Spirit of Generosity
Luke 13:34 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”
Lent is proving to be quite a difficult time for us. Just as we were being prepared to rebuild after two years of a horrible pandemic, we are now bought face-to-face with the depths of human depravity and wickedness. The human penchant for making selfish decisions can be catastrophic – as we are witnessing in Ukraine as well as in actions against civil rights in the USA. The many strides made in the past decade towards freedoms and the creation of new communities of diversity and equity are now being threatened by human dinosaurs.
This my friends is the same chaotic maelstrom which Jesus faced in his struggles with the despotic Herod in today’s Gospel. “At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” The level of fear they sought to inject into Jesus could have crippled His ministry. Yet Jesus saw the need to look beyond the present chaos towards God’s vision that lay beyond it. His was not one of pacifism or of overlooking the prevailing dangers as he certainly jeeringly spoke of Herod’s fleeting powers “Go and tell that fox for me, ‘Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work.” Defiance in the face of the evil is a deep-seated faith system.
Today’s turmoil is no different in many ways from that period of Jesus’ ministry. Human despotic leadership, spiritual enablers, and the seeming impotence of the masses. The evil one taunts “let your good God save you” as he pummels away at the vulnerable. The real crisis then is less about the presence of evil but in the question of how we respond to it.
In a recent survey sponsored by the National Episcopal Church, one of the major discoveries is the vast divide between what Christians think of themselves and what others think of us. “Ask a Christian to describe other Christians and the answers likely will be “giving,” “compassionate,” “loving” and “respectful.” Ask a non-Christian, on the other hand, and the more likely descriptors you’ll get for Christians are “hypocritical,” “judgmental” and “self-righteous.” Non-Christians are also far more likely to say Christians do not represent the teachings of Jesus.” https://religionnews.com/2022/03/09/episcopal-bishop-curry-says-more-to-do-as-poll-shows-christians-seen-as-hypocrites/
My dear friend Fr Atkins (RIP) would often say “If I bought him for what he is worth and sold him for what he thinks is his worth I would be a multi-millionaire” Our Presiding Bishop adopts more theological palatable language in speaking about the crisis of hypocrisy of Christians. This is the same hypocrisy Jesus sought to address in his lament over Jerusalem which claimed spirituality as its nature but constantly chose to be silent in the face of evil.
My friends, I believe what we are facing is a crisis of generosity. We believe we are generous and yet each time this is tested we fail. We find every possible excuse for not being willing to share while at the same time pleading for God’s generous mercies. Jesus’ spirituality demands us to first acknowledge our need to act generously rather than focus on those who are in need. St Francis shared it best: “It is in giving that we receive.” If we live lives where generosity is not practiced, then we help create and sustain breeding grounds that ferment into evil that preys upon the vulnerable.
The crisis the world faces can easily be traced to the widening of the socio-economic gaps and the erosion of systems that support the poor and vulnerable. This is not a Ukrainian crisis or a civil rights crisis it is a human crisis. The more we withdraw and hoard, the greater space we provide for demonic forces to prevail. Don’t cry for Ukraine while sustaining behaviors that led to that crisis because before you know it, it will be at your door. Erosion of the voting rights of black and brown people, prejudice and violence against transgender people, and other atrocities against other groups of people are only precursors for what lies in store for us. Do you think the Ukrainians believed that they would become refugees in Poland which is a poorer country than Ukraine?
Our Lenten call appeals for us to practice generosity in the name of Jesus. My life doesn’t belong to me! Our children and all our claim are all gifts from God. Our gifts, skills, and talents are what you gained not on your own but through the sacrifices of others and the generosity of God. This church you are invited to support was not built by you, but it is now gifted to us for the work of the Lord. We must act upon our hymn “I surrender all!”
For lent may I ask you in the name of Jesus to do one thing only. Practice generosity! Be generous by being willing to speak up and out for someone or something. The world remained silent in the face of German atrocities in Namibia before cries were heard from Warsaw, the world remained silent to the cries of Aleppo due to Russian aggression, and we now see the cost. Black, brown, and white cries are all heard by the ears of God. For heaven’s name, find your voice and speak up! Last weekend one woman spoke out and dramatically changed the full nature of our Diocesan Convention. She understood her soul was at stake if she remained silent in the face of injustice.
Children are being bullied in schools, racism and injustice flaunt their presence, human sexuality is perceived as a threat, while teaching the fullness of American history is being undermined in our schools. In Ukraine today we just may be witnessing our own demise. I leave you with my version of Jesus’ lament to us: Episcopalians Christians, the community that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”
May we truly seek to write a different script by starting with generosity!