Understanding God’s Generosity
Generous June is a new initiative that seeks to engage churches, communities and individuals with generosity throughout the month of June.
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Luke 24:13-5330th June – Sabine Burningham – Luke 24 13 – 53 (Winchester)0:000:00
Giving presents that meet the need or bring joy can be such a challenge. In today’s story we see Jesus giving the present of PRESENCE. Joining simply – but intentionally – what his friends were doing, he enabled a life-changing conversation that helped his companions regain the God-perspective in their lives and hope for their future.
“Social distancing” has made us realize what a precious present PRESENCE actually is; especially physical presence, like walking as in this story. How does Jesus give PRESENCE, and how can we, even under lock-down conditions?
Looking again at the story I see Jesus…
….engaging in the others’ concerns
…bringing God perspective into the conversation
…going the extra mile
…knowing when to leave.
PRESENCE is first of all a costly present of TIME: giving the other person my full attention. Even if I cannot be physically there, I can be virtually – making the most of WIFI, phone and even mail.
More than just quality over quantity, let us ask the Spirit of God to prompt us when – and how much – to give the present of PRESENCE at the right time. Whether in business or relationships, TIMING matters.
What does this look like in the context of “social distancing”? As a nurse I cherish face-to-face contact with patients; now – in PPE – I use touch to look after patients too ill to be awake. A skype, letter or phone call with those alone at home, the sick or grieving can give such encouragement. Families and house mates being unexpectedly together (no school or commute) can invest afresh in their relationships.
Let us use lockdown to grow, with Jesus’ example, in giving the present of Presence with imagination: generously, at the right time, for the right time. It’s a winner.
Luke 23:50 – 24:12Today’s Speaker29th June – +Sophie Jelley – Luke 23 50-24 120:000:00
Wealth is a difficult topic. Having worked in both some of the poorest communities in the world and those with considerable affluence, I have learned that much wealth doesn’t always make for a fulfilled life. It is all a question of what we do with it.
Joseph of Arimathea is both a ‘rich man’ and ‘prominent council member,’ who is described as ‘good and just.’ He quietly requests Jesus’ body after his tortuous death.
Was he was compelled by the love of Christ? Or aware of Isaiah’s prophecy that the messiah would be buried in a rich man’s tomb?
Or does he want to prevent Jesus being buried, as he had died, with criminals. Or was he simply moved by compassion to use his extensive resources in this way?
Earlier, Luke recalls Jesus’ words ‘Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much.’ Clearly Joseph was to be trusted with much, to care for the body of the saviour of the world. He did it quietly for fear of the ramifications, but he did it with care and dignity for the one whom he loved.
There are lessons for us all here. We all face tough decisions about which people and causes to support. Very often we will have a personal connection to assist us with that. The principle behind these decisions is perhaps more important. Our relative ‘wealth’ large or small is not simply for ourselves. It is for the blessing of others. Whatever decisions we make as followers of Jesus we are those whose resources can enable careful compassion. In one sense every time we do this, we are showing the same care that Joseph did albeit in a different time and place. It is often said that our bank statements are an indication of our heart’s priorities – it is a useful exercise to review these with a question in mind: are my spending priorities the priorities of Jesus? What changes might he be calling you to make?
Luke 22:47 – 23:49Today’s Speaker28th June – +David – Luke 22 47-23 490:000:00
Jesus drew great crowds, but most of them melted away when he started teaching hard truth. The religious leaders, that you would think would be most open to God, are those that had him crucified. His disciples deserted him, his family questioned him, the Romans washed their hands of him and furnished the cross, and the whole crowd taunted him.
You would think he’d be wondering as he looked from the cross, did any of the seed really take? Was any of it worth doing? Is there ever going to be any growth from all this? Was it all just wasted?
But on the cross, there’s a thief on one side that mocks him. “Why don’t you save yourself and save us?” On the other side, another criminal, a wasted life, but he rebukes the first, and turns to Jesus and says, “Would you remember me?”
On the final day of his life, in the final hours of his existence, with some of the last breath he would ever draw on this earth, Jesus thinks to himself, maybe this is good soil, and he throws one more seed.
With some of his last breaths and last words, the sower who is so lavishly extravagant, flings down one more seed and then he dies. But, of course, he didn’t stay dead, because the tomb could not hold his life any more than soil can keep the life of a seed underground.
Jesus understood all about this, he told his friends, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains a single grain of wheat, sterile and barren. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
And the fruit is still growing, and the harvest isn’t over yet, so don’t you get discouraged because the sower’s at work; He is at work in your extravagant generosity.
Luke 22: 1-4627th June – David Roche – Luke 22 1-460:000:00
A few years ago when working for Church Mission Society, I visited a slum in south Beirut to deliver aid to Syrian refugees. I met one family, where mum had just given birth to a beautiful baby girl in the early hours; they called her Shams (Arabic for ‘Damascus’). Sham’s extended family of 15 people shared one room.
It was heartbreaking to learn Sham’s mother wasn’t present because she was out begging for food. Yes, just hours after giving birth! Having endured childbirth; her body was ‘broken’, and now she was self-sacrificially out on the streets to provide for her children. Something of this encounter resonated with the ‘new covenant’ Jesus refers to in Luke 22.
On the night that Jesus was betrayed he gave grateful thanks to God, Eucharisteó. Holy Communion is the centerpiece of our worship, the gospel contained and proclaimed in bread and wine. Generosity and sacrifice are the Sine qua non, the essential ingredient without which Holy Communion is devoid of meaning.
Jesus gave thanks for all that would ensue beyond his suffering and the giving of his life as the ultimate gift. As we reflect and give thanks, we are also called to live sacrificial lives in remembrance of him. The Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion remind us the sacraments are witnesses, by which God works invisibly in us, to quicken, strengthen and confirm our faith.
