Tag Archives: abundance

Matching God’s Generosity

Yesterday, in between showers, I took Molly dog for a walk in the park and I noticed these beautiful leaves that had fallen to the ground. When I found them they were still glossy and supple and felt full of life. But this morning they have begun to dry and fade and will eventually become lifeless.

Of course, whilst they were still part of the tree, they created and stored energy, from the water supplied by the tree, the carbon dioxide supplied by the air and sunlight – microscopic sugars. This energy was then shared with the tree to build up its branches and produce more growth and leaves – a perfect example of giving and receiving, of mutual generosity

However, once a leaf becomes separated from the tree, all of its stored energy is useless, its beauty begins to fade, and you are left with nothing except a mulch for the garden or crumbly dust.

We too can be full of energy and life, have more than enough reserves to sustain our way in the world, and plenty of opportunities to share what we have to make a difference, but if we keep these things to ourselves, storing up treasures in ever increasing amounts then we become like these leaves. We will have broken that connection to the source, and that mutually beneficial relationship that enables us to grow and flourish will have been severed; our riches will be worth nothing more than the likelihood of becoming someone else’s rich compost.

The saying, ‘you reap what you sow’ comes in many guises throughout the bible, from proverbs and psalms, prophets and parables, but the underlying message is clear, the amount you receive is equal to the amount you give and vice versa. In our New Testament reading, Paul is reminding the Corinthians about the principles of Christian giving. Giving is like sowing seed: what you get is linked to what you give. In Christian giving both the thought and the attitude count. We are reminded that God is the greatest giver. He provides in all kinds of ways – in crops and food and spiritual gifts. His greatest gift being to send his only Son, Jesus, to be the Saviour of the world

The Corinthians, like us, will discover that by changing their attitude to giving that they themselves will receive more. They, like us, will be enabled and encouraged to be generous, both now and in the future. This will be a harvest of praise to God when people see his grace in their lives. So, more than ever we need to give generously, willingly, and cheerfully, of our time, of our talents, of our resources; because what we will receive back will be so much more

But wait, haven’t we heard this exhortation to be more generous so many times before. Haven’t we for a moment taken stock and reviewed what we already give in time, talents and resources and decided that we can say we are giving in at least one of these ways very generously so surely that counts?

I wonder though if God takes stock and reviews his generosity or does he simply pour out more blessings in abundance hoping some will at least try to match him.

And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance,
so that by always having enough of everything,
you may share abundantly in every good work.
2 Corinthians 9:8

Time, talents, and resources, it should never be a case of which one should I choose to be generous in…

Generosity of time should not be counted in hours and minutes, but being willing to offer enough time and more, so that things can be accomplished that will benefit not only ourselves but others too.

Generosity of talents should not be scored by the ability to outshine everyone else as the star of the show, but by sharing those skills to enable everyone to rise to their full potential

And generosity of resources should never be about percentages. If you have sufficient then the rest is a surplus, which might just be the necessary amount to provide for those with little or nothing.

As Christians and church members, we carry within us the seeds of faith, seeds that are to be sown to enrich each and every life that comes into contact with our own, to make those connections. God generously supplies the water, the spirit and the light and we are called to convert that into a generous life-giving energy. This is grace and it is freely given, is inexhaustible and unextinguishable.

This is our generous God, let us be his generous people. Amen

A sermon for Harvest Festival based on 2 Corinthians 9: 6-15 and Luke 12:16-30

The Holy Family and the Mayfly

The Holy Family and the Mayfly by Albrecht Dürer

The month of May is with us and we continue to see signs of new growth and life all around. Not those first buds of spring, but the lush greenness of trees coming into full leaf, ferns unfurling themselves and the first swarm of midges over the pond in the early evening. Having celebrated Easter recently, the gift of new life is very much in our minds as we rejoice in the resurrection of Christ.

This new life we see around us never comes from nothing: the trees are producing new growth from existing branches; the bluebells filling the woods are from bulbs deep in the soil and even the bedding plants waiting to be nurtured for summer colour are from the seed of a plant that bloomed last year. As Jesus said ‘unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit’

This is true however brief that life is, and one of the briefest of lives is that of the mayfly, a primitive insect that the German engraver Albrecht Dürer included in his 1495 engraving sometimes known as ‘The Holy Family with the Mayfly’, suggesting a link between heaven and earth. However, Dürer may have intended it as a butterfly, a creature whose dramatically transformative life-cycle makes it a perfect symbol of resurrection and redemption. Whatever its identity, with inoperative mouthparts and digestive systems filled with air, this ephemeral creature, the mayfly, is destined to live only a few hours. It lives and dies purely in order to produce new life; a female typically laying between four hundred and three thousand eggs.  

Jesus’ life similarly could be considered all too brief, yet he tells us that he came that we ‘may have life, and have it abundantly’. We also recognise that the seasons change and all too soon spring will give way to summer with its abundant fruitfulness, before winter will see those fruits awaiting transformation. Through Jesus we are assured that for us this transformation will mean a new and everlasting life. His promise is not necessarily in longevity, but life in all its fullness – so let’s make the most of each and every day, finding in it God’s blessings and sharing them with those around us. 

