When I was a young priest working in my first parish as an assistant to a training Rector I was taught many things which I had not learnt in seminary. Thankfully my Rector, although not an easy man to work for, was a very good teacher. One thing he insisted on was that I learned by heart various parts of the communion service. These included the Collect for Purity; the Absolution; the Offertory Sentence; the Prayer of Humble Access; and the Blessing. And these were all from the Book of Common Prayer 1662, that is, in 17th Century English. It is of course great language similar to that found in the King James Version of the Bible. But it is language that no longer rolls off the modern tongue quite so easily! So, I labored away to perfect it! The greatest challenge for me was the Offertory Sentence we tended to use:
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust corrupt and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is there will be your heart be also.”
How I struggled to say “moth”, “rust” and “doth” in the same sentence! But I have never forgotten those words of Jesus from Matthew 6:20.
We are entering into our annual Stewardship Season at Holy Apostles when we think about our financial and other commitments to Holy Apostles (how we give of our time, talent and treasure). How we deal with our “treasure” (our worldly wealth and possessions) as well as our time and talents with relation to our faith in God is a very important spiritual question. Ours is a sacramental religion where the spiritual and the material are interconnected. Not only did God create the world and everything in it but his Son, Jesus Christ, became incarnate (enfleshed), entering into the very stuff of our humanity; and by his death and resurrection redeemed humankind and the whole creation. In Christian understanding material things can therefore have sacramental implications. So, we use water in Baptism as a sign of new life in God; and the bread and wine in the Eucharist as signs of the presence of the Body and Blood of Christ. And so, it is with our wealth. What we do with our money; how we prioritize our spending; what we set aside for the work of the Church (for God), all are signs of what we believe. “Lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven” is a good phrase to use as we once again consider our giving to Holy Apostles. Traditionally our giving to God takes priority over all else. In other words: God First, and everything else follows. May God bless us as we reflect on our commitment to Holy Apostles once again.