "Pay it forward" is the modern terminology.
Another story comes to mind. There was a boy back in the nineteenth century who came from a modest family. In his first job he earned $1.50 a week. He brought the money home to his mother, who placed it in her lap. She said, "John, I would be very happy if you tithed; if you gave ten percent back to God." That Sunday, young John placed fifteen cents in the collection. From that time, he gave to God ten percent of everything he earned. He went on to become one of the richest men in the world — John David Rockefeller.
But there are other equally important giving stories. In Luke 21:1-4 for example we read: "[Jesus] looked up and saw rich people putting their gifts into the treasury; he also saw a poor widow put in two small copper coins. He said, 'Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all of them; for all of them have contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in all she had to live on.'" How much we give, and the manner in which we give, can become a source of pride. Just as important as the size of the gift is the spirit in which it is given. A useful rule-of-thumb is found in Matthew's gospel (6:3): "when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing."
So, I invite you to quietly reflect on your giving today and over the coming month. You will have been given this year's Parish Giving brochure when you came into church, and for those on our e-mail list you will receive an electronic copy (if you don't yet receive regular e-mails from me, and would like to, let Kosta know in the Parish Office). Please take the brochure home, and prayerfully reflect on the ways in which you intend to give back to God in the year that lies ahead. It would assist the church leadership if you would fill in the confidential time-and-money pledge on the back pages, and return it in the offertory plate on Sunday or by e-mail.
The Rev'd Dr Hugh Kempster
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