Vicar’s Letter – December 2017  Michael Fox

A very Happy New Year to you! Advent, the beginning of the Church’s year, is a time for selfexamination as we prepare our hearts to celebrate once more the coming of our Lord as a vulnerable child and as we make ourselves ready to greet him when he returns. To that end St. Paul’s is conducting a ‘Time, Talents and Communications (and Other Things)’ survey to enable you to reflect on the way you might use the gifts, skills and talents God has given you to help build up his

Talking of talents, the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25. 14-30) tells the story of a ‘rich master’ who puts his business affairs into the hands of three servants before departing on a long journey. Each man receives a different amount, calibrated “according to his ability.” The first receives 5 talents, the second 2 talents and the third, 1 talent. A single talent was the rough equivalent of 15 years wages for a labourer, so even at the lower level, there is a
considerable sum entrusted. In today’s terms, if you were to base your calculation on the median wage of all UK full-time workers (roughly £27,000 p.a.) then the man with one talent would have £405,000 to invest. The man with 5 talents would have just over £2 million pounds to invest.

Putting it like that helps us to see that Jesus is painting a picture of the huge abundance of the master in the story, and that this abundance is being entrusted to others to look after and grow. The problem with the third servant, the one with the least to invest, is not that he loses his master’s money, but that he has a niggardly view of his master, and fails in his dealings to reflect the master’s true character. In Shakespeare’s day, ‘niggardliness’ was regarded as a failure to achieve, through one’s open-handed generosity, the height of one’s true nature.

When we come to apply the story to ourselves, we can see that we are being encouraged to think first about the generous, overflowing provision of God to us through his creation, in order for us to achieve the height of our true nature, a nature which is derived from the image of God as the source of all generosity. Indeed the very word ‘generosity’ contains within it the idea of flourishing and multiplying – think ‘Genesis’.

This is the context in which we are asked to give an account of how we have allowed God’s gifts to us to flourish. Our survey is intended to help you to think about every level of your life – your time, gifts, skills,
talents, experiences, and your money – and how you may offer these back to God.

My hope and prayer for the coming year is that we may continue to build at St. Paul’s a true culture of abundance – I’m not talking about flashy displays of wealth but about a church culture in which individuals may flourish at every level, and which is characterized by a generous and genuinely sacrificial giving of ourselves to reflect the glorious generosity
of our God. A culture of abundance allows us to reach out to others, to give them time, attention and a connection to a richer, more meaningful life. An element of that certainly relates to finance, in order for us to keep our church building sound, to pay for mission resources and to contribute to the needs of some in our society who need extra support.

Every blessing,