Monday, 7 February 2022

A Future of Abundance or Culture of Scarcity?

GUEST POST by Fr John Ackland, preached at Croydon Minster Sunday 6th February 2022

Isaiah 6:1-8; Luke 5:1-11


In this sermon I would like us to explore what could be called Theological Psychology -  but then I thought far too pompous and I might have some of us rushing for the door! But the intention is to consider how we ‘think as Christian people’ and how we respond to those thoughts?

Our Gospel repeatedly makes us look at the  church, each other and ourselves from our Lord’s perspective.


We are called to reimagine the church through the eyes of God.


Often at  our Ministry Team Meetings held every Tuesday we have explored the concept of what it means to have a Culture of Abundance or a Culture of Scarcity. It has been truly fascinating! Personally, I love this sort of inquiry because it really makes me think! 


"Is the glass half empty or half full?" is a proverbial phrase, used rhetorically to indicate that a particular situation could be a cause for pessimism (glass half-empty) or optimism (glass half full), So if we replaced the word pessimism for scarcity and optimism for abundance, well, we can ask ourselves- does our Minster church have a Culture of Scarcity or Culture of Abundance? Half empty? Half full? And why does it matter?


Well, this scarcity/abundance dynamic is at the heart of so many human encounters with Jesus.


Do you know that there is only one miracle that is found in all four gospels, only one that we find in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John? What is it? It’s not the calming of the sea or raising Lazarus from the dead or changing water in to wine: it’s the Isaiahfeeding of the five thousand. It starts with ‘scarcity’ -so many miracles and parables begin from a perspective of scarcity.


Just five loaves two fish and five thousand people. Quite clearly there is not enough food. In the moment the disciples reflect that culture of scarcity! “we haven’t got enough, we cant do it” And rightly so in one sense. There is’nt enough food amongst so many. Scarcity.


But Jesus reflects that culture of abundance and miraculous things can happen when we have a culture of abundance.


So let’s briefly explore today’s Gospel reading.

You have probably heard this reading many times.


The scene is set; it is morning. Crowds have gathered to listen to Jesus on the shores of the lake.We see two fishing boats. The fisherman have been fishing all night without success.


So, they are washing the nets before returning home to eat and rest.


As more and more people gather to listen to Jesus, he decides

to climb into one of the two fishing boats asking Simon to put out into the water so he can speak from there to the crowd. Sound over water is amplified and he is now facing all the people and he speaks- but we don’t know what he says!


When he is finished he tells Simon to put out into deep water and let down the nets. Bearing in mind they had been working all night they are exhausted and the nets have already been washed, it was a big ask.


But he does it anyway and, as we know, miraculously, the nets are overwhelmed with fish. The nets threatened to snap so he calls for the other boat to help and they both came back to shore weighed down with the weight of the catch.


Simon Peter says to Jesus to “Go away! ….I am a sinful man”

Jesus says “ Do not be afraid, you will be catching people”

Then they all left there boats and everything else in there lives and followed Jesus. 


What does that mean?

Did you spot the culture of scarcity at play? We find it twice-  once because they fished all night and caught nothing, what’s the point of doing it all again- a scarcity mindset.

Second- Simon tells Jesus to “go away” he feels he is not good enough nor ever will be-a scarcity mindset!

Abundance is expressed in the catch of the fish. Abundance is expressed in the faith Jesus has in the imperfect Simon and the fisherman. 


In today's Old Testament reading, the magnificent Isaiah is in the presence of God and is being called by God to take a message to God's people. How does Isaiah react? He protests and says "Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”. A statement of scarcity.


Both Isaiah and Simon Peter feel the magnitude of their unworthiness, there ‘feeling not good enough-ness.

 A seraph cleanses Isaiah lips with a burning coal  and’God asks Who shall I send and who shall; go for us?” and Isaiah says “Here I am, send me!” and Jesus has words of abundance for the fisherman “be not afraid I’ll make you catchers of people!”


Whatever troubled their hearts was let go as God set them on a new course and empowered them for new work in the kingdom.


That half full or half empty observation is linked to our ‘mindset’.
Our mindset is a set of beliefs that shape how we make sense of the world and ourself.


