Beloved St. John’s community,
My parents grew up very poor. Both of my grandfathers were preachers. At one point my mother’s family was living in a small town in New Mexico, quite literally in an adobe home with no running water or electricity. When my mother went to college she did not have enough money to buy a pair of pantyhose or a coca-cola. My father’s father had to supplement his ministry income by selling Hoover vacuums door to door. He did not get a raise in 30 years despite raising a family of five children.
So my parents knew what it was to make do. They told me they never felt poor. They had gardens raising vegetables, they had their families, and their friends were all in the same situation. So when they got married, they knew what it was to pinch pennies and save. They were also committed churchgoers. In their twenties, their church needed to work on their building, so they did a capital campaign. My parents committed to an amount beyond their normal pledge even though they couldn’t afford it. So they took out a loan to make the pledge. The next week my father got an unexpected raise in his job, worth exactly the amount of their monthly loan payment.
Now don’t worry, I’m not sharing this with you to ask you all to take out loans for this year’s pledge campaign! I’m sharing this with you because we live in a universe of abundance, where gratitude and generosity are the twin sides of the same coin. The practices of gratitude and generosity go together. For some inexplicable reason, our nation, the richest nation in the world, also has many hungry children in it, and we have an unfathomable fear of loss that translates to endless insurance, litigation, hoarding, and the perception of scarcity. But the reality is that we live in a universe of abundance.
We have an endless supply of sunlight, and the seasons provide an incredible display of beauty as the wheel of the year turns, and the sound of wind blowing through quaking aspen trees is more peaceful than any sound machine you can buy. Each human being around you is a treasure you could explore your whole life and never come to the end of their mystery, their uniqueness. Just a few hours north of us is Lake Superior, what the Ojibwe people call “Gitchi Gummi,” one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world, and her waves and rocky shores and depth are a miracle worth exploring over and over.
Beyond the amazing abundance of the natural world is the invisible glue that holds it all together, the forcefield in which the universe exists—which is the unfathomable love and grace of the Creator. At the far reaches of quantum physics and known science, there is a profound interconnectedness that cannot be explained. The poets and mystics call this the love of God.
Today, I invite you to survey your general experience in the world, and ask yourself where you can find the joy, delight and abundance of God operating in your life. What is God’s gift to you? In my own experience, if you can get outside or open the window to feel the fresh air, this will become more clear to you than if you just sit and think about it. Take a moment to allow yourself to experience gratitude, and to let your gratitude deepen. Then have courage to express your gratitude in the world, even if it feels risky. As my parents experienced, God’s universe gathers around and supports expressions of love and generosity. How will this show up in your life?
I know that gratitude is the last thing many people are feeling these days. There is a deep fear and anger about the state of our country. The times are indeed alarming. And we as people of faith are called to remain grounded in the depth of the love of God, which is an anchor in the increasing storm. During this election season and its aftermath, and everything happening in our personal lives, how will we cope with this world? Will we seek to escape it and leave the nation to its consequences? Will we increase in anger and vitriol and fear? Or will we seek to live differently, insisting that love and generosity and healing are possible, and that we are a demonstration plot of a truly different way of being?
Let gratitude and generosity be heartbeats that resound in a consistent rhythm in our state of being and in our lifestyle. Let the overflowing love of Jesus, the healer, pour through and out of us. Let the endless creativity of God inspire us to delight in the natural world, and to see newness and possibility in the enormous transitions we are experiencing. Let the Spirit, which is the very breath of God, breathe in and through us, so that we can see new life and birth and hope.
As we begin our pledge campaign today, moving toward Consecration Sunday on October 25, I thank you in advance for expressing your generosity toward St. John’s. We know there is the possibility of significant change this year, and we will walk with hope and courage into whatever the future brings, with God’s help. Thank you for practicing gratitude and generosity.