It was a joy for Jimmy (our assistant rector) and me to participate in the Gratitude Gatherings last month. He and I attended, between the two of us, all 13 gatherings. With ovur 140 people in our church, we were able to share, in more intimate settings, the blessings that God has given us.
At these gatherings, people divided into small groups of 3 or 4 people to ponder these two statements:
1. Tell us about a time when you gave, up to or to the point of sacrifice.
2. Tell us about what you are grateful and thankful for.
As I participated in the gatherings, I noted that most of you were quite comfortable to share regarding the second statement, about what you are grateful for. Yet about the first statement, about giving and about sacrifice, some were a bit stumped.
Many of us have been the recipients of giving, of giving to the point of sacrifice. Some of us had parents who sacrificed much to give us a college education. A very few in this congregation have experienced the gracious giving of an organ donor, walking around now with a donated kidney in their bodies. We have been blessed beyond measure; we are the recipients of sacrificial giving. Yet we are not only to be receivers, but givers.
However, the messages that we hear all around us tell us the opposite. Every single day we are bombarded with: “Look out for #1” and “The one with the most toys wins” and “It’s all about me.” It takes a monumental force to push against the tidal wave of consumerism and consumption. It takes a huge effort to go against the grain of self-absorption. It takes Jesus.
Jesus says to us: “If you want to save your life, you must give it away.” Jesus teaches us: “There is no greater love than giving away one’s life for a friend.” Then Jesus puts his money where his mouth is - by opening up his arms on the hard wood of the cross.
At St. Alban’s, we provide avenues to practice a new life of giving, of giving up to the point of sacrifice. You can sacrifice your Sunday mornings at 9:00 AM - by helping our children in Godly Play. You can sacrifice your money – by giving it away to God’s work and writing a seemingly ridiculous amount on your pledge card. You can sacrifice your pride - by trying out a new thing by singing in the choir or reading scripture publicly. Yet it takes Jesus, and his example, to get us to giving to the point of sacrifice.
I am so pleased that we are a grateful and thankful parish. Now I want us to go deeper in following Jesus’ call - and to push against the tide of receiving and getting. For new and resurrected life comes when we take up our cross and when we give - up to or to the point of sacrifice.