With Christ as host, and we guests at his table; in the sacred moment we partake of Holy Communion, Jesus comes among us, and not only gives us food for the journey, he also invites us into a visceral and corporeal reality where his nourishment unleashes limitless generosity.
In Dethroning Mammon, Making Money Serve Grace (2016), Justin Welby reminds us that, as Jesus poured out his own life for others, we his followers must transition to an understanding of the abundance of God’s economy. As we develop a lifestyle of habits that dethrone mammon our outrageous generosity will be marked as ones who trust that when we give away, more will come back.
Luke 21Today’s Speaker26th June – Luke Maundrell – Luke 210:000:00
The Widow’s Offering is a famous example of Jesus teaching his disciples about the true nature of generosity. It is a story that is found in both Luke and Mark’s Gospels, emphasising its significance. In Luke’s Gospel it only covers four verses but is often considered one of the best depictions of sacrificial giving in the entire Bible.
Luke paints the picture of Jesus focusing in on the contrast between those giving at the temple. He sees the rich coming to the temple to ‘give out of their wealth’ (21:4). The rich give, but out of their abundance. They scrape off the top, they give their leftovers, their after thoughts; they complete their tick box exercise. After they’ve paid their bills, bought their food for the week and paid for their possessions, they give to God what is left.
At the other end of the spectrum, there is also widow at the temple, who gives two small coins. Jesus observes that this is all she has. In contrast to the rich, the widow gives out of her lack of abundance; she gives out of her poverty. She doesn’t give what she has left, she gives everything. She gives first to God as a sacrifice, and then relies on Him to fulfil her needs. At no point does the widow consider that what she has is too small to make a difference to God.
Ron Blue, a Christian Financial Planner notes: “God does not need our money. True, He commands and expects us to give, but our money is not what He’s really after… God asks you to give because He wants your heart. Your behaviour says a lot about what you truly believe… Are you willing to give Him your heart?” The Widow gave out of faith. She gave so much more than two copper coins; she gave her heart. Even if what we can give is little in the world’s eyes, what matters is not the size of the gift, but the size of the sacrifice.
How does your faith affect your generosity?
Luke 2025th June – Ruth Guy – Luke 200:000:00
Our neighbours have a delightful 7yr old, Elijah, normally wreathed in smiles but battling the effects of severe epilepsy. His special needs school is 40 minutes away in Totton.
During more normal times as I take turns to drive him there, we count car transporters on the M271 and rather hope for fire engines, but the delight for me is the school. Each child is welcomed daily as though it’s been weeks, the facilities are outstanding and a team of 5 care for 8 children in Elijah’s airy classroom. Stunning!
All paid for by taxes. What a privilege to live in a society which forces us to be generous. How proud I am of our Christian heritage which makes ‘giving to Caesar’, our payment of taxes to the government, of such great benefit to the ‘common good’.
We increasingly live in a vacuum of belief and new Christians sometimes struggle with the realisation that living for Jesus means complete honesty on the tax front. A post-Alpha couple were chatting recently about the delight of a customer who regularly pays large sums by cash, ‘to keep it out of our books’.
No one jumped on them, but the Spirit will slowly show them tax payments both help society to flourish and help them to rely on our totally generous God.
Some rail against our Capitalist system but we have a government which is democratically elected, accountable for every penny and criticisable. Praise be.
Taxation isn’t enough. We should be giving on top, but 3 weeks ago the UK’s Department for International Development donated a 7 figure grant to an overtly Christian charity I help with which provides healthcare in Sub-Saharan Africa. If the ‘Caesars’ of the 21st century are happy to do that, I for one, am happy to pay taxes with alacrity.
Luke 19:27-48Today’s Speaker24th June – +Pete – Luke 19 28-480:000:00
There are a couple of moments in the final days of Jesus life when we get a hint that the circle of his supporters in Jerusalem was wider than just the disciples who had followed him from Galilee. Residents of the city seem to have aligned themselves with him too.
The first occasion was on the first Palm Sunday. Jesus sent ahead of him two of his disciples, with an instruction. ‘Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it’. It is just about possible, I suppose, that this was an act of supernatural intuition on the part of Jesus. But when he gives his followers a phrase to use if they are challenged, it sounds like a password. It seems more likely that an unknown supporter had agreed to put his colt at Jesus’ disposal.
The second occasion is similar. Later in that first ‘Holy Week’, Jesus again sent ahead of him two of his disciples (this time, named by Luke as Peter and John, saying, ‘Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it’. When, perplexed, they ask him where they are to do this, he goes on, ‘Listen, when you have entered the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him into the house he enters and say to the owner of the house, ‘The teacher asks you, ‘Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’. He wil show you a large room upstairs, already furnished. Make preparations for us there’. Again, it is just about possible that Jesus was relying on some divine intuition. But it seems much more likely that he had made an arrangement before-hand and was giving, here, a pre-arranged signal to Peter and John.
The implication is, that Jesus had generous sympathisers of whom his core disciples were not necessarily aware. And that remains the case to this day. We are called to be generous — but we should not be surprised when those on the fringes of the church, or beyond, prove to be our generous supporters. Generosity lurks in unexpected places!
Luke 19: 1-27Today’s Speaker23rd June – Jonathan de Bernhardt Wood – Luke 19 1-270:000:00
Jonathan de Bernhardt Wood
This story can feel comfortably familiar. It’s a simple repentance leads to forgiveness story, no matter how bad the crime. But there is one word which doesn’t appear in some translations and the absence of that word completely changes the story. That word is “will”. If you read the same story in the RSV as opposed to the NRSV, Zacchaeus doesn’t say he will give to the poor, he says ‘I give to the poor’. He doesn’t say he will pay back four times if he has defrauded anyone, he says ‘I restore it fourfold’.
