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Monday, 17 October 2016

Discover & explore - Treasure/Gold

Today the Choral Scholars of St Martin-in-the-Fields led our Discover & explore service at St Stephen Walbrook on the theme of Treasure/Gold using the following: O radiant dawn - MacMillan; All I once held dear - Kendrick/Larson; Beati quorum via - Stanford; and Ubi caritas - Durufle.

The next Discover & explore service in the series is on Monday 24 October at 1.10pm. The theme will be Guidance and the service will be led by Revd Sally Muggeridge.

Here is the reflection that I shared today:

The love of money is the root of all evil. We have probably all heard that biblical assertion, although many think the statement is actually that money is the root of all evil. That isn't what is asserted in scripture, however, as a very important distinction is being made when it is said that the love of money is the root of all evil.

Money itself is neutral. It is a means of exchange that can be used for good or evil but which is not inherently evil in and of itself. One key element in the positive use of money is its circulation. It is designed to be exchanged and therefore it moves from one person to another, one account to another. This is one reason why the Bank of England has introduced plastic bank notes, because significant levels of exchange cause significant wear and tear for the notes that are being exchanged.

There is a blockage to this healthy exchange process when greed comes into play and particular people begin accumulating great wealth which is not being exchanged as freely or with as many people. This is one of the reasons why the love of money is the root of all evil, as it interrupts and blocks the healthy free flowing exchange which shares money with the many. Lewis Hyde suggests in his book entitled ‘The Gift’ that "we think of the gift as a constantly flowing river" and allow ourselves "to become a channel for its current." When we try to "dam the river", "thinking what counts is ownership and size," "one of two things will happen: either it will stagnate or it will fill the person up until he bursts."

The antidote to such greed and accumulation is the generosity on which we have focused with our readings in this service. Generosity, the giving away of money, gives additional impetus to the free flow of money and is usually focused on those most deeply in poverty or in need.

The City of London is a place where London’s spirit of enterprise is distilled to the maximum. It was in the City that many forms of charitable activity originated or evolved into business models for others to follow. Making money and giving money are both features of life in the City. What does the Bible say about the way we should use the money we make?

Instead of giving grudgingly, the Bible encourages generosity and cheerfulness in giving. In his second letter to the Corinthians Paul writes, ‘Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.’ Gratitude is the first fruit of humility and is a response to the forgiveness, freedom, healing and restoration which we find in God. We are precious to him, honoured and loved by him, so give out of thankfulness for this acceptance and love.

That is the prayer for our Stewardship campaign this year; that God will give us a grateful heart. Giving to our church is a tangible, faithful, and accountable way in which we demonstrate our gratitude to God. Of course our lives haven’t in every way turned out how we wanted them to; but God has given us life. Of course the church isn’t perfect; but God has given us Jesus, and forgiveness, and the life everlasting. Of course there are lots of other good causes; but giving to the church is about investing in forever, in striving to live now the companionship God has promised us always.

As a result, this autumn we are encouraging all those who come to St Stephen Walbrook to reflect on the various ways in which we can use their time, talents and treasure in God’s service. Each of us can give from our treasure in ways that benefit others and our Stewardship leaflet explains how to give regularly and consistently to St Stephen Walbrook, so I encourage you to reflect on whether you could give regularly out of gratitude and to help this church.

The Elizabethan poet George Herbert was aware of our natural tendency to think what God has given to us as being ours and to retain as much of it for ourselves as possible. His prayer, therefore, was that he might be given a grateful heart. One that rejoices in all that God has given, recognising it all as a gift, rather than something earnt, and, therefore, generous in the way it is used and given back to God. May our prayer be that of George Herbert:

Thou that hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more, a grateful heart …
Not thankful, when it pleaseth me;
As if thy blessings had spare days:
But such a heart, whose pulse may be
Thy praise.


George Herbert - Redemption.

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