Letter from the Vicar (September 2008)
There are two sides to the gospel. On the one hand there is the good news that being a follower of Christ means being set free from fear. On the other there is the apparently not so good news that Christ makes great demands on us.
We humans have many fears. Jesus comes to dispel, to take away these fears. And not just to take them away and leave us in a neutral place, but to replace fear with real contentment, even joy. Being a follower of Christ moves us from fear to joy. Once we realise and take to heart that God loves us to the depths of our being surely we know that we need never again be filled with fear. These words in Romans 8 have always been an inspiration to me:
“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Nothing is more powerful than God and he can and will dispel every fear.
So the gospel gives us much to be thankful for. But it also makes demands upon us. It is this side of the gospel that we inevitably shy away from. We enjoy many aspects of Church life. We enjoy worship and prayer, we enjoy having Christian friends within the family of the Church, we may even enjoy listening to the vicar’s sermons and his terrible jokes. There is much to be enjoyed in Church life. And we do find reassurance from being followers of Christ. But the demands of the gospel, of Christ himself, the demands that belonging to the Church entail, well, we’re not so keen on them.
But what, in practice, does taking up our cross or losing our own lives for Christ’s sake mean? In 2008? Well above all it means being willing to do things for Christ, for the Church. To give our time and our talents and our treasure to the Church. I know many of you do so already. But we are always looking for more help and, I have to admit, just at present we are facing severe financial difficulties. We are seriously hard up. Can I remind you that it costs at least £80,000 a year to run this Church all of which we have to find ourselves. That means we need about £8 a week per head of every adult attender to break even. If it is gift-aided a little less.
I know that many of you face financial difficulties which is why we haven’t stressed this subject for quite a time. But we shall have to make a strenuous effort to raise more money in the coming months and this means first and foremost that each one of us will have to give a little more. To that end we shall be having a campaign this Autumn entitled ‘The Responsibility is Ours’ (TRIO for short) to get our finances back into better shape. Please put Sunday 12th October for Holy Trinity and Sunday 19th October for St Nicholas in your diaries. On those days there will be a TRIO presentation at our Churches.
As we think about finance let us always remember that any generosity we show does not compare with the enormous generosity of the God created us and who in Christ laid down his life for us. What is more although we may at first sight think this is all bad news, in fact if we give of our time, our talents and our treasure generously in the end we will discover a much greater satisfaction in life than if we are grudging. To paraphrase Jesus, if we cling onto our lives we shall lose them, but if we give of our lives for his sake we shall gain them.