He is not saying what he will do, he is saying what he does do. This isn’t a story about repentance, this is a story about giving. He works in a morally questionable role in a morally questionable economic system but tries despite that to be generous and compassionate. Now I’m no biblical scholar, so I can’t say with any authority which translation is more accurate. But it is interesting to see this story in a different way.
Taking out the ‘will’ does mean the story makes more sense in some ways. Zacchaeus is known to Jesus, not a surprise if he’s the only remotely ethical tax collector in Israel.. He’s reviled by his fellow Israelites, and the Romans no doubt think he’s insane for giving half his stuff away. He’s friendless, trying to do something vaguely ethical and being attacked from all sides. No wonder he wanted to see Jesus.
So Zacchaeus is a role model, however you read this story. If it is a repentance leads to forgiveness story then he clearly is – he turns his life around, he puts money in its place, and he is completely repentant. If he is already giving, then he clearly is a role model too – working within a system which is not right, and leads to suffering and hardship, but trying to make it better, fairer, more just. Not by changing what he does but changing how he does it. Not by what he earns, but by what he gives away.
Luke 1822nd June – Amy Roche – Luke 180:000:00
As I came to look at this familiar passage this week, I was struck to see how reading Luke’s account of Jesus blessing the children may be enlightened by viewing it through the lens of Kingdom generosity.
Luke’s Gospel is characterised by things that Jesus says and does that surprise those whom he encounters. Perhaps most poignantly he challenges their embedded assumptions regarding the Kingdom of God; what it is actually like, when and where it is experienced, and to whom it belongs.
Luke is a master writer. His retelling invites us to experience the same disruptive effect as the eye witnesses in his accounts. We view Jesus’ encounter with children at a high point in the narrative where tension is mounting, the political stakes are raised, and the hour of Jesus’ passion is approaching. To stop for ‘unimportant’ interruptions is a profound act of generosity at a time when Jesus was laden with urgent priorities.
And yet, our dislocation of this context and our over-familiarity with todays’ story have allowed us to smooth it over and sit comfortably within our own cultural presuppositions; rendered its meaning safe- even ‘cute’; so that we are immune to its power. More specifically, we may be resistant to Jesus’ challenge to our modern preconceptions of merit, grace and Kingdom generosity.
Luke also precedes this story with the parable of the Pharisee and tax collector, and follows it with Jesus’ conversation with the person we today call the ‘rich young ruler’. Both of these indicate Jesus’ depiction of Kingdom generosity as being entirely unmerited. The conventions of high social and religious standing of either the Pharisee or young ruler are irrelevant in God’s eyes.
And seeing this should help us to think beyond interpretations that have reduced Jesus’ blessing of the children to simply another set of criteria for the measurement of human merit. We say the children are blessed because of their attributes; their humility, unselfconsciousness, dependency and trust. But in fact this is merely exchanging one set of attributes for another that we perhaps feel we can attain- while unwittingly rendering those who cannot outside of Jesus’ blessing. This is to sanitise the radical calling to Kingdom generosity; which is not about measuring merit, but following the counter-cultural calling as the people of God, to be characterised by the radical generosity we see exemplified in Jesus.
Luke 17Today’s Speaker21st June – +Sophie Jelley – Luke 17 1-370:000:00
Saying thank you means a lot. A few years ago we were part of a youth homelessness organisation. Once a week we would prepare a room, make extra supper and wait for a call to come. Often the young person’s story was complicated. A mixture of difficult family circumstances, regrettable decisions or health matters both physical and mental. Sometimes we would have a repeat guest. There was one young man who was always hugely entertaining; he would tell tales of his summer exploits. One day after he had left, I found a feedback form which was an optional part of their stay. He had written, ‘this couple is sound as a pound is around…thanks’. To say he was a bit of a colourful character is to put it mildly but we were both very fond of him and we remember him to this day as ‘sound as a pound is around’ guy. People who find themselves homeless are sometimes sadly treated a bit like the lepers of the new testament, too complicated to get involved with. What’s more the one who returned to thank Jesus in this encounter was a ‘Samaritan’ whom no self respecting Jew would get involved with and certainly not touch – there were laws that made this clear. But actually gratitude so often comes from unexpected people and places and gladly does not conform to religious laws and customs. Our house guest taught us to keep our eyes open with gratitude because people are people and God loves them whether they fit our neat stereotypes or not. The challenge to me is to find ways to bless and encourage; to build up and show gratitude, genuinely, wherever possible. This has a life changing impact and as Mother Theresa is oft quoted ‘We cannot all do great things but we can all do small things with great love.’ May you know that you too are ‘as sound as a pound is around’ as you live out your days influencing the life of the world for good with gratitude wherever God may send you.
Luke 1620th June – Marion De Quidt – Luke 160:000:00
Marion De Quidt
Where does our security lie? We are deeply shaken, individually and internationally, by the impact of the coronavirus. We are rethinking our priorities. Do we trust in God? Or do we trust in our bank balances and pensions? Is it really as clear cut as that? In Luke’s gospel we see that some of Jesus’ first disciples gave up everything to follow him for three years; and others supported them in offering homes and hospitality (Luke 8.4, 10.38). Jesus had worked for 30 years in the family business before he was called by his Father to preach and heal. His security was in obedience to his Father throughout.
From today’s reading, which deeply challenge our self-interest, three responses might help us with our Lord’s command in verse 13.
Firstly, let us reach out to those in need, befriend ‘the poor among us’, and not step over the person sitting by our gate (Luke 16.20). It is so easy to convince ourselves that we are on an important mission, day after day after day, when God is asking us to encounter him in Lazarus. The idol of money or ‘Mammon’ might then lose its attraction.
