The text of a sermon preached on Sunday 25th September; the texts were 1 Timothy 6:19 and Luke 16:19-3. The Diocese of Guildford has launched its mission and vision strategy - Transforming Church, Transforming Lives - which includes twelve transformation goals. For more information, follow this link:http://www.cofeguildford.org.uk/about/transforming-church-transforming-lives
At the Cathedral, we are praying for parishes, schools and chaplaincies; and discerning the part we play in being a resource for that work. We pray in order to resource ourselves to play our part in the building up of God's Kingdom. As Bishop Andrew says: 'God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - is in the business of transforming individuals and communities, as we have the joyful privilege of joining in.'
The name Alan Scrase probably won't mean much to you.
Alan is a banknote collector; so the newly issued polymer notes were of particular interest to him. On his second visit to the bank, he was excited to discover that three of his new five pound notes had the sought after AA01 serial numbers. On the internet auction site, Ebay, they fetched £460!
What would you do - or have you done - with your first plastic fiver? The aptly named Johnny Five - a fundraising consultant - announced on Twitter that he'd given his to charity. The hashtag #firstfiver led to an impromptu social media campaign; as others joined in naming the charities which would benefit in tangible ways from an intentional act of kindness.
Some have likened the new note to Monopoly money. Perhaps that's not a bad way to begin to critique the illusion of wealth addressed in today's readings. Indeed, at last week's interfaith peace gathering in Assisi, Archbishop Justin said this: 'our money and wealth is like the toy money in a children's game: it may buy goods in our human economies that seem so powerful, but in the economy of God it is worthless'.
How we use our money matters inasmuch as it reveals our character and can express values of God's kingdom; but it is the mercy of God which quenches our thirst and satisfies our desires. As Pope Francis commented: 'We are to drink daily of that mercy in order to overcome our sin and anger, and to bear mercy to others.'
This resonates with the story Jesus told about Lazarus and the rich man. One longed for his hunger to be satisfied; the other longed for his tongue to be cooled. At a first reading or hearing, it makes us uneasy because it seems to suggest a simple reversal of roles. Life was unfair to Lazarus when compared to the luxury of the rich man; but God will balance things out in the next life.
It's more challenging; more transformative than that.
Jesus' "pearly gates" tale is intriguing: it's a useful scenario in making judgements about public life and personal lifestyle Contemporary humour does the same - you know the kind jokes involving a conversation with St Peter and a politician, pastor, atheist or accountant.
Today's parable is a vivid picture of our world; where the inequality between rich and poor reflects a fundamental injustice. Developing the x, y and z of a comprehensive economic policy which achieves sustainability and equity is huge task; and yet, the church is called to have a vision of how we hold together a commitment to justice with income generation - at a micro and macro level.
Transformation is possible. Archbishop Justin's challenge to Wonga and exorbitant pay day loan rates is an example of institutional shifts within and beyond church. Canon Andrew explored with us last Sunday how we might engage at a personal level (his sermon can be read here :http://canonandrewb.blogspot.co.uk/?spref=tw Here at the Eucharist we move from worshipping and serving mammon to take our place within a sacramental economy: an economy of grace and transformation, which enables us to be bearers of mercy.
In recognising that all we have is God's, we're already caught up in the process of transformation. Our faithfulness to God means using all that's entrusted to us with love. We cannot, like the rich man, ignore the demands of mercy and generosity. The rich man's indifference, self-indulgence and arrogance is dehumanising; yet it's Lazarus who's named and remembered as one whose human dignity calls forth compassion.
This pearly gates story expands our imaginations by presenting a stark challenge to us: but what does that look like for us? In his letter to Timothy, Paul sets out memorable 'soundbites' which we can take to heart and reflect on. It alerts us to or dependence on God's generous love; which in turn enables us to be generous.
We brought nothing into this world, we can take nothing out. Rather than getting caught up in the pursuit of transient riches and the desires of this world, we find contentment by placing our attention on God. Such contentment goes hand in hand with the pursuit of what is good, right and just; our lives begin to radiate patience, love, gentleness and endurance. We are draw on God's mercy; transforming our hearts that we might be merciful.
This is life that really that really is life.
This is the transformative dynamic of God's economy.
Such transformation is at the heart of our diocesan vision: we are all called in our own contexts and places of work, to respond to the world of God's Spirit so that we might be channels of God's love - gradually transforming the world around us. We will be aware that we face challenging times in our nation and across the world. As a pilgrim people we share in God's transforming work. It's not just how we use our first fiver, but how in the power of the Spirit, we reveal the transforming love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ? What does that look like decision by decision, breath by breath?
Churches across our diocese will be launching our vision and transformation goals this morning: making disciples, improving buildings, sharing expertise, encouraging generosity and nurturing education.
As the body of Christ in this place we share in that vision: we are facing a period of disruption because we are restoring our building and making it accessible; we nurturing education with a new programme for schools, families and adult learning; our public lectures reach out to those of faith and goodwill seeking the Spirit's gift of wisdom.
How might a vision of transforming church and transforming lives shape our priorities, our worship, our budget, our learning together and our common life?
Feed your reflections into conversations with Chapter and talk about it over coffee. But for us to be a resource to others, we need to resource ourselves: As the body of Christ in this place, our first calling is to pray in the power of the Spirit:
Almighty God, you sustain us with your life
and transform creation with your love.
May we always rest in you,
that the world might know your healing power,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.