Alleluia, Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

 

Savouring Solitude

Savouring the solitude of Alton Abbey

Savouring the solitude of Alton Abbey

Prior to my ordination, after which life will change and inevitably get a lot busier, I decided to spend a day on a personal retreat at Alton Abbey. This community of Benedictine monks offers generous hospitality, prayerful worship and a space to simply be, all the while surrounded by a  natural and inviting arbors from which you can gaze at the world in contemplation.

Alton Abbey 011 blog

Be still, and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

I went there principally to gain a sense of stillness; a few hours to calm the mind and refresh the soul, but as the day wore on I realised that there is never complete stillness in solitude. For God’s presence is fully alive in creation and she demonstrates her vivacity in a vibrant showy display of life in sight, sound and smell.

On other occasions It might have been a day for expressing myself in poetry or art, but I discovered that this day was purely a time for sitting and waiting, observing and listening. Let me share some of these moments with you now.

Alton Abbey 4 blog

The Abbey houses bathed in sunlight

Firstly, I have to acknowledge that I visited on a glorious, sunny day – something that the Brothers told me was unusual, as the Abbey often has its own micro-climate of fog and rain, and summertime has its own pleasures when the freshness of spring has given way to abundant blooms and lushness of grass and burgeoning leaves on trees. So after a period of settling into the room I have been allocated for the day I ventured out into the gardens and grounds

A walk along the first path I saw from the doorway took me past the overflowing honeysuckle (see title picture) with its sweet scent and colourful trumpets, before I came to a pause, suddenly aware of the movement and sounds that were coming to me. A row of trees whispered loudly that they were very much alive as their leaves danced in rhythm with the breath of the Spirit; their rippling tones a background pulse to the melody of the birds whose notes rose and fell as if urgently repeating a song of sheer joy.

Woodland shades

Woodland shades

Choices… whether to take the woodland path or enter the formal garden with its gated entrance and a notice that stated, ‘You are welcome, the rabbits are not! Please shut the gate behind you’. I plumped for the shady woods.

Fallen fruits, yet like sparrows 'not one of them will fall to the ground unperceived by your Father' Matthew 10:29It was cooler and quieter here, and yet underneath my feet crunched the husks of autumnal beech nuts, reminding me of harvest abundance. Whilst the cascade of lace-capped hydrangea and towering rhododendrons gave promises of future profusion and growth. Even the flowers that had fallen to the floor, still radiated beauty; and in the dappled shifting shade, glints of light flashed like beacons signalling a presence.

Fallen blooms, yet like sparrows ‘not one of them will fall to the ground
unperceived by your Father’ Matthew 10:29

On days like this, time ticks imperceptibly onward and I found it was necessary to hurry back into the Abbey Church to join the Brothers in Midday Prayer, then lunch, which even though it was taken in silence, was much appreciated and gave one time to digest one’s thoughts.

The drowsy courtyard steeped in peace

The drowsy courtyard steeped in peace

The sun by now was high above in a cloudless sky and although I am not normally a sun-worshiper of any kind, I was drawn to the tranquility of the courtyard where I settled on a stone bench and closed my eyes, Warmth has its own life, as it seeps into your bones and lingers on the surface of your skin. My sense of drowsiness was dispelled by the sound of water erupting in shimmering jets of cascading jewels that fell to tumble over a moss-covered fountain, splashing the lily pads, under which fish found shade, their diaphanous tails swirling in lazy circles. All the while the tall purple and yellow irises quivered in anticipation  as gentle bees brushed their petals and a kaleidoscope of pansies turned their faces to the sun, exuding a honeyed fragrance so familiar from childhood.

Alton Abbey Daisies 012 blogThere is nowhere that creation is out of place and as I left the courtyard, my feet grazed the small stubborn weeds that had pushed their way up through the cracks in the paving and brushed against delicate ferns that sprouted in vertiginous splendour high up on the walls. These humbler plants, despite attempts to eradicate their existence, are no less beautiful, and as I walked around the side of the church to seek a shadier nook I encountered tiny white daisies nestling with bright blue speedwell and baby pink cranesbill, which had escaped the mower’s blades.

As always when you visit somewhere for the first time, you’re never one hundred percent sure whether you might stray into areas that are private; secret places full of hidden treasures. Yet the well-worn wall seat was placed invitingly at the end of the two pools of water and seemed a perfect place to linger before Evening Prayer and Supper. Here I was rewarded with a deep feeling of peace, as if God had saved the best till last. Here was life in abundance from the immeasurable variety of insects, including carmine and turquoise bodied dragonflies hovering on lacy wings, and the unseen life within the silty mud, that sent bubbles up to break the tension of the water’s surface, to the chattering house martins that swooped overhead.

I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places. Psalm 45:3

I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places. Psalm 45:3

As the day drew to a close, and I packed my bag and said farewell to the Brothers, I reflected how lucky I was to have been granted that time and that space to simply be another small part of God’s incredible creation. Those images and thoughts that filled my time there will no doubt sustain me for quite a while to come; a point in time both sacred and divine, a moment of sheer grace.

Alton Abbey blooms blog

Exuberant life in seed and bloom

For more information about Alton Abbey, its people and the work it does, click here