Secondly, let us not delude ourselves into thinking that by being religious, like the Pharisees, we are on the right track. The Lord knows our hearts (Luke 16.14-15), and with true repentance we may know that we are compromised and deeply dependent on our financial resources. If we say ‘this is not a problem for me’, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
Finally, above all else, stay safe. Keep close to our Lord in daily trust in his provision. Rejoice and give thanks! Be real about our temptations. Keep short accounts. Receive his gracious mercy and Holy Spirit’s power to lead and transform. And live generously.
Luke 15Today’s Speaker19th June – David Stout – Luke 150:000:00
Our passage today is Luke 15, a famous set of parables about things that are lost. A lost sheep. A lost coin. And a lost son.
In the first two parables in this trilogy, there’s one lost sheep, and one lost coin. However with the third parable, there are two sons. So, which son is lost?
I’m writing this reflection just a day or two before it’s due to go out. It’s mid-June and the world feels heavy. We are three months into a world pandemic, and whilst things had started to look a little brighter, we are reminded how easy it is for Covid-19 to spread again.
Alongside this is the stark reminder in recent weeks that racism is still prevalent in our society today. That people are exploited, abused, and killed because of the colour of their skin.
This is the world we live in. A world where injustice is commonplace. A world that has been built on the subjugation of others.
There have been times over the last week where I have wanted to block it all out. Retreat into my lockdown. Shut the door on all the pain I can see around me.
But then you see something that reminds you of the truth, that even when it feels like everything is lost, there is a hope. That in Jesus Christ we have a hope. That the world is not lost. That justice and love will prevail.
We can glimpse that every day. For me, this week, I glimpsed that in Marcus Rashford. He used his position and fame to influence the world for the better, and to change one injustice.
So the question we have to ask ourselves is this; who are you going to be?
Will we be like the older brother in our passage today, who has everything yet when he sees riches lavished on someone else he becomes bitter and jealous. Despising not only the one who is gifted those riches, but also the one who gives them.
Or, will we use our riches (whatever they may be, however small or large) and be generous with them. Will we share what we have to make a positive impact on the world.
Today, be that glimpse of hope for someone else.
Luke 1418th June – Simon Cansdale – Luke 140:000:00
I don’t trust Jesus to help me navigate dinner party etiquette. I’ll follow Him all the way on everything else – praying, serving, being a peacemaker.
But not dinner parties! He was a nightmare. He’d attract extra guests you didn’t want.
Or show you up for your lackluster welcome. Or allow that woman to wipe his feet with her hair.
Or – as here in Luke 14 – make unflattering remarks about your other guests.
The scene is still easy to picture – it’s about that exquisite emotion we English do so well – embarrassment. It’s a wedding. You arrive and spot two seats up on top table. They’re normally for the bridal party. But you’re well-dressed, well-known – maybe they’re for you? Bypassing the seating plan, you march confidently past the other guests and enjoy their envy and admiration. You sit down to survey the scene. ‘Aah, here comes the father of the bride – no doubt to welcome us as honoured guests.’ But as he leans in to whisper you begin to sense something is wrong.
‘Thank you so much for coming,’ he says. ‘I’m afraid these seats are for my parents – Mum’s in the loo. We’ve put you on Table 13 – at the back behind the pillar. Oh, here come Mum and Dad…’
Now you have to get up, retrieve your coats, and avoiding all eye contact, push past the very same people before taking your seat with some bored teenage cousins of the groom, knowing that everyone is secretly delighted at your come-uppance.
Don’t big yourself up, says Jesus. Leave that to God and make straight for Table 13.
And then to make things even more awkward, Jesus further undermines his posh host.
‘Don’t invite just your friends, family and rich neighbours to parties like this. Invite the poor, the lame, the blind, instead.’
Throwing lavish parties isn’t actually generous if you see them simply as a down-payment, a guarantee of the return invite next month.
Real generosity is giving lavishly to people who are overlooked by the majority. People who can’t invite you back, pay you back, or make it worth your while.
Luke 13Today’s Speaker17th June – +Debbie Sellin – Luke 13 1-350:000:00
Jesus certainly managed to upset the religious authorities. Here he is again, taking action on the Sabbath to heal a woman. And this time it’s even more public – he is in the synagogue where he breaks off from teaching to reach out to this woman. The indignance of the synagogue leader is heard loud and clear, but so is Jesus’ response: ‘You hypocrite! Don’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to water?’.
Jesus is challenging the very nature of their religion – is it one that brings life and healing and allows people to be freed from the things that have tied them? The answer is sadly not – they have become rule bound and forgotten the life that should reflect their faith in God.
I wonder what rules and regulations we have created that means our generosity has become tethered and needs to be unleashed. Perhaps we are not even aware of them, but they shape our behaviour and responses.
One thing that sometimes holds us back is the feeling that our small contribution can’t possibly make a difference. When there is such need and so many people in a better position to be able to contribute, what can my small offering mean? And that sadly becomes our default position. But look at what Jesus says in the next few verses – ‘What is the kingdom of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed…’. That tiny seed that someone plants becomes one of the largest trees offering shelter and life for the birds of the air.
We can find so many reasons why we shouldn’t be generous, but look at the difference it makes when we play our part, no matter how small we may feel that is, and join with God’s people in bringing life and hope to those around us.
Luke 1216th June – Angie Smith – Luke 120:000:00
‘When you have more than you need build a longer table not a higher fence’
A few years ago, this meme was very popular on social media, with accompanying images showing people sat at trestle tables in street party style. It tapped into the good desire to share with others from our abundance. Yet as the coronavirus began to attack in the UK in March this year, we saw supermarket shelves empty as people hoarded food in their ‘barns’. White goods retailers ran out of freezers as people bought bigger ‘barns’ to store it in.
