Preaching generosity

This lectionary-based resource is here to help you preach confidently not just about money, but about generosity in every sense. 


Preaching Generosity is a new, weekly, bite-sized preaching resource, produced by the Diocese of Rochester in partnership with St Augustine’s College of Theology and the National Giving Team of the Church of England.

Each week, a short sermon idea drawn from one of that week’s Common Worship lectionary readings will be made available to give preachers the tools to become comfortable and confident in preaching about generosity.

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December 2023
 
Sunday 3 December 2023.  Advent 1.  1 Corinthians 1.3-9.

Thankfulness, Gratitude and God’s Grace

“For all Your goodness I will keep on singing, Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find” goes the song. It’s easy to miss our blessings – especially the things that we don’t notice or see. Every breath that we take is a gift from God, every moment of being loved, every glimpse of nature.  The gift of eternal life through Jesus is unseen too, yet is more precious than any other blessing.

Swiss philosopher Henri Frederic Amiel wrote ““Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude. Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness. Thankfulness may consist merely of words. Gratitude is shown in acts.”  Gratitude shapes our attitude – we move from entitlement to recognition that we are blessed far more than we deserve by the grace of Jesus.
Peter Maiden’s book “Radical Gratitude” ends ‘My final word on a book on radical gratitude – rely solely on the amazing grace of God’.

John Preston is one-time National Stewardship Advisor for the Church of England, and latterly Diocesan Secretary for the Diocese of Worcester.

Sunday December 10 2023.  Advent 2. Psalm 8: 1-2, 8-end.

Can you give of your time?

As we prepare for Christmas we see the streets of our towns festooned with twinkling lights, shops decorated with Christmas trees and gifts displayed to tempt in the shopper.  

In the materialistic hype, people can forget that Christmas is all about God’s generosity.  Our Psalm today reminds us that God is a generous giver who forgives and restores, who brings peace to those who love him and salvation as we believe in him.

At this special time of year when we have time to reflect upon our coming Christian celebration, we might consider how we can be generous, not necessarily by indulging in a materialistic kind of giving but simply by giving our time to a person who is alone, or sharing a meal with them, even shopping for them instead of ourselves.  Being generous with our time, giving what is good just as God has done for us, can be the most precious gift we can give to another.

Sharran Ireland was Team Rector of four churches now retired with PTO in the Diocese of Canterbury.

Sunday 17 December 2023.  Advent 3.  Psalm 126.

‘The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.’ Psalm 126.3

In Scripture, God is not a God of scarcity but of abundance. The psalmist looks back to times in the past when God had acted powerfully to restore the fortunes of his people. Those memories inspire the psalmist to pray for a similar restoration in his or her own day of calamity. The writer uses two images of abundance, when dry watercourses gush again after the seasonal rains, and when those who sow seed despite tears and scarcity later return to harvest sheaves in abundance.

Sowing corn in the ground when supplies are low takes great faith. Yet without generous sowing there can be no harvest. When we look at the problems that confront us today, are we able to look with the psalmist’s eyes of faith on the dry watercourse or the near empty bag of seeds, and praise the God of abundance, trusting that God will again provide fresh water to drink and sheaves of corn?

If times are hard for us in this cost of living crisis, can we dare in faith to still sow small seeds of generosity, trusting that God will in time return a joyful harvest?

Mark Ireland is Archdeacon of Blackburn. He has written several books on mission and evangelism and his latest publication is ‘Surveillance Capitalism and the Loving Gaze of God’ (Grove Books, 2022)

Sunday 24 December 2023.  Advent 4. 2 Samuel 7.1-11, 16

God’s promise to King David.

King David was in a good place – and he knew it. Life had been generous to him, not least in providing him with a sturdy house of cedar wood. He wanted to be generous in return – by building God, the source of his good fortune, a house of God’s own.

But God had different ideas. God didn’t want David’s generosity – at least not expressed in this way. Instead, God wanted to continue being generous to David in establishing the throne with his descendants forever.

How often do we try to force our own ideas on other people, out of a mistaken sense of our own generosity, instead of listening to them?  Instead of giving people things that we think they must want, can we instead offer them the generosity that recognises who they truly are, and be generous with whatever they really need for them to be the people God is calling them to be?

Harriet Johnson is Chaplain to St Augustine’s College of Theology and based in the Diocese of Rochester.

Sunday 31 December 2023.  1st Sunday of Christmas.  Isaiah 61.10-62.3.

How do we respond to God’s generous gifts?

I wonder what you received for Christmas?  

A pair of socks? A festive jumper? Perhaps, jewellery (gold or maybe even diamonds?) Isaiah describes your Christmas present (yes, yours) like this: garments, a robe, a garland, jewels even.

But, look closer, it gets better.

These are “garments of salvation” and a “robe of righteousness”. Those are generous gifts to delight in – especially when we reflect on what they cost.

It cost the eternal Son assuming humanity, being born, suffering, and dying. When we receive a gift that is far more costly than we expect, it moves us to respond to that generosity with an echoing generosity.

Isaiah looks ahead to the nations seeing God’s salvation. In response to God’s generous gifts, what could you give that would cost you something meaningful, so that the nations (whether the people near to you or far away) may come to see and even share in God’s costly salvation?

Tim Edwards is Rector in the Benefice of Knockholt with Halstead in the Diocese of Rochester.

 
January 2024
 
Sunday 7 January 2024.  Baptism of Christ.  Acts 19.1-7.

How can we freely share the gift of life in God’s Spirit with the world?

