Dedication Sunday Sermon

This time last year, I was away in the United States on sabbatical. I was travelling about from place to place and particularly from church to church. And I was looking for something

I realised afterwards that I was looking for what is over the rainbow. There’s something about the New World and particularly the West Coast of the new world that makes people a bit like that.

I was looking for the next best thing in the church. Looking for what was new, exciting, fresh. So much of what happens in that part of the world comes to us in the end. I was looking to get ahead of the curve.

As I went from congregation to congregation I started to see patterns in what I was finding and gradually, particularly since I’ve come back, I’ve been making sense of all I saw.

One particular pattern emerged.

I went to one congregation and having introduced myself and explained what I was up to was met with the words: “Oh, so sorry, it is nice to see you, but I’m afraid you’ve come on our stewardship Sunday.”

And I smiled and nodded as visitors needs must do. And sat quietly and watched and learned.

And I went to the next congregation to be met with, “Oh, its just great to see you, but I’m afraid you’ve come on our stewardship Sunday.” And I smiled, nodded, and took note of all around me.

And again, “Oh, so sorry, it is just wonderful to see you, but I’m afraid you’ve come on our stewardship Sunday.”

And I smiled and nodded and sat and thought about it and realised that one of the big themes in what I was learning was actually to do with stewardship and helping people to think about giving.

Sometimes the voice of God speaks from many lips and meets us deep inside as we recognise something we need to hear that is true.

And I felt as though I was learning to help people talk about giving and money and generosity in a way that just isn’t very, well, Scottish.

And so, for the last few weeks, I’ve done something simple and asked you to listen to what members of this congregation have been thinking about stewardship. That’s how I saw it there and that’s what it seemed right to try to do.

These things are entirely connected with the feast we keep today, entirely connected with us celebrating the Dedication Festival of this congregation. In the book of chronicles we heard of the freewill offerings of the people building the physical temple of the Lord. In Ephesians we heard of the spiritual building that is the people of God coming together into a holy temple of faith.

The truth is we are here right now because of the prayers of many saints. And the reality is that we are here because they attached value to their prayers by giving cash, time and talents to build the physical temple we sit in and also the communion of saints that happens to find itself fascinated by God in this place.

As I’ve listened to the short stewardship talks I’ve heard things that have taken me right back to my sabbatical. For I learned so much about generosity by my travels.

Last week, Anisa spoke during the two minutes for stewardship of being initially being attracted here because of the music and then somehow finding that God was here too. She also spoke of the great patchwork of people who find God and one another here. People from every part of the globe and with every experience under the sun.

The week before Peggy Brown spoke about the people too – simple listing the things she is thankful for. A reminder that all in the end is Eucharist – all that word means is thanks giving and all we do here on a Sunday morning is enact a glorious pageant of thankfulness and offering and gift. She spoke of abundant divine love appearing unexpectedly in both the peace of this place and its busy bustle. She also talked about people who need to be loved when they feel they least deserve to be finding what they need here.

And in the first of our two minutes talks, Jinty talked about how she gives, cheerfully explaining that as Christians we own nothing anyway – everything is a gift of God. She also talked about taking a proportion and putting it aside – the biblical tithe – a tenth of income and then she spoke about having fun giving that away. Half to this place and half to other charities she cares about.

It was a surprise to some people to hear talk like that here. Churches like this one have not been very good at talking about how to give money cheerfully and regularly and not just because bills need to be paid.

And we’ve not been very good at talking about giving proportionate giving in the way Jinty described.

What I learned in the states last year is to say to people who find that a hard disciple – well, can you take a step forward towards that goal this year. If you can’t go to giving away 10% right now, can you take a step towards it by giving what you gave last year and then add to that inflation plus 1 % or plus 2% of what you having coming in.

It won’t be appropriate for everyone. But I’ve heard several people talk about taking steps like that and heading towards giving a percentage that they feel reflects who they are and what they earn.

My guess is that for many of you, I don’t need to tell you what a great place this is. These stones cry aloud with faith that moves me to tears.

I don’t need to tell you about the joy of the worship or the diversity of the people, the compassion towards the world or the lives of faith that are renewed here week by week before facing that world again and setting about it with the values of God’s reign of justice and joy.

I don’t need to tell you these things for you are these things.

And what I discovered when I got to the end of my sabbatical journey was that the end of the rainbow wasn’t over there it was right here.

What I was looking for is precisely what we are doing together in this place. A place which calls us to gather week by week at the altar and which challenges us not to offer to God offerings which cost us nothing.

“A foretaste of the yet to be, surpassing what is past.”


Speak Your Mind