Oct 31st, Live Generously, with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski.
A Part of the Series:
Oct 31st, Live Generously, with Rev. Dr. Steven Koski.
Pope Francis reminds us, Rivers do not drink their own water. Trees do not eat their own fruit. The sun does not shine on itself, and flowers do not spread their fragrance for themselves.
Living for others is a rule of nature. We are born to give of ourselves, to help each other. Life is good when you’re happy, but life is much better and what it is meant to be when others are happy because of you.
Let me ask you, are you a more generous person today than you were twelve months ago?
Are you Kinder, more compassionate? I mean, do you have more room in your heart for the suffering of others? Is your capacity to love greater today than it was twelve months ago.
The journey of faith is the continual self transformation from living our lives like this to living our lives like this. The journey of faith is not meant to deliver us, to save us, to protect us from this broken world, keeping us safe and comfortable.
The journey of faith takes us deeper into this broken world, increasing our capacity to love. No longer living like this. But living like this, the journey of faith is responding to the generosity of God’s love by practicing uncommon generosity in the world.
We’re beginning a new sermon series today called Uncommon Generosity. Research has shown that people are happier, physically, emotionally, spiritually healthier when they practice generosity. I mean, the Bible teaches the importance of generosity. I mean, think of the virtues of the life of faith highlighted in the Bible. There’s love, justice, mercy, kindness, compassion.
Now, if you counted how many times these words show up and are emphasized in the Bible, you’d find the importance of love shows up in the Bible over 700 times. Justice over 600 times. Kindness, compassion, mercy a bit less than that. And if you take all of these virtues and you add them together, they are emphasized over 1000, 1000 hundred times in the Bible.
Now the idea of giving and generosity is emphasized over 1900 times in Scripture more than all of the other virtues combined.
Generosity is the central theme in Scripture. Central to our faith is the idea that the essential nature and character of God is an uncommon generosity.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow.
Scripture teaches that the very essence of God is love expressed in uncommon generosity for God so loved the world. John 316 says that God gave the gift of Jesus who revealed to us what God’s love and generosity looks like as Jesus healed the sick as he fed the hungry as he loved his enemies, as he ate dinner with the outcasts, as he washed the feet of even those who would betray Him as he forgave the unforgivable Jesus, Jesus loved like this, willing to give His very life for the sake of that love.
And Scripture says in Genesis that we are created in the image of God.
Now the essential nature of God is love expressed in uncommon generosity that would suggest that we are made to be generous.
It is through our lives that God’s infinite love gives itself away.
Maybe that’s why we experience so much joy in giving and why life stops flowing through us when we live like this.
When we practice uncommon generosity, we bring something of God into the world and we find what it means most to be human.
There’s a pivotal passage in Genesis Twelve, where God says to Hebrew, I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great so that you will be a blessing so that you will be a blessing. I mean, all of the blessings in our life, everything that comes to us, the life we have, the breath we breathe, the skills, abilities, wisdom experiences, the resources we are blessed with. All of it is so that we might be a blessing to others. I mean, Jesus said it this way to whom much is given, much more is expected.
We are blessed so that we will live our lives with uncommon generosity, blessing the lives of others. I recently went for a walk along the river with Brenda Simpson, a member of our Church who is recovering from major major surgery and treatment for esophageal cancer.
Brenda’s recently retired.
I expected her conversation to be about how hard and challenging her journey with cancer has been, and it’s been hard now. Instead, Brenda wanted to talk about where God might be calling her to serve. Right now, she wanted to talk about where best to use her time and her experience and her resources, how best to use her wisdom and skills to serve others, how she can serve her Church, how she might make a difference in the lives of others.
You know, Brenda’s journey with cancer has been a monumental challenge, and that challenge certainly continues.
But there’s something essential about Brenda’s nature that refuses to be deterred, this deep desire to be a blessing to others.
I remember when Mariana Swinnerton and Elizabeth Stefan’s Mom Anna, moved to Bend at 100 years of age. She joined the Church. Her first question to me, 100 years old. Her first question to me, how can I serve? How can I be of service?
How can I be a blessing to us?
It was in her DNA, created in the image of God.
It is in our very nature to live with uncommon generosity. And when we do, we bring something of God’s nature into the world.
