In a previous post, I was the Diocesan adviser for Christian Stewardship, teaching about a Christian attitude to money, possessions and giving. One of the conundrums when teaching in that field is to inspire giving, without tipping over into making giving seem like a duty, a 'tax' or a membership fee. The alternative is to be so blasé about the issue that no-one ever gets challenged.
Both of the sermons I have been preaching today seem to have touched on these themes. This morning, talking of the image Jesus uses of himself as a hen gathering her chicks. Not only is it a wonderful and notably feminine image with the intimacy it conveys, but it is also a sacrificial image. Jesus likens himself to a hen in the presence of a 'fox', Herod, and by concealing the chicks offers his own life in the hope of saving theirs (Luke 13:31-35). And when relationships are that close, all our normal calculations of cost and value get stretched and changed. What might be costly in one context suddenly seems entirely natural in another.
Meanwhile this evening, the reading is all about counting the cost, but it's in the context of coming shortly after the story above and just before the classic trilogy of 'lost' parables - Lost Sheep, Lost Coin and Lost Son. All of these stress the efforts and cost God will go to in order to recover that which is lost - in order to create relationship, or to restore it. Again 'cost' is put alongside relationship.
Back in 1994, when I started in the Stewardship job, I was convinced that the real answer to giving was the transformation of the hearts of givers, not better gimmicks to present facts and figures. Nothing that has happened since has changed my mind.