Canon Missioner - Revd Canon Jay Colwill
I will never forget my first visit to the Diocese of Kondoa, in Tanzania
Kondoa is a very remote diocese in Northern Tanzania (5 hours Land Rover drive fromt eh city of Arusha, to a diocese the size of Wales that has a 95% majority Muslim population). The Bishop and his wife had invited me to share their home. In the morning, for only one hour each morning, there was running water, so big dustbins of water were filled to see the family through the day. To make it warm to wash with, the bishop’s wife kindly warmed a large saucepan over a fire. After a simple breakfast, I would travel with the bishop to distant parishes to encourage the clergy and people. The maize harvest was poor that year, and most years since due to severe drought caused by climate change. Yet, in spite of the many challenges that they faced, the Kondoan church was joyful. People would gather with enormous enthusiasm for worship. People faced the enormous challenges with deep prayer. If our Dean, or Canon Wendy were standing here, they would tell of similar stories from our link diocese of Masvinga in Zimbabwe.
The church in Kondoa has a joyful faith in the teeth of real adversity. I asked myself the question, what did they have that I didn’t? I think that it can be summed in theologian: Walter Brueggemann’s phrase: a theology of scarcity or a theology of abundance. I had a belief that resources were scarce when I had much, whereas the Kondoan church had a belief in the God of abundance when they had little. This harvest time, we face a very different future than we did last year! This year, there will be no procession from the Market, no optimism about ‘things only getting better’. Instead, in South London, we face significant unemployment, food hunger and an uncertain economic future. The work of the St. George The Martyr Community Kitchen is just one shining example of the church’s response in the diocese of Southwark. I hope that you’ve been able to bring some dried goods that can support this important work. From Carshalton to Camberwell, Peckham to Tolworth, I can tell you stories of churches demonstrating the love of God in action.
Olivia Reed, and her experience supporting food deliveries to vulnerable residents.
“I have been volunteering three days a week at St George the Martyr Church on Borough High Street where they run a food bank/kitchen. Since the lockdown started, they ..requested volunteers to deliver food around Southwark to vulnerable adults and those in need. I also make up food boxes at the church for usually three or four different households, squeeze them in the car and deliver them. Recipients get one box a week with all sorts of surplus food donated from Borough Market, yesterday’s fresh produce from a Waitrose and the cooked meals made by chefs from local restaurants, prepared in the church kitchens. It’s been great meeting other volunteers at the church, and the lovely people in the community.
Our Bible readings challenge us and address the themes of scarcity and abundance. The story of Deuteronomy asserts that we are being led by a good God who provides, out of His inexplicable love. Moses reminds the people of this, while they are still in the desert, and before they reach the land flowing with milk and honey. In the desert place, Moses encourages the people to a fresh understanding of God. When we are in the desert place, our understanding, our theology is tested. What do we really believe about God? Is God Jehovah Jireh- God the provider or not?
Paul, in his writing to the Corinthian church encourages them towards generosity, based upon his belief that God provides abundantly. He calls them to generous financial giving. Why? Because God is faithful
You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us.
Secondly, Paul uses an agricultural analogy- Reap what we sow.
If we have a belief in scarcity, we will be fearful and act fearfully. If we have a belief in abundance, we will act generously, God’s Kingdom will grow and we will see the benefit of this.
Our third reading is
The overflow of abundance can lead to self-sufficiency or thanksgiving.
The story of the 10 lepers.
‘Were not ten made clean? But the other nine, where are they? Was none of them found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?’
Only one returned in thanksgiving. God doesn’t compel us to say thank you. He invites us. Only one in ten did.
A theology of God’s abundance leads to generosity and thanksgiving.
What about us? As I said at the beginning of the Harvest Thanksgiving service, these are difficult times. Yet, our theology shapes our thoughts and our actions as much as the other way around. Will we live by faith or fear?
Do we believe that God is a God of scarcity or abundance?
We listened to the consort sing the 23rd psalm for us. This psalm perfectly sums up the tension between times of challenge and faith.
THE Lord is my shepherd : therefore can I lack nothing.
2 He shall feed me in a green pasture : and lead me forth beside the waters of comfort.
3 He shall convert my soul :
Will we let God convert our soul from fear to faith, from scarcity to abundance?
Small steps can help us to join in with converting work of God.
During each week, can we…
Can we create habits of generosity- both with our money and resources?
Can we find ways to regularly express our thanksgiving to God through our words and our actions?
When we gather as church each Sunday, can we ponder the stories that declare scarcity to be false: the green pasture that God will lead us to; the community of generosity that looks to the needs of the poor? And a question should be burning in our hearts: “What if it is true? What if one of the links between the Creator’s generosity and the neighbour’s needs …..is us, this community? If that is not true, then scarcity rules and we are in sorry shape. But if it is, and if we believe it is, we can begin life anew as stewards of God’s abundance.