“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.”
I have been thinking a lot about generosity and generous living lately. Many of you know that my Aunt Mary died in April of this year, just after Easter. As the administrator of her estate, I have been charged with cleaning out her home and sorting through her possessions. I have found many things that have caused me to laugh, cry, and say out loud (to no one as I’m generally at her home by myself), “WOW!”
One of those “Wow!” moments happened recently when I opened a box stashed away in one of her closets. It was full of giving statements from Athens First UMC where Aunt Mary was a member until her death. Paper after paper marked her steady, unwavering giving to her church. Her time there stretched through the tenures of 3 senior pastors and many associate pastors. She grew to know and love many friends there and participated in Sunday school, UMW, and lots of local and international mission projects through her generous giving of money and donated items. Seeing those giving records reminded me of the deeply generous person who was my beloved aunt.
What I knew of her generosity was personal. She gave the BEST Christmas and birthday gifts not because of their price tags but because she spent time thinking about us when choosing them. She gave us so much time when we visited, never leaving us to play while she cleaned up or did other things but always spending time doing what we wanted to do. She spent hours with me on the phone when I was about Joy’s age. In fact, I credit Aunt Mary with teaching me how to have a proper phone conversation. I treasure the memory of all that time spent with her and all the love and attention she lavished on me throughout my life.
So, it was really no surprise to find the record of her lavish generosity to the ministry of her church. It was more of an inspiration. And right now, I am looking for inspiration. We need examples of how to live life graciously, with generosity and kindness as our clouds of guidance by day and pillars of light by night. We need assurance that generosity and kindness are still the foundation upon which a deep and rich life of faith can be built. My aunt’s generation (she was 90 at her death) grew up in a social world that rewarded giving. Sometimes I fear we are living in a social world that prizes taking, selfish acts, and personal success over the values of giving, sharing, and community well-being.
Aunt Mary gave a good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over. You know your own “Aunt Marys” who do the same. You are those people! And if you aren’t yet and you want to become one of those people, it is actually pretty easy to do so. Just decide today that you are going to send a financial gift or a donation of items to an organization or ministry that is doing good in the world, like your church! When you do, your gift is multiplied, then pressed down, shaken together, and running over. And the measure of grace and peace that returns to you will inspire you to give more, spreading inspiration and generosity of life, action, and spirit into a world that needs that so desperately right now.
Leave a legacy for you family, friends, and community of generosity and kindness. That kind of legacy cannot be overstated or misinterpreted. It simply makes the world a little better and brighter because you choose to share what you have. Thank you for being a generous people. It is truly an honor to be your pastor.
As of Tuesday, October 6, we are on day 4 in the yellow zone for new COVID-19 cases according to www.globalepidemics.org. (For more information on the specifics of our re-gathering plan, please see the church website: www.embryhillsumc.org.) Two weeks in the yellow zone allows us to start having in-person worship gatherings for 50 and fewer people at a time. Please pay close attention to all of our communications, as we are already working on plans for in-person worship that will be ready when we hit that two-week threshold.