I am writing this towards the end of August, when the BBC Proms series of diverse concerts is well underway, and I am anticipating restarting rehearsals with the band in which I play. Music, of many different types, has always been an important part of my life for as long as I can remember, but I am glad that the need to take any more Associated Board exams is long past!
One of the musical forms that I have always enjoyed playing is the trio. This can be part of a symphony or chamber music and consists of several bars of music, usually followed by a related, slower theme and then a return to the opening bars to conclude the movement or piece. It's a musical version of the advice to preachers to "tell them what you're going to tell them; tell them and then tell them what you've just told them!"
In my annual "tidy the study" campaign, which this year has been outstandingly successful, I came across some documents that reminded me of another "trio" that has been important to me in recent years. More accurately this one is TRIO, but there are still three distinct sections within the whole and it requires no musical knowledge to make sense of it.
The three sections are headed: thankful and cheerful; in proportion to our means; regular and committed. In this context, TRIO stands for The Responsibility Is Ours. There are any number of stewardship, gift and offering campaigns, but this one which was produced several years ago in conjunction with the Diocese of Southwark and is designed to encourage reflection upon our attitude towards our financial giving to the work of the kingdom.
The Bible has encouraging words about giving: "Their joy was so great that they were extremely generous in their giving even though they are very poor" (2 Cor. 8.2) and "God will accept your gift on the basis of what you have to give, not on what you haven't" (2 Cor. 8.12)
Whilst there has been much teaching about the principle of tithing, there has been less guidance on what that means in reality, especially for those living on fairly fixed incomes. The encouragement here is to give proportionately, bearing in mind your commitment to God's wider world through other charities; the need to provide for those who are dependent upon you and maintaining your home as a place of hospitality and welcome. When was the last time you reviewed your giving?
And the third section of this work is about being committed to regular giving. Many people give through the weekly offering envelopes or via a regular payment through the bank, often adding to this a gift aid declaration to reclaim the tax already paid on that money so it can be used by the church. If you are not yet part of either of these schemes, but simply reach for your handbag or pocket once the offering is announced and see what is there when you are in church, please remember that the costs of doing God's work continue each and every day, whether or not you attend worship every week.
The music of the trio reminds us that we can be busy both before and after, but we need some slower time for reflection in the middle to create the whole composition. May I therefore encourage you to reflect on your giving that it may be thankful, proportionate and regular.