Letter from the Minister.
Rev Phil Summers
Holy Habits - Sharing resources
‘All the believers were together and had everything in common…’
‘All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above’
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”
When I was learning about my Christian faith, I was brought up in the tradition that all things were to be recognised as God’s. This was at a time when I had very little; a few clothes, an overdraft and a few bits of cast off furniture. But the principle that everything I supposedly owned, actually belonged to God remained with me. I have nothing. I am simply a steward of God’s property. As I progressed spiritually (and slowly) I began to grasp that this recognising all things as God’s was more than just property and finance. What was God’s was my whole self. I suppose that’s what eventually led me to respond to the call to full time, ordained ministry.
It was only after serving the church for many years that I began to truly wrestle with what ‘all things belong to God’ really meant. A hymn that is most meaningful to me is ‘Take my life’ (Singing the Faith 566). When I was first challenged by it I had nothing to speak of, at least not in terms of money and possessions. So, to sing: ‘Take my silver and my gold, not a mite would I withhold’ wasn’t too difficult. But the hymn speaks of so much more. Moments and days, hands and feet, voice, intellect, will and heart are all to be given to God and used for his purposes.
This is why this month’s Holy Habit is such a challenge. For when we speak of sharing resources, we are looking to offer to God all that we are. It’s something I reference every week as I formally pray a blessing on our offering; and by offering ourselves to God in completeness we are in fact making ourselves available to each other; for together we are the body of Christ.
In the Methodist Covenant Prayer we say ‘You are mine and I am yours, so be it’. But of course, that only carries any real depth if when we see God in others we remember that we each hold our personal resources for the common good. What I have, from my smile to my silverware, is to be given in the service of others. This responsibility is not parochial either. We are not called simply to support our local fellowship but to reach out beyond ourselves to work ecumenically (with other churches) and indeed to follow Jesus lead in using our resources to bind up the broken hearted, heal the sick and let the prisoners go free, wherever they may be in the world.
In the present climate this is all very counter cultural. I am not to stand alone as an individual, I am not here to serve simply my friends and family, my resources are not just for my church community or indeed for my local community. I do not treasure the resources God has given me just for my county, or for England, or for the United Kingdom. What I have and who I am is received from and given to God for the benefit of all the world.
Sharing resources is a challenging Holy Habit but as such it has the capacity to change us from being an inward-looking institution to an outward looking community. A community that doesn’t worry about what it may lose but rejoices in the great reward of the Kingdom of Heaven.