The Apostle Paul emphasized the importance of generosity to a life of faith.
He said, Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not with hesitation or because of pressure.
He said, God loves a cheerful giver.
I mean, generosity is in our nature. It’s meant to bring joy.
Think of the times when you’ve practiced uncommon generosity. Think of the times when you’ve sacrificed yourself or something of yourself for the sake of others. Those times when you’ve shifted from living your life like this to living your life like this. Now I’m guessing that you experienced an uncommon joy because living with uncommon generosity, it is what we are made for.
I remember visiting the Philippines and receiving the gift of a flower necklace and I found out later that this gift was worth a week’s wages for the man who gave me the gift and this man.
He exuded such joy in being able to give this gift to me, a complete stranger with tears in my eyes. The gift I really desired was what was in that man’s heart that allowed him to give so freely and with such uncommon generosity.
This is the time of year we ask you to prayerfully. Consider generously supporting the mission and ministries of First Presbyterian for 2022 with a financial pledge asking you to generously pledge your support to God’s work through First Presbyterian isn’t ultimately about fundraising. If it was only about fundraising, I often say it’d be a whole lot easier to hold a raffle or start bingo nights.
It’s a spiritual practice when we determine how much to give and pledge whether it be pledging our money, our time, our gifts.
It’s tempting to make that decision based on what is reasonable, comfortable, safe. It’s tempting to calculate, well, what do we have left to give?
I am humbly asking you to take a risk this year in your giving and you’re giving to God’s work through First Presbyterian.
I’m asking you to take a leap of faith and give more than what feels safe or comfortable.
I’m asking you to practice uncommon generosity.
This is such a critical time for the Church, tempting to just hunker down, play it safe. Just hope to survive this challenging chapter that hope is far too small and it is based on fear. It’s based on living like this.
First Presbyterian has a rich history of being a clear, visible, bold witness to the love of Christ, a love greater than fear.
Friends. This is not the time to retreat in fear.
This is precisely the time where we are called to live like this, to love like never before.
These are uncommon times that call that require uncommon generosity.
So I’m humbly asking you to pledge your support to God’s work through one Presbyterian for 2022, not based on what’s comfortable, reasonable, safe, but based on how God is seeking to use your life to bless others on what might look like uncommon generosity.
In 2022, we hope to strengthen our Ministry to children and youth to promote mental health and wellbeing, especially with young people who’ve had to deal with so much in the last 18 months. We hope to become more involved, more invested, involve more people in local mission, feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, reaching out and caring for those in need. I mean, we hope to grow in our generosity as we serve our community. We hope to grow in our generosity in our partnerships in Burundi and Guatemala, and we hope to strengthen our Church community and the way we care for one another.
Frankly, doing a much better job at connecting to those who are isolated and feel lonely and disconnected.
We hope to find more creative ways to use our building and our campus to serve the community.
When we return to in-person worship, we will continue to offer online worship, and we hope to expand our online presence, reaching more people across the globe and creating more kind of innovative ways to deepen our faith.
The days ahead remain uncertain.
Do you know what is certain?
What is certain is the uncommon generosity of God’s love?
What is certain is that First Presbyterian, you all of you can be counted on to be a reflection of that uncommon generosity where it is needed.
Victor Frankel survived the unspeakable, unspeakable suffering of the concentration camps of Nazi Germany and Franklin.
He observed that the prisoners who struggled the most and often didn’t survive.
They were the ones who took the small ration of bread they were given and they clutched it and they kept it for themselves, fearing there wouldn’t be enough.
And what he observed is those who somehow found the strength, the resilience, the life force within them, not just to survive but overcome their adversity.
They were the ones who took the small ration of bread they were given.
And they opened their hands and they opened their hearts and gave it away. The children, the elderly and the sick.
They practiced an uncommon generosity that proved to be stronger than even the worst kind of evil.
Friends. Do you live like this or like this?
You are created in the image of God’s uncommon generosity. You were made to be generous. It’s in our very nature, our DNA to live with uncommon generosity. And when we do, we bring something of God into the world.
Life is good when we’re happy, life is so much better and what it is meant to be when others are happy because of our uncommon generosity, you are blessed so that you will live as a blessing to others.
And when you do, you just might experience uncommon joy.
May it be so.