Most of us would admit that we have a problem with money. Either we don’t have enough and are stressed by financial pressure, or we’re getting more than we need but paying the price with hard work and strained relationships, or we’re experiencing the many problems that come with inheritances and loans and tax and all the uncertainty of investments.
In our series on Ecclesiastes this week (looking at chapters 4-5) the ‘Teacher’ faces head-on the problem of money, and the difficulties that come to us from chasing it and possessing it. This is a topic that speaks clearly to us in our own time as well. But we can’t live without money, so what can we do?
This week we’ll be trying to figure out what the real problem of money is, and if there is a solution. If we hear what Jesus has to say about this issue, we learn that the real problem of money is not ‘money’, but something deeper that speaks to the heart of our lives and what sustains them.
On Sunday in our series on Ecclesiastes we came to the part where the ‘Teacher’ describes how his pursuit of ‘the good life’ (success, prosperity, possessions) ended with it all being ‘meaningless’ and not worth it. When we have these types of conversations I always find it important to emphasise that we’re not talking about morality in this case, about what is good and bad, because it is actually more complicated than that. And in fact, in many areas of the Christian life we can think about things at different levels. We can ask whether it is ‘bad’ to be wealthy, whether there is a rule or law against it in God’s eyes. Or we can ask, as the Teacher does, what is a better way to approach wealth given the way the world is, and the fact that we can’t keep what we have after we die. He thinks it is better to have a relaxed approach to this kind of thing, and to enjoy it when we can, but not pursue it too intensely. This is not morality, but rather wisdom, which builds on what is good and bad according to the rules, to ask also about the context in which we live. Finally, we can ask about what the ultimate goal of our lives is, the best that we can strive for, and whether something like wealth is part of that? This is what Jesus does, as he reminds us that we were made for relationship with God and even ‘good’ things like wealth can get in the way of that.
So many of our conversations about issues in our lives and society, get stuck on deciding whether something is good or bad. But the Bible invites us to consider what is good, but also what is better and what is best, as Jesus has shown us.
This week I announced a new initiative that we’re working on at St. Marks – the development of a community garden on our site. This idea was sparked by my hope that we can use the large property and facilities that we have to create opportunities for connection and fellowship among our members, and also for engagement with the local community. Many of our members at St. Mark’s and people who live in the area have a strong interest in gardening, producing fresh food, and the social benefits of working together on something positive. God has given us space and resources to take advantage of these opportunities, and also a call to be good stewards of the land on which we live and worship.
The site we’re looking to develop is the disused garden area along Memorial Ave, adjacent to the church hall and kitchen.
The shape of this project, and what kind of garden and other facilities we develop, is very much an open question. At the moment we just want to gather together people with an interest to explore how this might work, and to think about our first steps.
We’ll be having an open meeting on Saturday October 28th, from 12-2.30pm, meeting in the church hall. We’ll start with a BYO lunch and then have a discussion about the garden. If you have even the slightest hint of green on your thumbs, come along and join us! Let me know if you’re coming – you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
At St. Mark’s this week we are starting our series on the book of Ecclesiastes, about ‘Life Within Limits’. Ecclesiastes is a sobering and melancholy book, that takes into account the limitations and frustrations of life and probes for where true meaning can be found. A key idea for the teacher of Ecclesiastes is that we live our life ‘under the sun’, which means within the natural world with all its rhythms and cycles. The cycle of life goes round and round forever, but our lives only go around once Then we leave the world without seeming to make much of a difference. Our responses to this reality tend to range from despair and resignation to rage and resistance. Ecclesiastes helps us to see the importance of accepting what it means to be created and to have limits, as well as pushing us to consider the possibility that there might be another reality beyond the limit of the sun that can set us free and give lasting meaning to our lives. As we go through this series we will think about some of the practical ways that Christians’ can live under the sun in a way that reflects our hope in Jesus.
From now on I will be posting a blog only once a week, but we are working on other ways to build our social media engagement with our members and community at St. Mark’s, so make sure that you like our Facebook page and follow our Instagram account.
This Sunday at St Mark’s, we’re finishing our series of teaching on the topic of ‘Being the Church’, from the letter to the Ephesians. For me, looking at this sort of topic impresses me with how big the reality of the ‘Church’ actually is. God’s plan is for all of creation to be full of his presence and glory, and in the end that is what the Church is actually about.
This huge scope presents us with a challenge, which is that if we are going to ‘be the Church’ in a more authentic way there are many different paths that we can go down and many ways to grow and develop. The question for St. Mark’s, and each of us, is which path God is calling us to explore at the moment. Are we called to know and live more about our salvation, about reconciliation, about service, about our vocation in the world, about how to live with holiness, or how to love as Jesus did? This is a question that will occupy us for the next period in the life of our church.
If God is speaking to you about this question, as leaders at St. Mark’s we want to hear about what you are hearing from Him. God calls us to be the Church and to grow together as a community.