It is not just fear of running out that causes us to tighten our grip on what is given us but also our sense of entitlement and injustice. Newbigin says ‘…each of us overestimates what is due him compared with what is due his neighbour.’ When a younger brother appeals to Jesus to make his brother act justly, Jesus tells the parable of the rich fool. The fool’s mistake is to believe that he is just a body and not a soul as well. His pursuit of wealth has isolated him from God and others, and he doesn’t see his good harvest as a gift from God to share. His solution to abundance is to store it in barns not realising that, as Augustine says, ‘the bellies of the poor were safer store rooms’. Even his life belongs to God and when it is required of him, his apparently wise stewardship is proven foolish.
Just as community was the antidote to hoarding in March, when we thirst and hunger not just for food and possessions but also justice and mercy for others, our souls will be truly satisfied. When we share not just from our plenty, but from however little we have, we find that ‘life doesn’t consist in the abundance of possessions’ but in trusting our father who knows what we need and gives us his kingdom.
Prayer of St Richard of Chichester:
Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ,
for all the benefits thou hast given me,
for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me.
O most merciful redeemer, friend and brother,
may I know thee more clearly,
love thee more dearly,
and follow thee more nearly, day by day.
Luke 11Today’s Speaker15th June – +Pete – Luke 11 1-540:000:00
Some key messages have to be repeated. Sir Terry Leahy (CEO of Tesco from 1997 to 2011) was apparently once asked, ‘What was the hardest bit of your job?’ and replied, ‘Saying the same thing, day after day, for 15 years’.
In this short passage, Jesus has a message that he wants his followers to understand. It is such an important message, and apparently so difficult for them to grasp, that Jesus essentially repeats himself three times over. He says, ‘Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you’. God is never mentioned, but it is clear what Jesus means. He means that God is on our side, altogether more committed to us, bound up in us and wanting to lavish his love upon us, than we have any idea. Jesus is saying, ‘Ask God, your loving creator, and it will be given to you; seek him, and you will find; knock on his door, and it will be opened’. Occasioanlly, I suppose, it might be a relief to knock on a door and get no answer — but mostly, especially if we need help, it’s a great disappointment. Jesus is encouraging his followers — he is encouraging us, to believe with all our hearts that God has a good will and purpose for us that will be fulfilled. We have only to trust ourselves to him.
And not content with saying the same thing three times over, in case we haven’t got the message, Jesus repeats himself once more: ‘For everyone who asks’, he says, ‘receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.’
The point we find so hard to grasp, the point Jesus found it necessary to labour, is that our Heavenly Father is generous. It is in the nature of God to give.
What Jesus does not go on to say here, but might easily have done, is that, since we are made in God’s image, we are most fully human, most fully ourselves when we too are generous, and when we give.
Luke 10Today’s Speaker14th June – Luke Maundrell – Luke 100:000:00
The story of Mary and Martha is one that Christians are often very familiar with. People tend to draw quite a few conclusions from what is a famous story, but one that actually only covers five verses of Luke’s Gospel! We see Mary sat by Jesus’ feet. And her sister Martha ‘distracted’; running around preparing the house.
I think the core of this story is found through what Luke describes as Martha’s ‘distraction’. Is Martha expressing generosity in opening her home to Jesus? Sure. So why did Jesus politely admonish her for looking to prepare the house, and probably a meal, in the best way she felt she could? Is Jesus questioning Martha’s generosity? Or more likely, Martha’s priorities?
Sometimes, we might be so focused on doing, and giving, that we might let our busy lives get in the way of just spending time with Jesus and understanding why we do what we do, and give what we give, in the first place. When we talk about giving our time, and even giving our money, is it more important to focus on the why, or the what?
Serving is a good thing, but what Mary did is better. She sat at Jesus’ feet. Mary understood that what the house looked like and the quality of what she could offer him did not matter as much as her attention, which should always be her number one priority – her focus on Jesus. She looks to Jesus to learn and to understand his priorities. And when we have sat at Jesus’ feet, understood his priorities for our lives, we can then understand the focus of our opportunities to give in the right ways. We can then live our generous lives to full, by living as Jesus has taught us. We, like Mary, must remember what is most important: Jesus.
In what ways can I prioritise my relationship with Jesus, in order for him to guide me to a deeper understanding of generosity?
Luke 9Today’s Speaker13th June – Jonathan de Bernhardt Wood – Luke 90:000:00
Jonathan de Bernhardt Wood
Reading this story, I have great sympathy with the disciples. They instinctively look at what they do not have, rather than what they do. They focus on the 4,999 meals they do not have, rather than the one they do. In the jargon, they have a ‘scarcity mindset’ but it’s an understandable mindset to me. Very often, I adopt that scarcity mindset without even realising, listing in my head all the things that I do not have before deciding a task is impossible, rather than looking at what I have and how it could become possible.
In Mark 9 the father of an epileptic child asks Jesus to heal his son. When Jesus challenges him, asking him if he believes, he says “I believe! Help my unbelief!”. Similarly here, the disciples believed in Jesus, just not enough to believe he could feed 5,000 with five loaves and two fish.
In this remarkable story, Jesus gently unpicks the disciple’s scarcity mindset, and challenges the limits of their faith in him. He shows them that they have a choice – if they focus on what they do not have, they cannot focus on what they do. They can focus on what in human terms is impossible, or focus on the Son of God who makes all things possible. They can focus on what limited resources they have, or the limitless generosity of God.
There’s real comfort and hope in this story. The comfort is that, as ever, when we struggle with being faithful, and trusting in God, and living out God’s generosity, then the disciples have struggled with it too. The hope is that God can transform what we have – our doubts, our insecurities, our limitations, our scarcity mindset – in the same way that Jesus took the five loaves and two fish and fed 5,000. We believe in a God of extraordinary generosity, who “by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine”. (Ephesians 3: 20-21).
Luke 812th June – Catherine Ogle – Luke 80:000:00
Catherine Ogle (Winchester)
Luke 8: 8 ‘When Jesus said this, he called out, ‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.’
