Saturday 30 June 2012

2 Corinthians Chapter 8 v 7-15

This is the Epistle for Sunday next. I have never preached on this passage and in fact have always steered away for reasons which I will mention later. But first let us look at Paul’s teaching.

There was reluctance on the Corinthian Church to give money, yet they considered themselves to be wonderful Christians, so Paul sets about exposing their hypocrisy.

Some time before this Letter was written they had pledged their financial support. But for some reason had fallen back and were not giving. Paul wanted the money to help Christians in Jerusalem who were poor and were suffering because of their faith, and he wanted to collect money from the richer people to take to Jerusalem. He is trying to embarrass them and make them respond.

When the Macedonian Churches first saw the giving by the Corinthians, they wanted to join in the giving and pleaded to be allowed to do so. This motivated Paul to write and tell the Corinthians that the Macedonians had given joyfully from extreme poverty begging to do so, and urging the Corinthians to follow their example, and give as much as they could and not try to evade the giving.

Paul stated in verse 9, ‘for you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ that though He was rich yet for your sakes He also became poor so that by His poverty you may become rich’. He was saying the sacrifice of Christ should encourage them in being generous in gratitude.
He saw the need for Christians to support each other.

This passage is widely used by Ministers to seek funds and have congregations give money to the Church. I knew one Vicar who wasn’t very keen on preaching sermons but would often select this passage.

I was, and am, averse to preaching for money. If a Church is properly administered people will know the financial requirements of that Church and most members will respond. There will always be a few in every Church who will give as little as they can get away with, but the majority are kind and together with the Lord’s help will provide.

I do feel insulted on behalf of the Church when a baptism service is held and people attend with their expensive cameras, prior to holding a lavish reception, and give 20p or 50p if they feel generous, even copper. They want to use the Church for their own purposes but never think
to consider how it manages to exist.

But then we have to consider whether the Church uses the monies received wisely, and I think there is enormous and appalling waste of financial resources. It is because of this I could not bring myself to ask old ladies (and gentlemen to a lesser degree) to give of their small income to support some of the Church activities and inefficient practices.

In the Dioceses there are various ‘boards’ well staffed with salaries and expenses for travelling. Are they really necessary? Most of these could be pruned, if not dispensed with. Take for example the Board for Mission. I thought every parish Vicar was a missionary, why need a team of lay people. At one Chapter meeting we had a young woman come to tell the clergy how to deal with baptisms when some of us had over 25 years experience.

Each Diocese holds a Conference every three years for which there is a three line whip. This to me is just a chance for clergy to have a three day break.. It is supposed to stimulate and refresh the clergy, but on the rare occasions I attended I found it demoralising. But it has to be paid for by the Church, not individuals. There are plenty of resources via modern technology to allow clergy to be stimulated, but even a day Conference should suffice.

For me the greatest and unnecessary misuse of income is on General Synod. There are far too many members for a start, 467. The cost runs into millions when all members receive expenses to travel and stay at hotels, together with all the bundles of papers sent out, without showing many decisive conclusions. The Catholic Church appears to exist well without such an encumbrance.

Well run businesses have boards of directors to run and be responsible for, Bishops are regularly wanting to exert authority, this would the chance for doing something beneficial. We are on the Lord’s business and should do all we can to make it efficient and worthy of Him.

No business could function if it had many branches failing to provide growth or income. At one time there was need and justification for a Church in every village and for many suburban and town places. Now there is not, and some clergy have three Churches to care for, so failing to give any proper attention and oversight.

If you walk around the centre of Oxford for example, there are five Churches (at Least) within walking distance, and to a lesser degree in other cities and towns usually staffed. A more equitable situation would be to spread resources and indeed close those Churches where people were not attending. Some would inevitable be displaced, and the need to travel would arise; but few people find any difficulty in getting to Tesco or Sainsbury’s. Should getting to Church be any different or harder

Hope you will be at Church on Sunday God bless you.

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