|Published on Wed, 3 May 2017 09:45|
May I speak in the name of God - our creator, our redeemer and our sustainer.
The road to Emmaus is one of my favourite pieces of scripture. Because it’s so full of hope and example. I hope to travel there on Pilgrimage with a number of you very soon.
Let’s recall this terrified bunch of the earliest Christians. They’d followed Jesus Christ practically everywhere he went for three years, hanging on every word and deed.
But in the space of a week, they’d seen him both lauded and crucified. Now in fear of their own lives as subversives - grace would’ve been something they were looking for - rather than feeling a huge capacity to give.
Cleopas and Simon were trying to make sense of what had happened over those tumultuous last three days. How did the brutal murder of their expected saviour of Israel make any sense – after all he’d said and done?
Just then, Jesus Christ came back to them. They didn’t recognise him at first. In fact, when he asked them what had happened, they mocked him as a stranger. Then they told him what the women had told them that morning – this incredible tale of his resurrection!
Then - he opened their eyes - to all that had been prophesied in all the scriptures - about what was to happen to him and why. And what was their reaction - as night was falling? It was the generosity to insist he stay with them, offering to share food and shelter for the night. And when he blessed and broke bread - they finally got it – and he vanished – job done!
Jesus lived, worked and taught in absolute knowledge and confidence - in the generosity and grace of his father – our father. The lord who made and provided everything in heaven and on earth. God gave us everything we have – including life itself.
And out of that abundance and grace, Jesus Christ never stopped giving – in everything he did: in healing the sick, feeding the hungry, forgiving sins; in opening eyes, in teaching us such great wisdom; even in death on the cross.
And yet Jesus never asked to be worshipped – but that we worship our father in heaven. All he asked for himself - was that we follow him. And all he commanded – was that we love one another.
In asking us to follow him, Jesus Christ is asking us to approach our lives always from the same position - of infinite abundance and generosity. We’re asked to respond to God’s infinite generosity by making it our own – to the church, to other needy causes, to our families and friends – and to neighbours and strangers. In fact - we should simply be channels - funnels for God’s love and generosity to all around us – holding nothing back.
The Church of England suggests giving 5% of our take home pay to the church and 5% to other needy causes. That’s a challenge for many of us. But it’s not a limit – there’s no limit to God’s generosity – neither should there be any limit to ours – within our means of course.
In our budget for this year, we again set the challenging aspiration of growing our planned giving by 20% - this year! Clearly not many of us will be able to increase our own giving by that much. But we have achieved that - together - for eight years in a row – by increasing our congregation – making this an attractive church to come to, support and enjoy. And I think by those who can give more - giving more.
This congregation is clearly hugely generous. On top of everything else, almost all repayments of the congregational loans for our Development Project were donated back with GiftAid tax reclaimed as well this year! I give you thanks and praise for that! And I’m sure you will help us to do what we need to - to do God’s work in Waterloo and beyond.
But Jesus wasn’t just talking about money. It’s everything – our time, our skills and knowledge; it’s every gift we have - to be given freely and in gratitude. St John’s with St Andrew’s is a very busy church. There’s a huge amount going on and plenty of opportunities to get involved. The new sub-committees we announced at the annual meeting have been formed with this in mind – to encourage our friends to serve.
So my plea is a simple one: please think how best you personally can follow Jesus Christ - and give freely from your heart in every way you can. Please, think how you can serve God more fully - by giving of all your gifts - out of the generosity and abundance of spirit that comes of thanks and praise for God’s goodness to us.
As soon as Cleopas and Simon got the message – that Jesus Christ is risen indeed – and that he is calling us to follow him – he vanished from sight! Their hearts were on fire! In the breaking of bread – we became the body of the risen Christ. And as members of the body of Christ, we are to love one another and share. We are to hold nothing back in our service of God.
For yours, Lord, is the greatness, the power,
the glory, the splendour, and the majesty;
for everything in heaven and on earth is yours.
All things come from you,
and of your own do we give you.
Creator God - our redeemer and our sustainer - help us to give generously - in response to all that you have given us.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord