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The week in focus for week beginning Sunday 7 August 2022

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Up-to-the-minute jumping-off points for sermons, linking the reading to the latest news and global issues

Seeking God’s treasure

Jesus calls us to gather heavenly treasure and to be ready for God (Luke 12.32-40).

Context

Reflection and ideas for a sermon, talk or conversation

  • ‘A penny saved is a penny earned’. As Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss compete to offer tax cuts and more money in people’s pockets in their bid to be the new Conservative Party Leader & Prime Minister, it is challenging to put this approach to politics against today’s readings. My mother was full of mottos and proverbs about living frugally and spending wisely, but I was challenged this week. A neighbouring teenager has been feeding my cats while I was on holiday and my wife had agreed a daily rate which, once you added it up, was a lot more than my mother would consider value for money. I reacted with surprise and a little anger, but God challenged me as to why I felt I had to cling on to my money. Yes, this amount was either profligate or generous depending on your view, but did I trust God to ultimately provide for me and my household? Could I afford to overpay in this case to support someone who might well need it more? What did it say about where I had placed my treasure?
  • England have finally won a football tournament for the first time since 1966. As the final whistle blew a number of the commentators and pundits, former international women players with England themselves tried to hold back tears of joy at this achievement. For them, this success arose out of the efforts they and others put in to advocate for women’s football. Previous defeated finalists talked about how they had paid their own expenses to be able to play for England and, since retirement, how they had been knocked back by many within football in their push for women to be given equal treatment with the men. The difference made by having a team who are all professional, paid to train and with the same medical and performance staff behind them was clear to see – and brought joy to millions. Each player had a story that was not about 90 (or rather 120) minutes, it the last five weeks, but a lifetime of sacrifice and effort leading to Sunday's explosive joy. In the same way, Jesus tells his followers to focus on the mission God has given them. Whatever the knockbacks or discouragements, we are to give, work and pray for the kingdom of God. In doing this, we will be ready for whenever God comes again – and the joy when He does will exceed even the joy of an England victory at Wembley.
  • The pressure on everybody's finances is projected to continue increasing and will lead to real anguish and suffering for many. Jesus never takes the suffering of the poor lightly and his encouragement holds for us too, 'do not be afraid little flock for your father has been pleased to give you the kingdom’. Whatever financial security we enjoy, it is only for this life but we will share in God's kingdom forever. We need to lift our eyes above the bottom line and be working for God's purposes and values so that, when he comes again, we will be ready and not dismayed.

Questions for discussion 

  • What other ‘treasures’ distract us from what God has called us to? What other things do you invest yourself in?
  • What does it mean to be ready for God to come again? What does that look like in a day-to-day sense?
  • What are you committed to? What are you working towards in the world around you?

Steve Taylor is joint-vicar of St James Alperton CofE church near Wembley. He shares the job with his wife, Ali, and shares his house with their two daughters, two cats and a few fish.

 

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Connecting faith with everyday, real-life issues for young people

This week saw the final of Love Island, the infamous reality TV show which strands a group of singles together for two months. There’s been a constant stream of drama and gossip in the media, as we find out who is dating who, and viewers speculate whether ‘love’ or ‘money’ will win. The focus is very much on the ‘material world’ as beautiful people compete to win over their date – and the public – with not just their personalities but also their fabulous (preloved) outfits and coordinating accessories, plus the inevitable layers of make-up, fake tan and hairspray needed to ‘look good’ on TV. As well as the £50 000 prize, the brand deals and exposure that follow means that each contestant is potentially a winner. But have they found lasting treasure?  

Jesus’ words are clear but challenging. ‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’. This message should prompt us to assess our lives. What is our personal idea of treasure? What are our hearts invested in? Whatever this may be, we are invited to remember that the Father is giving us the kingdom. It is heaven which we should be focused on rather than worldly or material goods and concerns.

We are not being asked to give up jobs, homework, or other responsibilities (unfortunately for some!). Rather we are reminded to see ‘the wood for the trees’. Does our day-to-day life revolve around a faithful and committed effort to live as a Christian? Or does it revolve around the incentives and aspirations of the day – whether they be new trends or desirable items?

If our treasure is fame and exposure – our hearts are rooted in this world. If our treasure is to love and live a good and happy life within our faith, then our hearts are focused on the kingdom. In a world which demands our undivided attention, money, and energy – let us remember that we have a choice, aside from our heart being rooted in the world – it can be rooted in heaven.

Joe Allen is studying for an MA in Theology at the University of Exeter. He is also a Trustee for the charity ‘Action for Stammering Children’.

 

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