Rev. George Miller
June 4, 2017
One of my favorite books as a youth was “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou.
What I recall most was the author’s comment that because she grew up poor she had no idea that the Depression was taking place, and that she was raised in a community in which no one was turned away if they came to your home during dinner.
It didn’t matter how much or how little there was to eat, didn’t matter if you were black or white, a stranger or a somebody, you were welcome to the table.
This sense of generosity has shaped my view of southern living more than anything else.
Last week I attended a party given by dear friends in which they served the finest ribs I’ve ever had. Later that night, feeling ever-thankful, I complimented the host on the event and asked where the ribs came from.
He shared the place, and because we’re close, he shared the price. I was humbled beyond words and said he shouldn’t have.
His response was “But you are my friends and we love you.”
On Wednesday was the Mass for Jerry Million, which included Proverbs 3: 3-10. It said-
“Trust in the Lord with all you heart…Honor the Lord with your substance…then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.”
How true this was for Jerry and his wife, Elli. Because if you know anything about the Millions, you know they are generous people, people who have worked hard for every cent they have, who joyfully shared their substance.
Elli would never boast, but I can say that she and Jerry have freely given to so many people and organizations, but it is also so clear that everything they have released, God has given back in some way and form.
I think of what I’ve personally experienced. When my car acted-up, the number of people who offered me their automobile or a ride to the repair shop.
When my family came to town the number of you who offered me their air mattresses, sheets, cots, pillows, and use of their pool.
How the Coins for Kids jar was already half-filled on its first day.
When Judy Vekasy felt a nudge from the Holy Spirit to have a new sign made for the Feed My Sheep Jeep, she contacted Ken Hamlin, who wrote-
“I am always amazed at the giving and ideas that people come up with to help The Shepherds Pantry.”
Our own resident Buddhist Monk, the Venerable Rev. David Astor shared with me his own theological belief that all things stem from generosity.
If I recall correctly, he taught me that it is not our faith that makes us more generous, it is not our compassion for others that makes us generous, it is not our love that makes us generous.
It is the act of generosity that everything else flows out of.
That the more generous one is, the more one grows in faith, grows in compassion, and grows in love.
Rev. Astor did not define generosity as money spent, but being generous in time, gifts, intentionality, presence, and actions.
I don’t know if I fully agree with Rev. Astor, but I look at the way folks like Maya Angelou and the Millions have lived, and I can’t help but to wonder if generosity is indeed the key to living a real, authentic life, in which you are present and you are HERE.
It is with this generous spirit radiating out from Proverbs 3 and folks like Judy and Ken and you, the congregation, that my eyes were opened to today’s scripture in a way they have never been opened before.
Yes, today’s scripture is about the beginning of the Christian Church. Yes, it is about the Holy Spirit breaking into the world to do a whole new thing.
But it is also about generosity- God’s generosity.
It is 50 days after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It’s the festival of Pentecost which means men from all over the ancient world have gathered in Jerusalem to recall God giving the gift of the Law on Mt. Sinai.
On this day, at 9 am in the morning, as the disciples are gathered inside, the Holy Spirit falls down upon them like a fire.
Filled to capacity, they can’t contain themselves, causing folk from all around to come to where they are, thinking they must be drunk off of Boones Farm or Alize.
But no, explains Peter, they are not drunk- God has poured out God’s Spirit upon them, and God will also pour it out upon all flesh, old and young, sons and daughters, enslaved and free.
In other words, God is generous.
God has once again defied all expectations and has gone against the ways of the world, giving freely to all people a gift, a gift that is meant to be shared.
Pentecost is a day for us to celebrate and give thanks for just how generous God is.
God has been generous before.
God was generous when bursting forth with creation, filling the universe with stars and planets, oxygen and hydrogen, placing upon Earth people and plants and a multitude of life forms.
Creation was an act of God’s generosity.
Since then, God found numerous ways to be generous:
Giving a son to a childless couple.
Giving the commandments on Mt. Sinai.
Giving the exiles a chance to return.
Giving the gift of Jesus Christ.
Think of the Christmas story- what an act of generosity that truly was; that God would give Godself in the form of a child.
No wonder the magi felt compelled to respond with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
The generosity of God is truly outstanding.
The generous gift of the baptismal waters. The generous gift of the Lord’s Supper.
The generous gift of Jesus’ time with the outcasts, healing of the sick, and sharing stories of salvation.
All of these things are signs of a generous God.
How did we respond? We denied, we lied, we crucified.
And yet- that did not stop God from being generous.
Because 50 days later God poured out the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and God did not do it sparingly- God did so generously.
God was so generous in giving the Holy Spirit it did not matter if folk were inside or outside the building to experience the gift.
God was so generous in giving the Holy Spirit that it did not matter if the recipients were Jews, gentiles or in-between.
God’s generosity didn’t care if they were locals or foreigners.
God’s generosity didn’t care if it was 9 am.
This- this story is about the generosity of God that goes beyond time, beyond nation of origin or immigrant status, beyond faith group, and beyond physical space.
This is about the generosity of God that goes beyond social status, beyond gender, beyond age.
This is generosity that goes beyond language and understanding.
This is a story about the Generosity of Radical Inclusion.
Acts 2 not only shows us the generous giving of the Holy Spirit but it is a testimony that no matter how much God gives, God is never, ever depleted.
God gave the world, God gave God’s Son, and God gave the Holy Spirit.
God gives and gives and gives, because God is generous.
Perhaps Rev. Astor is right. Perhaps generosity is the way of being from which everything else emanates.
Perhaps Maya Angelou was raised in the best way possible, in which no one is turned away.
Perhaps folks like Jerry have learned that the key to happiness is to share and to give away.
Ken was certainly right when he stated “I am always amazed at the giving and ideas that people come up with to help…”
Today we are not just reminded of the Church’s beginnings or the breaking in of the Holy Spirit but-
That the love of the Lord is not limited.
The compassion of Christ is not conditional.
The gifts of the Holy Spirit are not finite.
God is good, God is great, and God is generous. Amen and amen.