We would like to take the idea of ” An Extravagant Generosity” as our over all theme for Sanctuary First this month. This over all theme will be divided into four weekly themes.
The Generosity of God
Living out total Gratitude
Re-living the Compassion of God
In our prayers and reading this month we will consider the various pictures ,ideas and stories that Jesus told as he explored and expressed to us in his teaching the implications and demands that this reckless love has on our lives.
God is not silent for He is heard in the cries and laments of the dispossessed and broken. His extravagance is extreme, for his compassion goes far beyond tears. God is the God of action and reconciliation. He is the God who not only speaks the word of compassion and forgiveness, to those of us who feel crushed and damaged. He endures the pain with us and cries ” My God My God why have you abandoned me”
He becomes the word in action. He is our rescuer. He has entered into our consciousness over-whelming our anxious minds with a peace that is beyond understanding. It is a peace with a beauty that is shaped out of suffering. It is often referred to as glory out of suffering. A beauty that makes and reshapes struggle to become gloriously loving and kind even in the midst of suffering.
This is the experience that moves us into a place called Grace and tells us “all will be well” even in the darkness of nights. The implications of believing all this is that we live our lives in complete gratitude to God, extending his grace and love to others. It means that we do not measure our future according to our circumstances but according to the promises of God.
Giving and receiving has a huge contribution in the making of relationships. We give gifts to mark an occasion or to say “thank you” or indeed to say” sorry”. Yet for me the most generous of actions may not be the giving of a gift that can be touched or handled or wrapped. It might be the giving of time or the giving of one’s self.
I think this is demonstrated most dramatically at this time of the year when we have a “Remembrance Season” to remember the members of our armed forces and those who have lost their lives in conflicts and war zones, for the sake of peace. There could be no more extravagant an act than to be prepared to die for a cause. To willingly put your life on the line in order that someone else might live, (someone you don’t even know), must be among the noblest of all human actions.
Jesus stretches our understanding of generosity to its limits and even beyond, when he suggests that the ultimate act of generosity is to lose your life to save your enemy. I guess this is one way in which we can look at the meaning behind the death of Jesus of Nazareth. He took our place. His death is an atonement for our rebellion.
It is perhaps interesting to reflect upon the release of Al Magrahi, an enemy of the state, yet the Scottish minister of Justice showed him extravagant generosity in releasing him, (due to his terminal illness), in the name of the nation, after being convicted as a mass murderer. The only difference, in this act compared to the death of Christ is that no one else seems to be paying the cost, except perhaps the families who have lost so much already. I guess because of this lack of atonement, for some, it is seems more like an extravagant act of selfishness.
In week two we pick up on the idea of living out our lives in total Gratitude to God. The story of the widow, who gave God her last two coins, stands out as one of the most honest acts of gratitude in the Bible. Living a life of gratitude calls us to become less self-absorbed and more focused on acts of thanksgiving and service to others in the name of Christ. The story of the ten lepers who were healed and the one who returned once again un-lines our human nature. The story of the unforgiving servant also highlights the idea that we who receive have a responsibility to pass it on.
In week three, we ask ourselves what it would be like to acknowledge, “daily” that we want to relive the Compassion of God towards others. There is an old chorus that says “Freely you have received now freely give.” The stories of Jesus compassion are legendary. He refuses to condemn the woman who was brought before him as an adulteress. He had compassion for her situation, he reached out to the sick and the dying and gave them hope to continue living. He challenged his followers that their compassion had to go beyond words and become living dynamic actions that would change the lives of the poor.
The final theme in this section we’ve simply called “Grace” It is quite wonderful that “Grace” as a word has not yet been debased by our modern contemporary world. Perhaps its because it is a word that cannot fit into the vocabulary of 21st century culture apologists. Perhaps it is not seen to be a worthy enough concept from which money can be made. However we hope to move the thinking forward when we begin to consider the implications of the Cycle of Grace.