July & August 2010

posted 7 Jul 2010, 01:37 by Richard Jones   [ updated 9 Jul 2010, 01:56 ]

The Vicar writes.......

 Just about everybody has heard of Mr. Micawber. He was the eternally optimistic character in Charles Dickens' novel David Copperfie1d who was always down on his luck and spent quite a bit of time in the debtors' prison. Luckily, he wasn't a depressive like me but an eternal optimist. Ever hopeful that "Something will turn up!"

But we probably remember him even more for the financial advice he gave to David Copperfield. "Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen pounds, nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery!"

Well I'm sure that if you regularly attend our Annual Parish Meetings and especially if you're a member of the Parochial Church Council you'll have got used by now to receiving that same warning. Unfortunately, we're living just a little bit beyond our means and by the end of the year the result looks like it is indeed going to be "misery". Not for the first time, unless something 'turns up', it looks very much like St. Mary's will fall just a little bit short in donating its 'Parish Share' to the diocese.

It seems to me that we have only two choices. Either we can languish in our self-created debtors' prison hoping that "something will turn up" or we can realistically review our giving to God and to his church.

I was recently reading an article about people who give blood, and I was struck by certain similarities with our giving as Christians.

Firstly, there's a degree of sacrifice involved in giving blood, perhaps an hour of your time and one eighth of your blood. You start with 100% of your blood and you go home with just under 90%. In giving to God's work, we need to spend time reading what the Bible says, and then give accordingly.

We all start with 100%, whether it's our pay, our pension or our pocket money. The Bible would seem to indicate that we should give a tithe (10%) of our income to God, although the New Testament, and even the Old Testament, in many places talks about even more generous giving - as much as one eighth or one fifth - even more if we have it. Thankfully, Church guidelines today aren't as demanding as the Bible - they settle for suggesting a target of 5% or one twentieth.

The writer, preacher and broadcaster, Selwyn Hughes writes, 'If we give money away and it doesn't cut into the way we live and make a difference in our lifestyle, then it is possible we are not responding to Jesus in the way he ministers to us. '

The wealthy, repentant Zacchaeus gave 50% away after meeting with Jesus and the poor widow gave everything she had, two very different examples of giving for God's work.

Secondly, blood donors don't give their blood grudgingly or unwillingly, or they wouldn't bother to go would they? And similarly, 2 Corinthians 9:7 tells us not to give money away with that attitude, but to give gladly and cheerfully, which God loves to see. Well, as somebody who's petrified of needles, I'm not sure how cheerful I would be if I ever took the plunge and volunteered to give blood but I am sure that I'd be glad to be offered the regulation cup of tea and biscuit at the end.

Of course, when giving blood you lie down and you don't really notice that it's gone. As vicar, I would encourage people to give by a monthly bank standing order and of course, to "Gift Aid" your donations. In this way the money will leave your account as you sleep and just like with the blood, you won't feel a thing! - So you can still be cheerful about it.

Thirdly, and most amazingly, the article told me that I would never be actually "short" of blood. We can easily cope with seven pints, and it will very soon become eight again. Some poor soul in hospital will get our old pint and we will be blessed with a new one without even asking! And the Donor Service will contact you again in a few months to ask for another pint. Not quite a monthly standing order, but fairly close.

And similarly, as you seek to please God in your giving with open and generous hearts, he will pour out his grace and blessing in generous measure towards you. Just like with the blood being replaced, we don't know how­ but we believe that it happens. Or do we?

Over the next few days, please read:

2 Corinthians 9:6-15; Malachi 3:8-10; and Proverbs 11:24-25.

And may God's blessing be with you all