A very recent national Church report speaks of a church “captivated by scarcity”. That’s an interesting phrase- “to be captivated?”  The Cambridge Dictionary tells us that Captivated means


to hold the attention of someone by being extremely interesting, exciting, pleasant, or attractive:



Oh- so how does that work with being Captivated by Scarcity? Now I don’t know for sure yet because I am following up with that report to find out exactly what they mean.

But could it be, could it possibly be, that actually, a culture of scarcity is attractive and seductive because it is easier.


After all, ‘the church is struggling’, ‘we’ve done that or this before, didn’t work’, and ‘we don’t have the funds’… ‘Whats a church to do?’ You see how menacing it is. Scarcity can become a captivating interpretation because it makes no new demands, no need to change, you see?


Remember,  a Culture of Scarcity is a culture without hope!


Whereas abundance speaks of endless possibilities, yes, but it also speaks of risk! The safest, easiest way, is to do nothing- but God does not call us to do nothing- his call is abundant!


Research shows that mindsets play a significant role in determining life's outcomes. By understanding, adapting and shifting our mindset, we are told, we can improve our health, decrease our stress and become more resilient to life's challenges.


We are all imperfect Christian people and we are called to create that mindset, that culture of abundance that we find everywhere in our Christian Gospel- God wants this for us …. for our Minster church, for our faith and in our hearts and lives.

A culture of Abundance.


We have had two grim years of restrictions and prohibitions of previously unimaginable struggles.

But something happened in our Minster church this Christmas, an event that was the clearest example of what can happen when we are guided by a culture of abundance instead of scarcity and it was at no small risk!


 We had Carols of the Green- ‘Abundance?’  Yes, this event was to be as professional and generous as we could make it.

Those transforming Christmas lights in the trees, the quality of the food prepared with hired professional catering equipment and hot drinks, the wonderful Salvation Army Band. a log bonfire burning brightly and chocolates for all……if we had welcomed 150 people-we would have been delighted, whereas we had over double that amount. Most of those three hundred people were strangers to us.


People of all ages all backgrounds it was, truly, 

joyful and triumphant


Risk? Yes. Of course. One cloudburst and it would have been a washout. Where there is culture of abundance there is always risk.

But the Minster church did it anyway.


There was great fear and risk for those lakeside fisherman who dared to follow Jesus

But they did it anyway.


There was fear and risk for the great prophet Isaiah.

But he did it anyway.


Of course, we must always be careful and act with wisdom and discernment in the decisions we make…to be prudent-of course- we must always be good stewards.

But our gospel calls us to be bold and brave.


Again, we are reminded that where there is a Culture of Scarcity there is no hope.

Where there is abundance there is hope-filled ambition where we reimagine the church through the eyes of God.


I’ll close by recalling our Pre Pandemic Minster Awayday- it seems an age ago. On that day the Minster people said wonderful things about what they wanted for the Minster church, words like ‘alive’ ‘a place of belonging’, ‘welcoming’ and ‘joyful’, ‘a church reaching out to the people of Croydon’.


That is the ambition of abundance!


And, in God’s name,

In God’s name…..….we can do this………AMEN


Service, loyalty, duty: An Accession Day Sermon

Preached in Croydon Minster at Choral Evensong on Sunday 6th February 2022, Accession Day.

Today we mark the Accession of Her Majesty the Queen. The Accession of the Sovereign is the moment when the previous king or queen dies and the new one is proclaimed as the new Sovereign. So, we say the monarch accedes to the throne.


For the Queen today must be very poignant, for it is, of course, the anniversary of her own father’s death, King George VI. It is also the day when her life was no longer her own and a heavy duty laid upon her, in which she had no choice.


You don’t have to be the most ardent royalist to acknowledge the Queen’s personal qualities. Throughout her reign the Queen has been a model of a Christian monarch. She is exemplary in service, loyalty and duty. Those are three virtues that are widely degraded today.


The Queen, one of whose titles is Defender of the Faith, shows the Christian understanding of service modelled on Christ, the King, who took the place of a servant and washed his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper. The ceremonies of the Royal Maundy derive from that.


Admittedly monarchs no longer, as they once did, actually wash the feet of their subjects, that lapsed in the seventeenth century, but the monetary offering recognises the service older men and women have offered to their communities in their lives.