God has created a world of abundance and potential. The humble dandelion flower produces 150 seeds to be blown on the air. A large oak tree drops around 10,000 acorns in a year. There are perhaps 100 billion stars in our galaxy. God’s creation has much more potential than we can imagine.
Jesus tells a parable about a sower who goes out and ‘broadcasts’ by taking handfuls of seed and throwing it across the ground. Some of the seed falls on good soil and is fruitful and brings about magnificent growth. But some seed falls on the path, some among rocks and some among thistles. In these places and conditions the seed doesn’t grow. We understand that Jesus is telling us how and why some people, but not all, are responding to God. The word of God is offered to everyone, but not everyone responds, for different reasons.
It’s interesting that the parable describes ‘how it is’. Jesus makes no suggestion that the farmer should change his practice of broadcasting into ‘narrow-casting’ to save seeds.
As we spread the word, and share God’s love, we too can afford to be generous. Some will fall on deaf ears and cold hearts, but some will fall into good soil and be amazingly fruitful. There will be surprises. We should not judge people. We cannot anticipate the effects of our actions. But we are called to keep acting, to keep sharing the abundant love of God in word and in deed.
When we are a generous, open and welcoming church we are modelling the love of God. We are called to sow seeds and trust our generous God to bring the growth.
Luke 7Today’s Speaker11th June – +David – Luke 7 1-500:000:00
Luke 7: 38: “and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then, she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.”
Luke describes a dinner given for Jesus in which the uninvited guest becomes the central character. A woman overwhelmed by Jesus act of grace and forgiveness has come to anoint his feet with perfume. The host is horrified! As the woman arrives, she is overcome and starts weeping, her tears fall on Jesus feet – she uses her hair to dry the tears and this looks like a scandalous act. Finally, she pours the perfume on his feet, social convention has been thrown out of the window.
In this brief incident we are given a glimpse of exuberant generosity and surprising grace but also fierce opposition from the host. Jesus turns the tables on the critical host – who is the one who is guilty of poor hospitality. But unlike the woman, whose actions are from an overwhelming experience of God’s goodness and forgiveness, the host has failed to see Gods generous love – even when it sits in person at his own table. This is deeply challenging to those of us who we might describe as religious.
What are we missing? Are we so measured that we have missed what God is doing?
“Your sins are forgiven!”
“Your faith has saved you!”
“Go in peace!”
Three life changing things Jesus declares to the weeping woman.
Lord open my eyes to see your work of generous grace, open my ears to hear your words of forgiveness and soften my heart to respond to your generosity.
Luke 6: 27-49Today’s Speaker10th June – David Stout – Luke 60:000:00
Occasionally, when you’re reading a passage from one of the Gospels you start to think “Oh, I know this one. This is the (insert famous Jesus story here)”. Well this is definitely one of those passages.
Sermon on the Mount. Absolutely nailed on.
Except it’s not.
That one’s in Matthew. This is Luke and Jesus is on “a level place” (verse 17). Now the content of the two sermons are very similar and so cleverer people than I suggest that they’re probably based on the same occurrences, no matter what the terrain was like.
Anyway, with familiarity comes apathy. It’s easy to skim over this passage, jumping from famous verse to famous verse, without the content of the passage sinking in.
What we have here is an outrageous set of teachings. Jesus is tearing up the rulebook of how we as human beings are supposed to interact with one another. The old rules of parity and ‘give and take’ are gone. This is absurd generosity. Generosity that lavishes itself onto the world. Breaking down old divides by destroying those walls with generosity and love. It’s remarkable!
This passage (certainly up to verse 39) can sound a little like a list of instructions:
- Do the best thing you can do for the worst person you can think of… etc.
But that’s not really what Jesus is trying to do. He’s not writing a new rulebook, but rather painting a picture of how a Christian should act in the world. A new culture, a new format of interacting with others. Not obligation, but generosity.
If this is what Christian faith should look like, I think it’s fair to say we often fall short. If we as Christians lived in such a way that this incredible generosity was the norm, imagine the impact. It would really make the whole of society start to take note. Just as they did with Jesus.
If Christ is our model for a truly generous lifestyle, what step can we make today to become an example of that generosity to our family, friends, and enemies?
Luke 6: 1-26Today’s Speaker9th June – +Debbie Sellin – Luke 6 1-260:000:00
I wonder if you remember the days before Sunday Trading was allowed – when Sundays were indeed different to all the other days and town centres were closed up and quiet. Sabbath observance as a day of rest was a major part of life for the Jewish people of Jesus’ day, not least because of its mention in the Ten Commandments. And yet, here we have Jesus not only flouting the rules but also proclaiming that his interpretation is the new way for understanding the values of God’s Kingdom.
It’s easy to be hard on the Pharisees, but we need to understand that rules such as Sabbath observance were a sign of distinction for God’s people and formed part of their identity and so any change threatened their whole sense of who they were.
Through Jesus, the Kingdom of God was breaking in and rules that had been appropriate to the old life were now being reshaped and rethought. Just think how radical the Beatitudes, the blessings and woes, would have been to those listening to Jesus speak. And these new ‘rules’ are much harder to keep. No longer is there is a list of do’s and don’ts, but a challenge for our hearts to be aligned with Jesus.
So, what does that mean for generosity?
If we are to follow the example of Jesus, then we need to think about how we see things from God’s perspective and learn to act in a way that fits in with the values of the Kingdom. No longer does our identity belong in the ways of this world but in the ways of heaven and our prayer should be ‘your Kingdom come; your will be done on earth as in heaven’.
And so, our lives need to be shaped by love, action and integrity:
- The love of Christ shining through us
- The call of Christ to act in ways of radical generosity, showing the world the values of God’s Kingdom
- The model of Christ to shape our lives so that every aspect is shaped by him
Luke 5: 12-398th June – Sue Collinson – Luke 50:000:00
Sue Collinson (Winchester)
I remember reading this story of the paralytic man sitting on a bench in a park near Amsterdam. I was out walking with a tall Dutch friend of mine called Hilda. She and I had been on many walks in that wood over the years and had had many conversations about life and God and her struggles with faith.
