Stewardship Resources

Posted: Feb 16

Doubt-Transformation-Generosity

Annual Giving,Best Practices,Discipleship & Generosity,Planned Giving,Year Round & Holistic Stewardship

Third Sunday of Easter

April 15, 2018
Psalm 4
Acts 3:12-19
1John 3:1-7
Luke 24:36b-48

 

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This morning, we continue to hear, in Luke, the doubt of the disciples as Jesus presents himself after his resurrection.  They are still hiding out for they know their lives are in danger and Jesus appears again.

Last week, there was a cute cartoon I saw on Facebook.  It had the disciples sitting around talking about Jesus.  One was saying, “I know he was special.  He was really great, but rising from the dead.  Come on, that’s not possible.”  When this disciple notices his friends looking up and beyond him, he asks, embarrassingly, “He’s right behind me isn’t he?”

Here’s part of the good news for this week, Jesus is risen…and it’s ok to doubt.  That’s what I love about the Episcopal Church; doubts are not just ok, they’re expected.  Years ago, the Diocese of Minnesota developed a powerful ad campaign about the Episcopal Church.  Two that I especially liked and that talk to us today had these headlines: “If you’re tired of a church with all the answers when you’re not even sure of the questions, come to the Episcopal Church”, and “He died to take away your sins, not your mind!”

I’m also reminded of one of my former rector’s favorite lines, “I’d rather face a whole battalion with bayonets fixed, than one Calvinist believing he’s doing the will of God.” Yes, my rector was not a fan of people of faith who were absolutely convinced they were right.

So, this Easter season, don’t hide your doubts about the resurrection story.  Jesus’s most ardent followers couldn’t believe the story, either…and he was eating right in front of them.  Resurrection is a hard concept to understand.  So embrace your doubts and move on.  Move on to what Jesus’s teachings before his death, his death, and his resurrection tell us about God and God’s abundant love for God’s children…all of us.

Another bit of the good news for this morning is that we can mess up, miss the message, be completely dense about what God is trying to tell us, and God will forgive us.  Peter says, “And now friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers…repent, therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be forgiven.”

We can rejoice because, like the psalmist, we can “lie down and sleep in peace.”  God is the god of forgiveness.  Through the life of Jesus, God is telling the world that forgiveness is the way God will deal with us now.  God has decided that punishment is no longer God’s preferred method of showing God’s love for us.  God is done with famines and floods and locusts.  God has chosen hugs of compassion and kisses of forgiveness to show the Creator’s love for all of God’s children.

Thanks be to God!  As a former client of mine often said, “I don’t believe in God’s forgiveness, I rely on it.”  On a daily, maybe even hourly basis, I rely on God’s forgiveness.  Without it, my life, our lives would be spinning out of control.

Peter’s words in Acts come after the healing of the lame man at the entrance to the temple.  Here’s a man who survives by his friends bringing him to the temple so he can beg for money.  When Peter and John come to the temple for prayers, there’s the lame man begging for money.  But Peter tells the man that he has no silver and gold to give but then says, “But what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” Then Peter and John took him by the hand and raised him up.  And the story continues, “And leaping up he stood and walked and entered into the temple with them walking and leaping and praising God.”

Amazing transformation!

Transformation is at the heart of the biblical stories.  God takes flawed people and through his abiding love transforms them…transforms us into what Archbishop Desmond Tutu calls God Carriers.  Tutu believes everyone carries God within them.  That belief transformed his life.  It gives him hope.  It gives him joy.  No matter whom he has to deal with, he sees that person as carrying God.

I have to admit; I think that sounds wonderful in the abstract, but in the real flesh and blood, it’s a little more difficult.  I can’t get my short arms around the idea that Trump carries the divine in him.  How about Putin or Assad? 

I recently read a piece by Rabbi Joshua Levine Grater where he recounts telling some members of his weekly meditation class at the Jewish Temple in Pasadena about Tutu’s idea of God Carriers.  He wrote, “The power of this message was driven home for me, finally, at the end of our meditation class on Tuesday, when I shared my insights. One of the women who comes regularly, and is a Shoah survivor, breathed a deep breath, looked at us and said the following: ‘In my darkest days in the concentration camps, when I was losing hope, I thought to myself, there must be some humanity in Hitler, perhaps when he is listening to music, the music he loved so much, maybe at that moment, for a split second, he is human. And that gave me hope to try and keep living.’ We all sat in shocked silence, for who could say that other than a survivor and not be vilified, not be seen as sick and twisted.”

Such a life-giving story.

I also believe that being a God carrier and seeing others as God carriers can transform how we see generosity.  The story of God’s love for all of God’s people is a story of overwhelming generosity.  God never stops giving all that God has.

So as God’s stand-ins (another term Tutu loves to use), as God’s stand-ins, what does generosity mean to us?  When we represent God, how do we match God’s never- ending generosity?  It may be, in fact it is no doubt true, that we can never match such divine bountifulness, but that must not stop us from trying.

Our transformation and the transformation of our faith communities depend on us letting God’s life-giving generosity flow through us.  Let us not be the ones who impede the flow of God’s abundance.  Let us be the ones who, through our actions and our own generosity, throw open the floodgates of the divine bounty.

Let us overcome our doubts, transforming the world around us through our awesome generosity.

Amen

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Richard Felton
Executive Director/CEO