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Bishop Richard's Weekly video Message - Transcript 16.02.2023

Hello everyone and welcome to this week’s video.

Jesus’ stories to illustrate the truths of faith were drawn from the poor agrarian society in which he lived.  He was an artisan craftsman by training like his father, which would have given him some economic advantage in a largely unskilled labouring culture.  There was usually plenty of work on Roman construction projects.  He may have spent much of his early working life on a Roman city being constructed not far from where he grew up.  Similarly, his disciples were not the raw, unintelligent peasants they are sometimes portrayed.  Peter and Andrew were entrepreneurs in the family business.  Others were entrepreneurial in a different way.  Matthew through criminality as a tax collector; Simon as a political activist and rebel.

All of their lives were illustrations of faith as a journey of setting aside comfort and security for a greater cause.  We should not underestimate how challenging this was and is.  I remember a conversation with a Director of Ordinands in another diocese a few years ago.  He had a candidate with huge gifts and a clear sense of call who was earning a six-figure salary.  He said, “no!”

This idea of faith as trust lies behind the next stanza of the Lord’s prayer, “Give us this day our daily bread.” It can be translated, “Give us this day the bread for today.” I’m sure Jesus would have been informed in this by watching the day labourers in the marketplace. They would hang around hoping that someone would hire them.  It was a precarious, hand to mouth existence.  If they weren’t hired, there would be no money, and their families wouldn’t eat. He draws on this imagery in other parables as well.

Our natural instinct is to surround ourselves with things that ensure our comfort and security. We embark on projects that are clearly costed with a secure funding stream to completion. We like to build up a secure savings pot to tide us through any potential emergencies.  These are very sensible ways to do life.  People get into all sorts of trouble when they don’t.  But, Jesus doesn’t invite us to pray that his provision would fill our bank accounts for the foreseeable future.  He invites us to pray for just enough in the moment. Reading the history of God’s people in the Bible, its not hard to see why that should be the case. The Israelites were warned in Deuteronomy 6, “When the Lord your God brings you  into the Land he swore to your Fathers…then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the Land of slavery.” In a faith that has at its heart an utter dependence upon God for the grace we need, there is a spiritual danger in material prosperity.  Perhaps this is why Jesus spoke about money more than anything else.  Parables about it being more difficult for a camel to get through the eye of a needle; dire warnings to the wealthy who weren’t generous with it, or who attributed their success to their own gifts or entitlement should give us pause. 

Jesus and the disciples were clearly dependent on the generosity of others to fund their ministry.  I’m sure that wouldn’t have come easy for disciples like Peter and Andrew who were used to generating their own income.  They were proud men as their responses show.

Jesus invites us to pray that God would meet our need, not our greed. If by accident of birth or circumstance we find ourselves with great abundance, we are invited to thankfulness and generosity.  Some of the most inspiring heroes of faith have a testimony of God’s extraordinary provision for them both financially and in other ways as they have responded to a sense of God’s call without the ready resources to do it. Theirs are stories of faith as adventure, of dangerous and risky trust. We tend to be fearful about or lack of resources or influence. Praying give us this day, the bread for the day, might help to reframe our anxieties as opportunities to experience grace.

+ Richard

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