But this time was different. I was about to go away; we were moving back to England and I
wouldn’t be able to see her so easily and to talk so freely. We had shared so much and now I was about to leave her. Perhaps that is why I decided to read this story with her. Perhaps I was a little like those friends who wanted to take their friend to Jesus. The men in the story knew their friend was in need and they also knew the One who could help.
This paralysed man, like the one covered in leprosy and like Levi the tax collector, received something from Jesus. Healing, forgiveness, purpose and calling, each received what they
needed the most. These are stories of humble dependence and obedience, of perseverance
and the breaking down of barriers. They are stories of transformation.
But more than this, these stories show us who Jesus is. ‘Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ Publicly and decisively, Jesus forgives, heals and restores all who come to him. He is showing us his true identity as the man who is God. I wanted my friend Hilda to get to know Jesus. He is the one who meets our every need, who gives and gives out of his limitless resources of love and grace and forgiveness. Jesus shows us the radically generous heart of God.
Luke 5: 1-11Today’s Speaker7th June – +Sophie Jelley – Luke 5 1-110:000:00
When things don’t go to plan we often feel discouraged and the last thing we feel we need is another piece of advice, however well intentioned. Jesus tells Simon to put out the nets. Again. ‘But’…you can feel Simon’s reticence, ‘we had a bad night, we got nothing, why would it be different now?’ But, Jesus has been good news so far so…maybe. Maybe it will be different…so Simon does it. He casts the nets. Suddenly it is radically different. The nets are straining under the weight of fish. It is overwhelming. Simon wasn’t ready for this. Immediately he feels the significance of what is happening but struggles to understand it. So Jesus reassures him. This is a picture of abundance. ‘ Only instead of fish you will catch people’. The word for catch here means to ‘catch alive’. Simon’s obedience will lead to life, abundant life, not just for him but for all the people he will ‘catch’ lead, heal, nurture and influence in the future.
This is a huge step of faith for Simon. How he chooses to use his one life. Jesus had been good news in his experience and so he obeys. That act of obedience becomes one step on his journey to becoming the one Jesus would later entrust with ‘the keys of the kingdom’ what greater honour could there be than that?
What about our response? How ready are we to recognise that our obedience could lead to life in abundance not just for ourselves but for others; whether that is our friend or work colleague or hundreds of people in our network. Our response affects everything: all our choices about our one life. How we use our time, our talents, our resources. Choosing obedience to the call of Jesus changes things, and like many others, in my experience this is good news.Very good news indeed. It starts with a single step and can end in all kinds of abundance; peace, generosity, forgiveness, hope and wholeness as we ‘catch alive’ many who long for these things in our world today.
Luke 4:14-446th June – Nathan Leigh – Luke 4 14-440:000:00
We live in an inconsiderate time. As I write this, I am experiencing with you the unprecedented government lockdown to tackle the Coronavirus: remembering those who have already died, astonished at those who are wilfully disregarding such orders, and becoming anxious over the various myths and rumour that swirl our social media accounts. We live in a time of adversity, where my most natural impulse is to hoard as much as I can so those dearest to me do not go without. We live in an inconsiderate time, and I am a part of it.
In Luke chapter 4:18-19, Jesus recites a famous Old Testament passage from Isaiah 61 and applies its fulfilment directly to himself. The passage uses a term translated as “release” or “freedom” applied for those who are bound or imprisoned. This idea was not new to Isaiah but was written into the festival season of Jubilee (Leviticus 25:10) where Israel was to provide liberty to land and its inhabitants. It was a time of releasing social burdens and the collective sin of society, freedom of debt, slavery, poverty and oppression. Everything was to be made anew. This release was written into the social calendar of Israel as a marker of generosity, where all society would reset, releasing those bound or imprisoned. This would be done regardless of what adversity the nation faced. That is what Jesus claimed to do in that Nazarine synagogue.
We need to have a Jubilee and Jesus mindset in this unprecedented and inconsiderate time. We are called to bring good news as Jesus did, releasing the imprisoned with a generous spirit. We need to look to the welfare of our neighbours, whoever they may be and ask, how can I help to release your burdens? To the single parent struggling to hold finances and entertainment for children, or to the refugee and homeless, uncertain about where their next meals are coming from. These are our imprisoned neighbours who are longing to be free. How can you bring Jesus’ claim of generous release to them?
Luke 4: 1- 13Today’s Speaker5th June – Debbie Sellin – Luke 4 1-130:000:00
Following his baptism, Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness for 40 days, where he is tempted by the devil. Three times, Jesus resists the devil, quoting Scripture and standing firm. Remember the serpent in the Garden of Eden – he whispered plausible lies about God – and here the same thing happens:
- A challenge to the identity of Jesus: Are you truly the Son of God? Surely, if you are, God would not want you to go hungry?
- An offer to gain power by compromise: Don’t you want to have all this? It’s yours if you bow down and worship me. Wouldn’t the Son of God want this power?
- A provocation to put God’s promises to the test: If you are the Son of God, then prove it through spectacular displays.
The devil continues to whisper plausible lies, and this can impact on our desire to be generous with our time, our money and our talents:
- Surely God loves you already and you don’t need to do any more?
- If God loves you, would he really want you to sacrifice something for the sake of others?
These lies can feed into our hearts and minds and change our attitudes from giving generously to holding back.
So, what can we do?
Jesus used Scripture to remind the devil of his true identity and the nature of God. We can do the same. There are so many passages that assure us that we are children of God and that he has called us by name. Perhaps you can memorise a couple of verses to have at hand when you’re unsure that he cares for you.
Jesus offers us a model of humble service and so we can remind ourselves of his response to those in need.