The Queen’s loyalty to her nation, and the Commonwealth, is revealed in her tireless commitment to her work, even as she reaches a great age and length of reign. Her loyalty to her people and nation is shown in the way she understands her place within the constitution of this country, where she has, as the constitutional historian Walter Bagehot put it in the nineteenth century, ‘the right to be consulted, the right to encourage, the right to warn’. Loyalty is about fidelity, faithfulness, sticking with what you have committed to. That’s undergirds being a baptised and confirmed Christian, it’s at the heart of Christian marriage: ‘til death us do part’.


The Queen’s sense of duty is legendary. Repeatedly she has put her own preferences to one side to undertake her role. There is something deeply Christian in this. It is a reminder for Christian disciples: my life is not just about me, and yours is not just about you. In an age where self is put first, duty says ‘my preference is not as important as seeking your wellbeing’ and I will stick at that.


Why does she do all this? Couldn’t she just take off her crown, slip off her royal slippers, stick her feet up and lounge around palaces all day?


I suspect the Queen knows all too well the words of Jesus Christ, the servant king, who was speaking about John the Baptist when he said ‘what did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.’ (Matthew 11.8).



True Christian service doesn’t just get exercised in your home, whether that’s a royal palace or a flat in Croydon, or amongst people you like: true Christian service looks out beyond the comfort zone and is out and about, meeting and serving ‘all sorts and conditions of men’, as did Jesus.


A Christian sovereign has a high calling to be the ruler, the focus of national unity, the receiver of tribute, but also not to behave as the rulers of the Gentiles who, as Jesus says, ‘lord it over[the people]…it shall not be so among you’. (Matthew 20.25b)


What I am saying is that in being the Queen, the Head of State, which she has been for 70 years today, we see in Elizabeth, our Sovereign Lady, a fellow Christian working out what it means to be a follower of Jesus in her life and context. And she has done that in the glare of publicity. May we all be encouraged by the example of our sister-in-Christ.


Tonight, how might you reflect on what service, loyalty and duty looks like in your life: amongst people you relate to and work with; people you spend time with and people you love. How do you serve them? How are you loyal to them? How are you dutiful to them?


I hope we can all join tonight in praying for our Queen, giving thanks for her service, loyalty and duty these past 70 years, and commit ourselves to the loyal, dutiful service of those around us.


Let us pray:


O LORD our God, who upholdest and governest all things by the word of thy power: Receive our humble prayers for our Sovereign Lady ELIZABETH, as on this day, set over us by thy grace and providence to be our Queen; and, together with her, bless, we beseech thee, Charles Prince of Wales, and all the Royal Family; that they, ever trusting in thy goodness, protected by thy power, and crowned with thy gracious and endless favour, may long continue before thee in peace and safety, joy and honour, and after death may obtain everlasting life and glory, by the merits and mediation of Christ Jesus our Saviour, who with thee and the Holy Ghost liveth and reigneth ever one God, world without end. Amen.


ALMIGHTY God, who rulest over all the kingdoms of the world, and dost order them according to thy good pleasure: We yield thee unfeigned thanks, for that thou wast pleased, as on this day, to set thy Servant our Sovereign Lady, Queen ELIZABETH, upon the Throne of this Realm. Let thy wisdom be her guide, and let thine arm strengthen her; let truth and justice, holiness and righteousness, peace and charity, abound in her days; direct all her counsels and endeavours to thy glory, and the welfare of her subjects; give us grace to obey her cheerfully for conscience sake, and let her always possess the hearts of her people; let her reign be long and prosperous, and crown her with everlasting life in the world to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


O GOD the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Saviour, the Prince of Peace: Give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions. Take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatsoever else may hinder us from godly union and concord: that, as there is but one Body, and one Spirit, and one hope of our calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all; so we may henceforth be all of one heart, and of one soul, united in one holy bond of truth and peace, of faith and charity, and may with one mind and one mouth glorify thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Joining our prayers with Our Blessed Lady, Mary, Queen of Heaven, with St John the Baptist, St George the Martyr, St Edward the Confessor, St Edmund, king and martyr, we say the Grace.


The grace…