Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Luke's gospel gives us an insight into Jesus' attitude to money and material possessions. He had committed himself to travelling towards Jerusalem and shifted the focus of his ministry away from Galilee. In this phase of his ministry, he lived in the knowledge that his religious and political opponents would conspire together to have him killed.
It was in this setting he challenged people to a way of life that mirrored his self-giving love and sat loose to possessions, reputation and many relationships. During this time, he told several stories about money. The parable of the good Samaritan suggests that he approved of people using their money well. The story of the wealthy landowner who foolishly built new barns to store a bumper crop without a thought for God or anyone else suggests that we are accountable to one another and ultimately to God for the way in which we use our material possessions.
We can set these stories alongside the way in which Jesus is introduced in Luke's gospel by the song his mother sang in which she reflected on the royal rule of God that Jesus would invite people to live under. "He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty". Much of Jesus ministry focussed on the needs of the poorest in society and in sitting alongside them he made no distinction between the deserving and the underserving because he lived out of an economy of grace.
This represents a significant challenge at the best of times, but in the current cost of living crisis the call to discipleship makes even greater demands. Although all of us will be affected it is those who are on the lowest incomes who will feel the consequences of dramatically increased costs of fuel and food. As well as supporting Foodbanks and offering food for children during school holidays we might need to consider opening our building so people have somewhere warm to go in the winter.
Living out of an economy of grace is a call to generosity, a challenge to live more simply and an invitation to sit beside the most vulnerable and allow them to speak and let their lives and priorities challenge us. This call comes to us as individuals and as a society. We are right to call for economic policies that address the needs of the most vulnerable in the short and the long term that are developed out of a process of deep listening.
We also need a conversation about money in the church. The combined effects of the pandemic and the cost of living crisis show that the financial model on which our churches have operated is not working. Some of our churches are struggling to balance their commitments. If together we are to live out of an economy of grace that means a reassessment of what we do with money we have in reserve, how we raise funds and how we spend them.
I would welcome any reflections on this
Revd John Hellyer