2 Thessalonians 2. 1 – 5, 13 – 17
Luke 20. 27 – 38
Traditionally around this time each year we’ve taken a moment to consider our giving to the church with a stewardship appeal.
But this year, of course, it falls in the context of a particularly difficult time for all of us. It doesn’t feel quite right to have an ‘appeal’ in the normal sense, this time.
However, it’s part of our responsibility as good stewards of our shared resources to be open with you about where we are as a church, financially.
There should be an envelope for you at the back of church – please pick one up if you haven’t already. Within it you’ll see a brief presentation of the financial picture.
The headlines are that our heating costs have gone up roughly seven times what they were in September. We’re looking at over £500 just to get the church comfortable on a Sunday morning in the coldest part of the year.
We hope and expect that government assistance will bring that down, but we haven’t got the details yet. Whatever happens, it’s going to be a challenge to keep the church going this winter.
This is alongside the usual staff and building costs, and a huge parish share request. We also remain committed to generous outward giving, especially this winter.
I want to say a huge ‘thank you’ for all that you already contribute towards the church. Nearly all our funding comes from voluntary giving, and I know many give sacrificially to enable all that we do here. And so many give of their time and talents and prayer, too.
All I want to offer today is an invitation. I’m excited about our future together, and we’re seeing new people attracted to our church and joining our community. I think we’re in a great position to show that the beauty of our tradition has a key place in the modern Church.
So it’s an invitation to be part of what God has planned for us. If you’re able to increase your contribution to the church, that’s wonderful. If you’re able simply to maintain what you give at the moment in these current difficulties, that’s wonderful too. If you don’t make a regular donation, I’d like to invite you please to consider one, and invest in the future of this wonderful church, if you’re able.
It's an invitation that’s at the heart of our Gospel reading today, as well.
The Sadducees come to Jesus with one of those ‘gotcha’ questions, a slam-dunk to trap him into making a false step.
And the logic of their question seems impeccable. They even appeal to the venerable figure of Moses as an authority.
But their argument is fatally flawed, because their idea of eternity is limited to the narrow, human view of life. They can’t imagine life without the boundaries and conventions that we make to order our life on earth; in this case the rules surrounding marriage.
But Jesus offers his hearers an invitation to take God’s view of life – to expand their understanding of what it means to be part of his creation.
And God’s view of life is eternal. It isn’t bound by the limits of our understanding; and most of all, it isn’t bound by death.
That’s what we’ve been exploring over the last week, with our celebration of the saints, and our commemoration of the faithful departed. And we will acknowledge it again next week, when we remember those who have died in war.
As I said on All Soul’s Day, Christian remembrance is not about lamenting what we’ve lost; but rather, rejoicing in what the departed have gained.
And we shouldn’t think, after reading today’s Gospel, that the earthly relationships that mean so much to us in this part of life are simply erased in the life to come – we heard in the Gospel for All Souls that nothing of this part of life is lost or forgotten.
Rather, it’s that our relationships are expanded beyond our imagination, as we are gathered up together into God for all time; as we become “like angels and children of God, being children of the resurrection,” as Jesus said.
How it would change our approach to life and death in our society, if we didn’t consider our mortality as a process of losing all the people and status and possessions we have now (and therefore desperately holding on to them for as long as possible). But rather seeing it as gaining something so much more.
The Christian journey is partly about giving up our reliance on all those things to get us through life – even our reliance on our closest relationships – and seeking instead the kingdom of God. If we do that, Jesus promises, then all we need will be given to us.
Jesus ends today by saying that our God is “not the God of the dead, but of the living.” As we continue in our remembering over this week, may we seek to embrace that vision that expands our view of life into something so much more. Because we don’t just believe in an afterlife, as Christians. We believe in an eternal life – and we can start living that life now. Amen.