Generosity and Thanksgiving
Sermon preached by
The Reverend Charles Royden
- Why is it that some people hardly give away anything but moan about how little they have?
- And why is it that people who give so generously are often happy to give, irrespective of their wealth or lack of it..
There is a passage in scripture which deals with this very subject,
'Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly
Whoever sows generously will also reap generously' 2 Cor 9:6
Its quite a simple formula which has been noted in Proverbs 11:25
'Every generous soul receives a blessing'.
This principle of Gods generosity then extends to all areas of the church life and should be exhibited in the same standard of generosity being applied to the ministry of the church. Our church councils have asked us to look at policies for the church and over the next few years we will formulate polices on many aspects of ministry. This will be a help to you when you are considering the appointment of new ministers here, you can see whether they share the same vision of grace that you do!
Subjects which we will look at are such as the following and these will include—
- Holy Communion
Currently it is our practice that generosity is a principle which characterises our church life. It has been reflected strongly in giving towards the rebuilding of our churches. It is our intention as ministers - and I know that this characterises the church Leadership Team, that our church policies in all sorts of areas will reflect this standard. So lets see how this may affect our policies
Holy Communion —When we administer Holy Communion we do not say as they do in some churches you can only come forward if you are confirmed. We do not say when we offer communion that children will be refused. If parents wish children to take communion and children wish to take communion then in this church they receive it.. Increasingly fewer people will be confirmed
Weddings —What will our attitude be to those who seek remarriage after divorce, will we with some churches refuse to marry people who have been left by their partners, will we refuse to marry when a marriage has irretrievably broken down? I had a very interesting conversation the other day on the telephone with somebody who was talking about remarriage in church and they were horrified when I said that I was prepared to remarry folk after a divorce. They were quite astonished when they realised that Jesus himself allowed remarriage of divorcees and were silenced when I asked why they thought that they had to be more strict than Jesus.
Baptism —Increasingly we are asked to share with families at baptism. Many churches are refusing to baptise babies altogether unless the parents are practically ordained. This will affect us as a church with couples who come back to us after weddings, through families who are in church, sometimes folk say to us these people have no connection with the church, but I can tell you that normally there is some connection, even if it is only through Alan or myself or a family member who comes to church.
Are we really frightened that if we give away all of this grace, undeserved favour that there won't be enough to go around. Is God's grace like an English reservoir which threatens to run dry so that we have to have metering and ration it out. One of the types of miracles that characterised Jesus ministry were those of provision. Jesus took a little wine and created an excess of not ordinary wine but wonderful wine. He took a few small loaves and created a meal for thousands. Sometimes this provision was resented, the Pharisees were upset that Jesus healed and provided for people, because so often he provided for the wrong people. sinners, prostitutes, beggars. Why didn't he save his miracles for the nice people? It was all about generosity, what theologians call grace. God is generous. His love, his acceptance, his forgiveness, is generous. It pours out and it isn't metered, you don't have to worry if it will go round, or that some of it is being wasted on the wrong people, unappreciative people, undeserving people. Don't worry. None of it is deserved, its all a gift and it isn't going to run out because this is the character of God, he is gracious, he is generous., he loves to give. We find it hard to accept generosity, we much prefer that there were rules and requirements, because then we could follow them and we would have earned our salvation, it would be ours by right, not a gift, I would be in control. The church often thinks like this, tries to put a meter, a dispenser on God's grace. You will be saved, loved by God, if you do the following and depending on our tradition we say, 'go to mass, believe in the infallibility of the Bible, accept the authority of the pastor, speak in tongues and show signs of having received the Spirit in some approved way, been to Toronto.
But Jesus says 'Come to me all who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest'. Just come. Jesus cuts across the rules of the church, undermines any claim to authority, 'It comes from me, not the church, and I don't turn people away. I say come' If communion was wasted on children or those of little faith, it wouldn't matter, because there wouldn't be any less for you. This should be our aim. To have a church which is open and accepting. A church that was one great big invitation and offer and did not put any requirements on people. There are those who will be frightened that we might be getting the unsuitable along, people with dodgy views, people who didn't think like us, people who behaved in unsuitable ways, ways that were different from us. If this did happen we would be just like the early church. We should have confidence that by preaching the simple message, the simple truth of God that God loves us as we are, we will put everything into perspective.
It is this message which makes a mockery of strange ideas, cults and beliefs. We have no need to be afraid of people with anti-social behaviour which is really the result of insecurity and a feeling of unworthiness. Doesn't a person who knows they are loved and accepted lose the need to thump their wife and spend huge sums of money on gambling and drunkenness. If we don't believe that the love of God changes lives then what do we believe. It is because we don't have the spirit of meanness that we allow people to use our lovely buildings and to come with their children to be baptised and to share in our worship and celebrate the occasions of our lives. This we must never loose because it is a light which shines in a world which often does not welcome or show generosity. We can show it because we have known it, and in showing it we will feel more and more the blessing of God. Publicans, prostitutes, sinners. Jesus on the other hand thought that these were just the sort of people who needed the effort. Today in the church we sometimes think that to let some people experience the gifts of God we are rewarding failure, that you can only come near when you are good enough, when you prove that you have earned it. This is not the essence of the Christian faith. Which one of the disciples was good enough to share the bread at the last supper, when Jesus knew that in a few hours they would all desert him? So this morning we have to ask ourselves whether we want to be more strict than Jesus. Are we as accepting and gracious as he is to people who challenge us by their behaviour, understanding or lack of it?