Jesus was tested and we too will be tested at every level. Our private life and thoughts are as important as the public face we show to others. Let’s take hope in the fact that Jesus knows what we are facing and will help us remember how to respond.
Luke 34th June – Jane Mitchell – Luke 30:000:00
Jane Mitchell (Winchester)
The link I want to make today is between baptism and God’s generosity.
Imagine the weather is very hot, you are seriously overheated, and you jump fully clothed into a swimming pool. WHOOSH! AHHH! The difference in temperature is immediate. You come up to air and realise your body is completely soaked, your clothes are saturated, you feel the cool refreshing water right through to your scalp. The experience is unexpectantly invigorating. It brings right to the fore a fresh perspective of life in mind and body. You abandon yourself for a moment by splashing and squealing in the delight. What a great place to be. Thank you Lord!
I think of baptism like that whoosh of water and jumping into the pool – God’s ongoing work of complete renewal and refreshment. A loving Father’s ultimate, sacrificial act of generosity born out of the death and resurrection of his son, Jesus. We now live in him and he lives in us.
The beginning of Luke 3 is all about baptism. John the Baptist prepares the way for Jesus – “the one more powerful that I” “Who will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and with fire”. This announcement reflects still more of the glory and the generosity given by God to us through baptism of the Holy Spirit.
What is our response to this amazing generosity of God?
• We can give thanks for our own faith and baptism.
• We can be encouraged to grow in faith – if we have two tunics let’s share with someone who has none or if we have food let’s do the same (v11)
• We can allow the Holy Spirit to direct our generosity and be confident that God will do the rest as he brings many more to splash and squeal in delight in His glorious presence.
Luke 2: 21-52Today’s Speaker3rd June – David Williams – Luke 2 21-520:000:00
30-32 – “For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”
I would love to be like Simeon! He is described as righteous and devout and had also been promised by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. For many years Simeon has been waiting expectantly, giving generously of his attention and his time to this promise. Then one day, a young couple walk into the temple with their new-born son. It probably happened every day, a very simple act of gratitude for the gift of the child, an everyday occurrence; yet Simeon sees in this child not only all he has been patiently waiting for, but in his song of praise sees in this child, God’s intervention for the whole world. What starts as a simple act of devotion, in gratitude for the birth of a child, takes on a cosmic and eternal significance.
There is a crescendo of generosity. Mary and Joseph offering a simple gift as an act of devotion and gratitude, Simeon seeing this moment as the fulfilment of his gift of time and attention, but it is of course the unfolding giving of God himself in Jesus that is the life-changing act of generosity. Here is Jesus the one who gives everything: his glory, his invulnerability and at the end, his life. When we see Jesus’ generosity to us there is no room for a superficial response, our generosity will also become life changing.
Those whose generosity is a reflection of God’s generosity, become people the world needs; a pervasive generosity becomes an incredible force for good.
Luke 2: 1-20June 2nd – Luke 2- Heather Leppard0:000:00
Heather Leppard (Winchester)
‘You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.’
I remember family and friends flocking to our house after both our children were born. It feels the natural response to come and meet the new child. The smiles across their faces as they met their nephew and niece, grandson and granddaughter, great grandson. I remember taking our children to church for the first time, aged just 8 days and 4 days respectively, and the joy of the church community at meeting them. It’s amazing how much joy a tiny human being can bring to so many people.
Mary’s story that we hear today is quite remarkable. At such a young age, she has been so open to God’s blessing upon her life, and now she cradles in her arms, God, who has come to earth as a vulnerable baby to be with us all.
I can’t quite imagine how it must have been for her; a first-time mother, just given birth, away from her hometown, and now beginning that journey of discovery of how to look after a new-born, when suddenly all these unknown shepherds descend upon her. They’ve heard those words of the angel: “Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” and hurried to meet him.
So now Mary joined by strangers around the manger! But rather than closing the door, or letting in family only, she has such a generosity to heart to share this new-born child with all who come to visit. She allows them to share in her joy. She seems, at such a young age, to have grasped the generosity of God, not just for her, but for all people, and it is so wonderfully contagious.
Luke 1Today’s SpeakerLuke 1, Pete Wilcox0:000:00
Pete Wilcox, Bishop of Sheffield
Luke 1.42: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!’
We call the mother of Jesus ‘the Blessed Virgin Mary’, and rightly so. Three times in the very first chapter of the Gospel of Luke Mary is hailed at ‘Blessed’ by her kinswoman Elizabeth (see also verse 45); and later in the Gospel (Luke 11.27-28) an anonymous voice in the crowd calls out to Jesus, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you and breasts that nursed you’ — a clear further reference to Mary, the Blessed. But what makes Mary ‘blessed’? The Lord’s own answer in this latter episode is telling. Hearing that voice in the crowd, the Lord replies, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and obey it’. It’s clear to me that Jesus did not mean to suggest that his mother was not in fact blessed; rather he is stating that her blessedness lay not in the fact that she bore him in her womb and nursed him at her breasts, but in the fact that when the Word of God came to her, she received it and obeyed it. Interestingly, this chimes in perfectly with the third reference to Mary as the Blessed One on the lips of Elizabeth in Luke 1. What she actually says in verse 45 is this: ‘Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her by the Lord’.
The point is that the Lord calls each one of us to give ourselves in his service. He did not want Mary’s money in and of itself, nor her time, nor her particular gifts or abilities. He wanted her. Mary found herself called to offer her whole self in the service of God. She was called to embrace his word, his summons — and she was blessed because she said ‘Yes!’. The wonderful thing about that is that only one person in all history could have carried Jesus in the womb — and if that was THE route to blessedness, most of us could not follow Mary. But she was blessed because she was open to the Word of God and readily gave herself to the One who made her, loved her and called her — and we are also blessed when we do the same to the One who made us, loves us, and calls us today.
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