What do we have in our hand? Do we trust God with it?
”The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”
They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages[a]! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”
“How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”
When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”
Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.Mark 6 : 30 - 44
It has to be said, as we begin a three week series on stewardship, that talking about this subject can be tricky as it always involves talking about money and that is true but we are spending three weeks on it so that we can appreciate the breadth of the subject. Stewardship starts not from focussing on money, it starts on looking at God and all that He has done and given us. What do we means by ‘stewardship’? Well, the question that Jesus asks in the middle of our gospel reading is a good place to start: ‘How many loaves do you have?’ To put it another way – ‘what do you have’ – what is in your hands, what has God given you. And in his instruction ‘you give them something to eat’ challenges us to use what we have in our hands for his purposes.
And this is the stewardship challenge at the heart of the story. There are so many mouths to feed and nothing to feed them with and we can feel this in our churches – there is so much to do but with so few resources. Time and again congregations express doubts that they can meet the financial challenge facing their church. The disciples couldn’t believe it – ‘we haven’t got enough money to feed all these people.’ They are thinking in terms of financial transactions. We do the same today. Jesus words ‘you give them something to eat’ can lead to frustration, irritation and opposition. But Jesus asks what we have in our hand and asks us to dare to trust Him with it. In giving to Him the small amount of food they had, He was able to do amazing things. One of the questions for us is what do we have in our hand and are we willing to trust Him with what we have.
What do we have in our hand? Are we willing to trust God with it?
Jesus asking for all we have is not a remote being asking for blind obedient faith, it is from a God who was willing to give everything up, even life itself in order that He might achieve a way for us to have a relationship with Him. So, the story of the feeding of the 5000 teaches us that we can trust Him with all that we give Him, even if we give Him everything. There are numerous stories of God providing in miraculous in the Bible and in the Church – it rarely starts with God providing abundantly but so often starts with His people giving to Him and then him responding
Our annual income – from regular giving whether by standing order or through the envelope scheme, plate giving, and gift aid reclaimed was £25600 last year. This is supplemented by fundraising activities, fees from weddings and funerals, income from investments and donations to specific projects and this comes to just over £14000 bringing the grand total to £39800
Annual expenditure last year – parish share, maintaining the building, keeping the building heated and lit, insurances, printing, mission, the organ, ministry is about £33000 leaving us in the black at the turn of the year. This is good news so why are we bothering to talk about money? Well there are some specific and significant facts to take into account
- You may or may not remember that when I arrived we did a deal with the diocese to give us some parish share support – £12000 in 2016, 11000 in 2017 and 5000 this year. So if we added the 11000 to our expenditure for last year, this would have brought our total expenditure to 44000 leaving us with a shortfall of 5-6K
- Some of the income I highlighted is restricted – given for specific things and, as such, can only be spent on those things E.G. the organ, the graveyard
- We can’t guarantee income from weddings and funerals though we can assume there will be some income from these going forward
- There are some significant areas of spending on the building we need to do in order to keep the water and wind out and keep it safe
So, if we assume that we operate based on regular giving, fundraising, fees from funerals and weddings and income from investments, we can expect to have: £35500
If we maintain our current levels of spending without the parish share support, and we undertake some of the important building work, we can expect to spend somewhere in the region of £49000
Leaving a deficit of approximately 13500 a year from 2019 [when our final amount of help from the diocese runs out].
By far and away our largest expense is on parish share and I think it is important to explain where that money goes – what it covers – vicarage and its upkeep, cost of ordained ministry here and supporting other parishes, costs of the diocese, training clergy – ordinands and others.
Sometimes, breaking down a large amount of money can be helpful. Take our £13500 shortfall, divide it by 52 weeks of the year still looks huge at £259 but if we divide that by our average weekly congregation which currently is an average of 52 [that may well go down after this sermon!], we could meet our current shortfall if we all gave an additional £4.99 a week. I realise that this won’t be possible for everyone to increase by this amount as you already give sacrificially, for others, it may be possible to give more, I certainly don’t want to restrict you to £4.99 and there are more than just 52 people connected to church, that is just an average. Currently 26 people give regularly in a planned way – envelope scheme or standing order.
So, what are we asking of the members of our Church?
- Pray – ask God what he wants of us
- Review – at some point in the next 3 weeks, take some time to review your giving to Church – time, talents, money.
- Respond – there will be a number of responses – giving all you can of your tie, talents and money, may be able to give more of yourself or your finances, may be able to join gift aid.
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