1st Scripture Reading: Psalm 95 & Exodus 17:1-7
Have you heard the expression “Water is Life”? Most of us have, and most of us understand that water is essential to life as we know it. The presence or absence of water on a distant planet, for example, is a good indicator of whether or not life forms might be found there.
So it’s not hard to imagine the desperation of a people, wandering thru a desert land, and not finding water! And who do they blame? Their leader of course: Moses. And a beleaguered Moses turns to God: “What shall I do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me!”
All things have certain requirements that are critical to their life. People, animals and plants all require water to survive. Many industries require water to survive, and many of those have other requirements as well – and chief among those is MONEY! Money pays the bills, the payroll, the mortgage, the rent. Money buys the raw materials and pays for the brains that plot the critical path forward to making a profit.
Churches, like all other institutions and organizations, require money to survive as well. Governments require money in the form of tax revenues to provide the services that the people want and need. Money for the running and maintenance of a church also comes from the people – in the form of offerings.
Taxes and offerings – there is only one place that money can come from – and it is from the good will of the people. Governments do not in this country support churches financially.
Typically there are four ways churches get the money required to keep the doors open. The first is the oldest, and it is called tithing. This method is biblically mandated, and means that 10% of a persons income before deductions of any kind are given to God – to the church. Not many adherents in the United Church tithe these days.
The second way the church gets money is thru bequests – money that is willed to the church thru what is called “planned giving”. This way is infrequent, not predictable, but very welcome when it happens.
The third, and by far the most common way is Sunday givings on the offering plate. These can be cash or cheques, and are often in envelopes designed for that purpose. This is the backbone of our revenue stream and ranges from a dollar or two to a hundred dollars or more per week per member.
The fourth way is by pledging which can take the form of post-dated cheques or PAR (direct deposit) to the church bank account.
We post the financial position of this church on your bulletin so you can see where we are at this time relative to the budget which you examined at the AGM. Each of us has a responsibility to help make the budget, and to see that the budget is met.
I do believe that God provides for all our needs according to God’s goodness, and that we all work together to be the rock that holds our church together.
Hymn #87 MV “Water flowing from the mountain”
2nd Scripture Reading: John 4:5-42
But money is “the root of all evil”, right? Wrong. Money, like our sexuality is a gift of God. It’s how we use these gifts that determines their value. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart is also.”
In our society money has become very important. And we are a very materialistic culture. “Christianity”, according to Ralph Milton, “is a very materialistic religion. Worldly things, like sex, money, and politics are the very things it deals with. Some other major religions try to get you away from all that. Salvation becomes so spiritual that nasty things like money and sex simply don’t affect you any more. But Christianity doesn’t take you away from anything. Christianity takes you right into the middle and helps you use what you have creatively. Our money and our sexuality are gifts of God.
The founder of our church, Jesus Christ, got lots of bad press because he insisted on being involved with earthy things. Not that he was particularly concerned with people’s wealth (unless it came at somebody else’s expense). but he was very concerned about what people did with their wealth and power, with their time and talents, and with their bodies.
Most of all he was concerned about their attitudes. “Where your treasure is,” said Jesus, “there your heart will be also.” In other words, when you take out your cheque book or your credit card you are expressing your faith. Or lack of it.”
But water is the theme of our scriptures today, isn’t it? We see it happening again in the reading from the Gospel of John. And it’s a very “earthy” story with elements of sexual impropriety, racism, sexism and the healing properties of water as expressed by Jesus: “those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”
The Samaritan woman was socially and racially unacceptable to Jesus’ companions who were racially pure Jews. Jewish men did not talk to Samaritan women, especially those alone. And this woman was flawed – she had had five husbands, and the man she was with now was not her husband. In the patriarchal culture of the day, women had few choices. If her husband threw her out she was unprotected in a world of extravagant male privilege. She couldn’t support herself – her options would have been to find another man to marry her, throw herself on the mercy of her family, or prostitution.
But Jesus focusses on what they have in common – the need for the life-giving properties of water. And he teaches her, as he taught Mary, and he charges her to take his message of salvation and healing to the men of her village – much as he charged Mary after the resurrection. There is a very strong healing message for women in this passage – and an equally strong message to men about how they treat women.
But what does this have to do with money and the church? As Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there is where your heart will be.” Do we treasure justice? Do we practise compassion? Is the dignity and value of every child of God important to us, and worthy of protection? Are freedom and equal opportunity worth fighting for? These are the things Jesus teaches us are the real treasure, and he embodies these values and challenges us to step up to the plate and continue his work. Money is a form of our energy. Money is what we use to support the work of being a follower of Jesus. Money puts food in the food bank, supports social programs for the elderly and marginalized. Money supports women’s shelters and shelters for the homeless. And money keeps churches open as places of worship, fellowship, and spiritual support for the ideals and values we say that we believe are important.
We need to ask ourselves, how important is this church to us? Is it worth 10% of our income? Say 5% to Mission and Service, and 5% to the local church? Is it worth pledging a monthly amount, so the church Board has a better idea what financial support it has for the coming year? Is it important to donate what you would normally give, even if you plan to be away?
You have probably heard it said that it is better to give than to receive. In terms of spiritual growth, the development of our faith and our integrity as Christians, yes, it is better to give. Regular giving strengthens our resolve to do the work of Christ, and heals us on many levels. We feel better about ourselves and about our relationship with God and with the risen Christ. As we fellowship with like-minded people we become a force for good in the world.
Like a healing stream, our good intentions supported by our money, flow out into the world. Like a healing stream…
Hymn #144 MV “Like a Healing Stream”