This week is the final week of the gifts and gratitude season we have built around Harvest.
Over the last few weeks, we have thought about:
- God’s love for us, the source of all good in our lives and the inspiration for our own gratitude and generosity. We respond to God’s generosity with our own.
- The fact that God gives us gifts – some for all God’s children (love, forgiveness, the Holy Spirit) some just for us as individuals (spiritual and practical) These gifts are given that we might play our part in serving God’s world and it delights God when we use them.
- We spent Café church thinking about how our community is enriched by the different gifts we bring. No one is unimportant. Many good things could not happen or would be less if everyone didn’t play their part. However, we also recognised that it is important not to be pigeon-holed as the person who always does and limited from doing other things. Depending on the circumstances, some of us can do all sort of things.
- Jo then helped us think about how we might have a generous and healthy attitude to money. This was important as it can be hard to talk about money, but Jesus talks about it a lot. He wants us to use money for good not be scared or enslaved by it.
- Lastly we celebrated Harvest with a festival of gratitude and of gifts: financial and practical.
So this final week, I want to encourage you to make gratitude and gifts part of your every day life. A puppy is not just for Christmas and Gratitude and gifts are not just for Harvest! And to help you take these principles forward into your life – where from time to time situations change and you have to change what you can offer – I am offering this simple tool. A couple of questions
Where am I most blessed: time, talents or treasure?
Now what do I mean by that? Well, too often we worry about where we are poor, but why not think about where we are rich. In our first reading, Peter and John didn’t have even a few coins to throw in a beggar’s bowl. But they had time: they stopped and made the beggar look at them. They were available for an encounter, recognising each other as human beings, and then Peter used the gift or talent God had given him, to heal in Jesus’ name. Peter could have worried that he didn’t have the thing the beggar was asking for, but instead he said “I don’t have that, I will give you something better!”
At different times of our lives, we will have time, or talents – that is opportunities to use the things we are particularly good at – or treasure – our money and resources.
When the children were small and I was training part time at college for ministry, we had very little cash to play with. Almost zero treasure. But actually I was rich in time and availability. If someone needed a cup of tea and a bit of cheering up, I was your girl. If there was an event on that needed some supporting, so long as I could bring a buggy I was there. There wasn’t much opportunity to use my talents with three ankle-biters in tow and I had little financial treasure, but I had time, and actually time is a great gift to share. So if you are rich in time, how might you use it for God’s Kingdom. Could you have a cuppa with someone who is lonely? Could you turn up and swell the numbers at a coffee morning or concert or protest? Could you pray? Could you fold Christmas leaflets for the social committee? Could you man a stall or keep the church open for an event? Time is a valuable gift.
Now I am in the lovely position where I get to use the talents or gifts I have been given to serve the church and the parish. And I love it. But my free available time is much less. After the time I give to the parish, Diocese and my immediate family, there isn’t the same space to be available to a friend in a crisis or to mosey up at a community event. It is just a different season of life with its joys and drawbacks. So if you are working doing something where you get to use the gifts God has given you for good, but it means you can’t volunteer for a church rota right now, don’t beat yourself up. It is just a season in life. Give what you have – your talents to God’s service.
But not everyone has time or talents to offer. I once had a friend who was a high powered business man. He wanted to do more for the church, and he would volunteer for things that weren’t really his skill set, then get so frustrated if whatever he worked on didn’t go perfectly because he had very little time and felt it had been wasted or unappreciated. I tried to suggest to him that perhaps he could donate some of the money he earned when he was working so hard to help the church pay someone to do some of these things, then they would be done well and he wouldn’t be frazzled. He was poor in time and rich in treasure but wanted to act as if it were the other way round.
Now in reality you will probably find life frustrating if you are not giving to God in all three spheres, sharing your time, talents and treasure. It is certainly a good discipline to try to include a little of all three in what we offer to God. A bit like a healthy meal should include vegetables, carbs and protein and a healthy giving attitude will include something of our time, our talents and our treasure. But there may be times when you can offer more of one than another and that is okay. It can be useful to do a bit of a life audit every so often and ask ourselves. Where am I rich? Where have I less to offer? How can I make sure I am being generous with what I have in this season of life?
The final point I want to make as we draw this series of service to a close is to just to encourage you to do your part. Our gospel reading is not the most encouraging on the surface, but actually, I think there is much to help us. It reminds us that all of our kind acts towards others are seen by God and valued as if done for Christ himself. You can almost hear the bemusement in those on the right’s voices – really, me, righteous? I just helped where I could. Unlike those on the left who refused to do their bit.
Recently, I found this on the internet.
What the world needs is not a few people doing everything perfectly, but lots and lots of people doing a few things imperfectly. It continued…
‘To the person who uses metal straws to save fish but consumes animals, I’d like to say thank you. To the vegan who isn’t aware of our homelessness problem, thank you. To the climate change activists who aren’t attentive to fast fashion, thank you. To the girl who gives her old clothes to the disadvantaged but isn’t educated on sex trafficking, thank you. To the guy who picks up rubbish on his way home from a surf but isn’t well-informed about male suicide rates, thank you. To the people who stand up for horse racing concerns but are uninformed of the cruelty of the dairy industry, thank you. To the positive Instagram influencer who hasn’t cultivated a plastic-free lifestyle, thank you. To the grandparents who knit for sick children but aren’t up to date with current race and homophobic issues, thank you. To the students that stand up for bullying but are unaware of the constant domestic violence epidemic, thank you. To the peace activists, feminists, stray dog adopters, teachers, volunteers, foster carers, recyclers, givers, doers and believers, I say thank you. We are all on a different path and we all see through different eyes. Current world issues that you are passionate about, aren’t always what other people are trying to change… and that’s okay. It’s not everyone’s job to save every part of the world but it is everyone’s responsibility to thank every person who is doing THEIR part to save the world. Don’t critique, just appreciate. Don’t judge, just educate. We’re all trying our best. Thank you.’ Carla Borthwick.
Sharing God’s love and grace with the world is not a job a few of us can do all of. What we can all do is use our time, our talents and our treasure in the strength and equipping of God to care for God’s world and work for His Kingdom.