6th November 2022
Gospel: Luke 17.11-19
There is a beautiful carol which I love to hear, and sing, at Christmas. In the Bleak Midwinter. It is a beautiful poem by Christina Rosetti, and the words are powerful, yet simple: heaven cannot hold him; enough for him who is adored by angels is a breastful of milk; Mary worships Jesus with a kiss. Simple things, simple offerings, human offerings to Christ in response to the gift of him to us. The word that became flesh and lived among us. And of course then there is the final verse: what can I give him, poor as I am? It does seem to be a huge question: what can we mere humans do in response to the great loving gift of God to us: the gift of God’s only Son; the gift of God’s unconditional love; the gift of freely given grace. The gift of freedom, of new-life. Well, maybe our response can be simple too: thank you. Or, in the words of Christina Rosetti: yet, what I can I give him, I give my heart.
But what does that mean? Giving your heart to God? The first commandment Jesus gives us expands this offering: we are to love God with all our heart, yes, but also with all our mind, all our soul and all our strength. With all our being. And we are to love our neighbour as ourself – this too is part of the response to God’s gifts to us: to say thank you to God is to love God totally, with all our being and to love our neighbour as ourself.
But saying the words is easy. What do we do, what can we give, actually physically do to respond to God’s gifts with our heart, mind, strength and soul? Well, I’d like to go back to basics. To the things we learned from early childhood. Things each and every young child struggles with, and even adults can find difficult! Sharing and saying Thank you. I have memories of my mother telling me to “share nicely” – I can’t remember what I was sharing, but the words stay with me (probably because they had to be said to me a lot!). Sharing what we have with others, and if we follow that through to the life of Christ, sharing what we have with those who need it, ask for it, are less fortunate than us. But also sharing it with each other, here, in our community. Because sharing is a way of ensuring community works. It helps community develop and deepen. Community, our church community, requires that we all share our time, talents and treasure in order to create a sense of belonging, of being part of something, of belonging to each other, and to God.
Rowan Williams wrote about what it means to be community, a community of Christians. For him it meant showing the characteristics of Christ and these include: unquestioning compassion and mercy towards each other and towards all of God’s children; and generosity and simplicity. If we are living together, working together as a community of Christ then we are working together for God, responding to God’s love. Because, in the words of Rowan Williams: Christian identity claims a citizenship “deeper and more universal than any human society can provide.” We are called to share who we are, what we are, with each other in our community. We are called to use our talents, our time and our treasure to support and grow our community so that we can reveal God’s love in the world, to the world, so that all can experience this love, and feel the power of God’s grace in their lives. Because it is through our church, our chaplaincy, that God can work in the world. But we need to give of ourselves to let God reach out through us into that world.
Which means asking ourselves the question posed by Christina Rosetti: what can I give him, poor as I am? And the example is around us in our church, shown by all those who already give what they can. The ones who make coffee, produce Search, help in the bazaar, join in the church clean, sing in the choir, work behind the scenes to make our church run smoothly. And to whom we are already very grateful. But, they, I, cannot do this alone. It takes a whole community to build a community doing God’s will, God’s work. There are so many ways we can be involved in our community.
The first is by being here, by coming to church, by supporting our worship and sustaining our prayer life. Easy. Just by being here, talking to each other, sharing with each other, we are doing God’s work. For those who can, there are many opportunities of getting further involved in our work as God’s hands on earth. Join one of the rotas, think about your own vocations, help carry the coffee out to the garden, come and sing with us, support our young people as youth leaders or Junior Church leaders. And of course, finally, there are the financial needs of the church. To sustain our ministry and outreach, to develop it further does require funds. We all need to consider what we can give: big; small; time; talent; or treasure.
Because by doing so we come to the second of those things we learn as children: Say “thank you!” By offering ourselves – our time, talents and treasure – to the work of God we turn back to God and say thank you, like the Samaritan leper in our Gospel story. We stop and say, thank you, from our hearts, through our actions. We stand, and in our gifts we praise God, we show our gratitude to God for all God’s gifts to us. Because: My God loves me, his love will never end, He rests within my heart for my God loves me. And: dearly, dearly has He loved, and we must love him too. And show God’s love in our lives. Please, consider what time, talents and treasure you can give to help the work of God in this place. Offer your gift to God – whether that is just your presence, here in Church, or a talent given by God, joining a rota, or even helping with the washing up.
We ask so much from God. God has given us so much unbidden and unconditionally, surely we can give something back to God: our hearts and hands and voices. Our time, talents and treasures.
Revd Jackie Sellin
Williams R (December 22 2021) The Two Ways, Plough Quarterly – 14:Re-formation Essays, plough.com/en/topics/faith/discipleship/the-two-ways-williams