2 Kings 5:1-3,7-15c, 2 Timothy 2:8-15, Luke 17:11-19
Let us pray: Father, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer, thank for your generosity to us – please bless my words as I speak and help us understand your message to us today. Amen
Thank you for inviting me to be here with you at St Luke’s this morning. I work for the Diocese as Director of Giving and Parish Funding. I have the privilege of visiting churches and encouraging them with their giving so that they can resource and grow their mission.
In our Old Testament and our gospel readings, we meet people who had a terrible disease called leprosy, the worst disease of their day. Leprosy attacks the body, leaving sores, damaged fingers and limbs. It meant that you couldn’t live with your family anymore as it was so infectious, lepers were very poor and outcasts. It must have been horrible. Naaman was a great commander and faced losing his position and family.
And yet, in this account, ten lepers encounter Jesus, "We want to be well!" they shout and hear him say "Go and show yourselves to the priest." The priest was the gatekeeper to declare them clean or healed, able to return to a normal life. But in order for the miracle to happen, these men had to start walking in faith before their circumstances had changed one tiny bit. Equally Naaman had to take the step of faith and wash in the Jordan river – not that he was too keen on the idea at first!
We too can learn from these stories that we cannot wait until the problems are over to start walking in faith. We can’t say, "Lord, as soon as this economic crisis over and there's enough money, I follow your instructions." Or pray, "Lord, if you'll just solve this issue in my family, I'll start coming to church." Instead, God asks us to step out in faith just like the lepers and Naaman.
As the lepers did what He told them to do, they were all cured. They were all given a life-changing gift of health but only one of the men, a despised Samaritan, came back to Jesus, to express his gratitude.
Jesus’ comment to the already healed leper was that his 'faith' had made him whole, renewed not just physically but spiritually. And the same can happen to us today as we respond to God’s grace, that gift begins to transform our souls, our thinking, our attitudes and life.
Secondly, do you stop and take time to acknowledge God for his goodness?
I sometimes find myself watching The Simpsons and on one episode I heard a grace said before the family meal that went “Dear God, we paid for all this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing”. It made me think because - although it made me flinch - it is easy to fall into thinking that way: many people think they are Lord of their own lives or at least function as if they are. How easily we forget the verse from 1 Chronicles 29:14 “all things come from you, and from your own have I given you.” Do we honour God, acknowledging him as the source of our creation, all our blessings or do we regard our money and possessions are our own and attribute all that we have to our own effort?
How do we cultivate habits of gratitude? An attitude of gratitude is good for our mental health too! Perhaps start by thanking God for our meals, or taking time at the end of the day, with our children or family to give thanks for two/ three blessings.
Thirdly, our challenge, is to notice and acknowledge God’s generosity and then to work out how do we live in response to His love? When one healed leper came back Jesus asked "Where are the other nine?" Just as with the lepers, Jesus expects today that our thankfulness should lead to action.
What choices you are making with how you spend your time or money?
How could our generosity make a diﬀerence here in Kew at this church?
As you will have read in your stewardship leaflet, St Luke needs your financial support. As St Teresa says in her prayer:
Christ has no body but yours,
No hands, no feet on earth but yours.
If your church is going to love and serve its neighbours and serve this community it needs each one of you to give to support and resource its work.
Your church need money to maintain these wonderful buildings, repair the roof and walls; to develop its commitment to care for creation and the Environment and to support those in need. Your church has a shortfall in their current budget.
St Luke’s would also like to engage more of the older children in Sunday worship.
Can I bust two myths please; there is no government funding for churches and the church is not sitting on millions of pounds of spare cash. This benefice, as with other churches is funded by the church family. We are all called to be generous, regular and cheerful givers. The money you give to your church here is used to finance your local ministry and mission including your building and some goes to your Parish pledge. I suspect that some people will be saying but if we didn’t pay so much in our Parish Support Fund pledge then we would not need so much money. The Parish Support Fund is how parishes share the costs of funding God’s mission and ministry in the parishes and communities across the Southwark Diocese.
Thank you for your generous pledge to the PSF. St Luke’s gives a little more than their indicative costs and this extra supports other churches in less fortunate areas such as Thamesmead in the eastern end of our diocese or St Helier estate in Croydon area have vicars to support their ministry and help transform their communities. We are very thankful for parishes in wealthier areas such as Kew supporting those in poorer areas.
Next year the indicative cost of supporting one full-time priest in a benefice is around £83,500. This is not what Mel gets paid; it does include the vicar’s stipend or salary, NI and pension but 50% of the cost include housing costs; ensuring that you have priests for the future by training and paying curates, readers, non-stipendiary priests and SPAs, support for clergy well-being, mission and children and youth work. It includes safeguarding including training for your parish officers, support of archdeacons and area offices, church buildings and Human Resources advice, and our contributions to the National church and Southwark Board of Education much more.
We are all on a journey in our faith and I would like to encourage you today to take just one more step, like that tenth leper in your journey,
Please pray about your financial giving to this church and act.
Perhaps you could start to plan your giving and give regularly. And think how to give regularly. How many of you have mobile phones? Most of you will have contracts, others pay as you go. And yet we are not prepared to set up a standing order for our giving to church, which should be more important in our lives,
Could you please increase your gift to this benefice? How does your giving compare to what you spend on cups of coffee or bottles of wine during the week? The Church of England encourages us to give 5% of our income to our church and 5% to other charities.
When Queen Victoria was staying at Balmoral the story goes that she was caught in the rain when walking and called at a cottage to borrow an umbrella. An irritated occupant, not recognising her caller offered a tatty umbrella. The next day a coachman returned the umbrella with her Majesty’s thanks. As he left he heard the occupant say, “If I had known who she was she could have had my best umbrella!.”
So, as we personally reflect upon our contribution towards Christ’s ministry here, how might we be shaped by what we can see with the healing of the ten lepers. This church cannot make the impact on this community without you and the gifts that God has given you to use as stewards. How are you going to respond to God’s generosity and live life generously, so that his church will be resourced to spread his love in Kew today and in the future?
Gabby Parikh, Director of Giving at Southwark Diocese