Event Name Sermon given at Matins on the Third Sunday after Trinity 2016
Start Date 12th Jun 2016 10:00am
Description

The Venerable Andrew Tremlett, Canon in Residence

There's not much of it still standing, but in its hey-day it was rather a smart street, with some fine residences. However, in later years it was described as one long terrace of shabby Georgian houses. . . largely inhabited by Members of Parliament'. Abingdon Street lies just behind me and is the road which connects Parliament Square with Millbank. Concerning the proximity of the houses which stood there to the Houses of Parliament, one commentator added, 'Its appearance suggests the dustman sitting on the doorsteps of the nobleman's mansion.'

But in the 1830s the resident of No.24 was the foremost Engineer the day, in fact so significant was his impact on the roads, waterways and infrastructure of Great Britain that he was known as 'The Colossus of Roads'—Roads, not the island, Rhodes.

In an era which is remembered in the English-speaking world as THE time of engineering construction, which coincided both with the expansion of our cities and with the rise of colonial imperialism and all that came with it, Thomas Telford was a key figure in developing the infrastructure which we take for granted today. Sewers, water supply, railways, canals and roads all derive their origins from that period—and to our cost now, we realise how well they have serve us, and how little we have served them.

Apart from being memorialised here in the Abbey—you will almost have walked over him as you came in this morning—Thomas Telford became the first president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, one of our neighbours here on Parliament Square. It is one of the foremost Civil Engineering Associations in the world, and in 2018 will be marking their 200th anniversary.

In working towards that significant milestone, ICE have set themselves the challenge of creating a vision for urbanisation in the 21st Century. When Telford was alive, only 3% of the world's population lived in urban areas: that is now fully ½ of the world's 7 billion people, and that trend is set to continue. But of those 7 billion, 780 million do not have access to clean water and 2.5 billion to adequate sanitation.

It's not quite: 'I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me', But it's not very far off.

In this series of sermons at Matins, which you can follow on the Abbey website, I am considering the nature of Christian Stewardship—how we use our resources.

'Stewardship' is our belief that human beings are created by the same God who created the entire universe and everything in it. To look after the Earth, and thus God's dominion, is the responsibility of the Christian steward.

Christian stewardship extends not only to our care for the natural order, for creation, but in a more earthly, mundane way, how we use our personal gifts and resources to the glory of God. And leading on from than that, stewardship is about our faithful handing on of the gospel in our contemporary society.

So I began a fortnight ago by considering financial stewardship; I moved on last week to our use of our talents and gifts; today I am speaking about our global responsibilities; and then finally, next week about our stewardship of the gospel in today's society.

Most of us here, I guess, either live in urban centres or benefit in our lifestyles from doing so.

Most of us here, I guess, either live in industrialised and developed nations, or benefit from having done so.

But 200 years after the onset of industrialisation and the huge rise in Gross Domestic Product in the countries which benefited most, we are now confronted by the impact of our consumerism. I'm not talking here about a spiritual poverty or the evil of greed, but about the impact of our consumption of the world's resources.

As stewards of God's creation, the natural environment in which we are placed, we find ourselves part of a global community which is consuming more than it is able to sustain. Back in 2008, the UN calculated that if those of us who live in Europe and North America continue to consume at the rate we are now, 3½ planets would be needed.

I suspect that if this figure was revisited now, with the increased consumerism of the Far East, we would need even more planets.

It is not my place here to enter into a debate about global warming and its impacts, nor to tell individuals how much consumption is good.

However, what is clear from Scripture is that each one of us is called to give an account. Matthew 24 & 25 are full of parables where Jesus warns us about the suddenness of the Coming of the Son of Man; about the reckoning each one must give for the use of their Talents. And here in a parable often called, The Judgement of the Nations, the picture could not be more stark.

Entirely absent from this division of the Sheep and the Goats is any spiritualisation: there is no hint of 'faith first, works later'.
The questions are simple:
- Did I feed the hungry?
- Did I give the thirsty something to drink?
- Did I clothe the naked?
- Did I take care of the sick?
- Did I visit the prisoner?
Any account of Christian Stewardship must also give an account of our part within a global community, which is not a zero-sum game—that's to say, a fixed set of resources which has to be divided up like a cake—but nevertheless it is a world where our economic power has to be used wisely, generously and intentionally.So how can we respond as Christian Stewards to our global responsibilities? I have been trying to consider some practical suggestions for myself, which you might reflect on:
* How am I using the world's resources—water, petrol, gas? Not simply in what I am consuming directly, but their indirect use in the products I buy. How can I 'live simply that others may simply live?'
* How can I bridge the gap between faith and works by putting my faith into action? Even—or perhaps especially—in a city, to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, visit those in prison.
* Finally, it is not just an individual who is called to give an account, but governments as well. So why not join in that process either through general election, when that happens, or through campaigning on some issue of social justice or environmental concern.

And the king will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.

© 2017 The Dean and Chapter of Westminster

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