Last week I was at St Paul’s Manningham with a visiting Sri Lankan Priest. She and I went to share a simple lunch with the homeless and marginalised that St Paul’s works so hard to care and provide for. We talked to the vicar (also called Alistair!) and he said that their food stocks were running low and hoped that we would be able to support the project with our annual Harvest gift. As we ate and chatted, it felt a real privilege that our Church in Burley was, in a very tangible way, supporting this vital ministry. It is only a few miles away, but we are at the opposite ends of the deprivation index.
By the time you read this magazine we will have celebrated our Harvest festival at St Mary’s although there will be other celebrations at our schools to come. As I reflect on my visit to Manningham, it seems more and more urgent to think about our response to all that God has given us. Harvest is fundamentally about thankfulness; we thank God for all he has given us in the past and we praise God for sustaining our lives in the present. But thankfulness is rather hollow if we don’t have lives that respond in meaningful ways to God’s bountiful goodness. I realise that our culture is at best apathetic to the idea that God might provide for our needs, especially as our appetite keeps growing at a fast pace. At Church we have just looked at the Biblical passage in James chapter 2:
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17 So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.
James is convinced that we show what is in our heart by the generosity of our response to the needy person God places before us. Jesus tells a story about a wealthy man who could think of nothing better than constantly building a bigger and bigger empire. Sadly, as our culture becomes less connected to God and more self-absorbed, Jesus’ picture is the way most people see their priorities.
So in this season of Harvest can I encourage us to stop for a moment and ask ourselves about our response to God’s lavish generosity. Christians use the word Stewardship to define the way that we look after all that God has given us. This has implications for the environment. How much do I recycle? How much energy do I waste? How much meat do I consume? It has implications for the things I purchase and the way I purchase them. Do I try and buy items that I know are ethically produced or sourced? Do I try and avoid companies known to avoid tax and treat their workers poorly? It has implications for the way we spend our money, use our talents and our time.
What time do I give to helping others? What little (or big) gestures can I do to support someone in need? Do I look for opportunities to be used by God to support others by means of my financial giving? Later this year we will be able to support the homeless of Bradford by volunteering at Inn Churches, a project that aims to give a warm and dry place to stay for homeless people throughout the winter.
When you give money to St Mary’s over half goes to support Churches in poorer parts of Bradford and Leeds. It supports our friends in Manningham and helps them to reach some of the most marginalised people living in our area. Let us remember the challenge of James that our talking the talk only means something if we walk the walk. Many of us living in Burley are very fortunate compared to the rest of the world so let us give generously because as Jesus says, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Grace and Peace