St. Barnabas Waunarlwydd

Discovering the Love of God in Jesus Christ.

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Message from our Vicar

To everyone at St John’s, Gowerton and St Barnabas, Waunarlwydd,

Rumbelow’s Ramblings - Acts 4.32-35



We always seem to focus on poor old Thomas at this time of the year so, for a change; I want us to focus on the passage from Acts 4: 34 and 35.

Paul says:

‘There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.’

It intrigues me and nudges at my belief that the best way to ensure my long-term security and stability is to work hard and save well. The work hard I’ve been able to achieve, the saving well, not so much!!

But this attitude certainly isn’t all bad; it’s good to be challenged from time to time about the way we think about our finances, our possessions, and our community.

The first thing I’d like us to look at together is how the financial generosity of the early Church began with the believers being ‘of one heart and soul’ and with the apostles sharing their testimony of the resurrection of Jesus.

The early Church were a diverse group of Jews, Gentiles, men, women, old and young. They were different from each other but united through a life-changing encounter with Jesus. The death and resurrection of Jesus, followed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost had bound this community together, had given them one heart, one soul. Their unity and the grace bestowed upon them by God found its expression in a natural overflow of generosity.

The reality of the cross and the empty grave did not lie dormant, a comforting doctrine for difficult times, but moved the community to live in a new way, as if part of a new kingdom. They did not claim private ownership of their possessions but prioritised people instead.

The early Christians understood that their lives were not their own, they had been bought at a price. They were no longer living for their own comfort, stability or pleasure. And we have received this same spirit as our brothers and sisters in the early Church. We testify to the same resurrection, we worship the same Jesus.

And when we understand that that our lives are no longer our own, we too are freed from the belief that we must achieve our own comfort at all costs. People become more important than possessions. When we testify to the resurrection of Jesus, we testify that we are no longer dependent on the security of wealth but on the total completeness of what Jesus has done for us.

But wait just a minute; you may be feeling that this is a passage about impossibly generous Christians with impossibly high standards. You may be feeling that this model of giving would never work in your life, with your income, your benefits, your financial commitments, debt, children, grand-children, and the list goes on and on. Even as I speak you may be figuratively closing your hands and your heart around your finances. I know that’s often my response. Talking about money is never popular, but this is about so much more than money.

Over 20 years ago now, in May 1999, my family moved to Gowerton and at that time I was working in Swansea, travelling in everyday and trying to find parking which didn’t cost the earth. Soon enough a job became vacant at Gowerton Surgery and I pondered the move as it meant a drop in salary, but eventually I was given a position here. I didn’t realise it at the time, but Jesus had a plan for me!!

Over the last 20 years or so I have been challenged to take ever bigger and more significant roles at St John’s until I eventually recognised the call into ordained ministry – the rest, as they say, is history.

But at each turning point there was some financial loss involved.

In order to change jobs, I had to take a cut in pay.
In order to study, I had to work less hours and to work less hours; I had to take a cut in pay.

In order to become the person I am today, there have been some financial reductions. So how have I managed to stay on top of things?

Well, obviously I have a husband to support me with some of the things I have had to do but, at each and every stage of my growth there have been gains too. With the change of job there was no need for parking fees, with each drop in hours there has always been a change in the tax codes so that, all in all, I have never lost out by much!!

In 2 Corinthians 9:7, Paul says that ‘each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.’ Giving is an act of freedom, not a subscription charge, not a penalty.

As we’ve seen, the early Christians’ hearts were changed by their experience of the resurrection of Jesus. Their perspective on their community was shifted by the knowledge that each and every one of them was infinitely valuable to God, valuable enough to die for. The community loved one another and put this love into tangible action.

In this passage we can see the early Christians selling their land and their houses and using the proceeds to give to those in need. The early Christians did not cling to the gifts of wealth God had given them, but offered them up to bless others.

Now, I’m obviously not recommending that we all go from here and sell everything we have, that would be crazy. I know that here in Gowerton and in Waunarlwydd, your generosity and particularly your love of your church have helped us to keep our heads above water and Alex and I are extremely grateful for all your hard work in keeping our churches alive and financially viable.

Just imagine with me what life would look like if people were considered as precious as money and possessions; if hearts and hands worked for the building up of the community; if we had such a grasp of the scale of the resurrection that the attraction of wealth faded away entirely.

Paul says in Acts:

‘There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.’

What could that look like in our lives, in our community? Could our homes be opened up? How could our church finances be redirected to invest in more outward looking projects? What are our next steps?

Let’s try and see what God's plans for our lives are and see if there is anything else I, you, we could do to build the Kingdom of Heaven here in our community.

How beautiful a picture and how powerful a witness this would be for the watching world.

Amen.