Sunday, November 04, 2007

Silver and Gold for Good Causes

Haggai 1.15b—2.9
This is one of the Bible's great 'Advent' passages. The outlook may seem bleak, says the Prophet, but it's time to start singing a happy song for 'Things can only get better!' And, indeed, they are going to get better.

Sometimes people talk about wanting to take a silent collection at a meeting or service. They mean, of course, that they don't want the congregation, or the members of the meeting, to put coins into the offertory plate – even one and two pound coins. Instead of the chink of loose change, they want to hear only silence as people put five, ten and twenty pound notes into the collection.

Well, in this prophecy, God goes one better! The collection is going to be a noisy one, but not the careless noise of loose change being discarded. This is going to be the very deliberate noise of treasure clattering into the Temple vaults as God shakes the heavens, and the earth, and all the nations, to empty out their gold and silver.

It would be nice to think that the Prophet believes this will be a freewill offering, as the nations recognise the debt which they owe to God. But I suspect the Prophet sees it as a forced levy, as God wrings the resources which belong to him from ungrateful hands and wallets. The message seems to be that there is no such thing as a free lunch!

I run a charity, working in the most disadvantaged community in Sheffield. It faces closure next summer if we do not receive an injection of new funds. As I fundraise for its future, I would love to believe that God will give prosperity to such a good cause. And yet, although I believe that God does want his silver and gold to be redistributed to those who need it most, I also believe that God helps those who help themselves – even when they are the most deserving of help. I think we have to be prepared to work creatively and imaginatively to bring about change instead of waiting for money to fall into our laps.

Should this passage influence our thinking as we consider the future of our churches and their mission, and how we are going to fund them?

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