‘We have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.’

Can you imagine the shock on St Paul’s face when the Ephesians said this? These people were Christians, but they hadn’t even heard of the Holy Spirit! 

Their problem was that they were stuck with just the first part of the Christian message.  Remember John the Baptist’s words: ‘I baptise with water for repentance, but one will come who will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’  This new baptism is not just about repentance but is also the gift of new life in the Holy Spirit. 

Jesus freely gives this gift to his disciples and Paul shares it with the Ephesians.

Having been given the gift of new life in the Spirit, the starting point of Christian generosity is to ask ourselves: how can we freely share the gift of life in God’s Spirit with the world?

Joshua Townson is Generous Giving Adviser in the Diocese of Oxford.

Sunday 7 January 2024.  Epiphany.  Psalm 72.1-15

An opportunity to look at our lives and the gifts we have been given.

In the rhythm of our life as a church, the autumn term comes to us as a gift in the form of our Stewardship (Generosity) Season. I welcome it with real joy because it gives us an opportunity to regroup as disciples of Jesus and to have a kind of spiritual MOT. An opportunity to look at our lives and the gifts we have been given; We take time to ask:

Lord what is your purpose for me now?

What will you have me do with the time that I have?

What will you have me to do with the gifts you've given me?

What will you have me do with the money you've given me?

What is it about my presence in this place that you want to use for the advancement of your Kingdom?

It’s not surprising that this is the lens through which I read this Psalm. I see here a declaration of the kingship of the Messiah. The meditation of my heart can only be: may he reign forever, and Lord start with me. 

Long may he live!
May gold from Sheba be given him.
May people ever pray for him
and bless him all day long. Psalm 72.15

Esther Prior is the vicar of St John’s, Egham, vice-chair of Church Pastoral Aid Society Patronage Trustees, serves on General Synod as Pro-Prolocutor and the Crown Nominations Commission.  She is a contributor to God’s Church for God’s World:  Faithful Perspectives on Mission and Ministry, published by IVP.

Sunday 14 January 2024. 2nd Sunday of Epiphany. 1 Samuel 3.1-10 [11-20].

It takes a certain generosity of spirit to hand over ‘our’ ministry – but it can have far reaching effects.

It takes a certain generosity of spirit to hand over ‘our’ ministry to someone new and untried. Can you imagine what went through Eli’s mind, when he realised that God was calling – not to him, the priest – but to Samuel, a young lad who ‘did not yet know the Lord’?

In a time when ‘the word of the Lord was rare’ in the land of Israel, Eli could easily have been tempted to keep his knowledge of God to himself. He could have begrudged young Samuel his call from the Lord, nursing resentment that his own sons had been rejected from serving as priests because of their bad behaviour. Eli could have told Samuel to be quiet and go back to sleep, holding on to the things of God for himself and his sons – scoundrels though they were.

But he didn’t. 

Instead, he taught Samuel how to respond to the voice of the Lord: ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’ So the word of the Lord came to Samuel; and through him, to all Israel. 

It takes a certain generosity of spirit to hand over ‘our’ ministry – but it can have far reaching effects. 


Rev. Dr Miriam Bier Hinksman is a curate in the diocese of Canterbury. She has written an academic tome on Lamentations, as well as Reading Hosea: A Beginner’s Guide, available here: https://grovebooks.co.uk/collections/biblical/products/b-108-reading-hosea-a-beginner-s-guide 

Sunday 21 January 2024.  3rd Sunday of Epiphany.  Revelation 19.6-10

Spread the generous invitation with others.

One of the images that runs throughout the Bible is that of a wedding. That may well be why the first of the signs in John’s Gospel is set at a wedding.

Weddings are wonderful, but not if you are left out. Yet in Revelation an angel says, “Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb”.

You are invited. Not just to the wedding of the year. The biggest of royal or celebrity weddings has nothing on this.

This is what all history has been working towards. And you are invited.

And not just a guest to stand at the back and gawp at the bride’s dress. You are invited as a part of the bride. And you are called to go spread that generous invitation with others.

What could you do, what could you give to share that invitation?


Tim Edwards is Rector in the Benefice of Knockholt with Halstead in the Diocese of Rochester. .

Sunday 28 January 2024.  Presentation of Christ in the Temple.  Luke 2.22-40.

Trust that God will fulfil his promise to care for us

Simeon is often portrayed as an old man. He’d waited his whole life for the fulfilment of the promise God had made to him, that he wouldn’t die before seeing the Messiah.

Can you imagine how he felt holding Jesus in his arms? Can you see the tears on his cheeks as his faith is finally rewarded?

Simeon’s generosity is expressed through his trust in God’s promises. He gave his whole life in service to God, trusting that he would see the Messiah with his own eyes.

Sometimes when we are asked to give, fear can hold us back because we’re worried we won’t have enough, but Jesus promises us that he will always care for us, even when life is difficult.

Giving away our material possessions, including money, can be an expression of a generous-hearted trust that God will fulfil his promise to care for us.


Joshua Townson is Generous Giving Adviser in the Diocese of Oxford

Sunday 28 January 2024.  Presentation of Christ in the Temple.  Psalm 24.

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.

The first part of Psalm 24 celebrates God’s power over the cosmos and the world – the earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. The second celebrates the temple as the microcosm of the entire universe. The worshipper ascends to worship in an attitude of awe and reverence towards God, preparing their heart and life to enter the sanctuary.

Yet they are assured at the same time that the one who truly seeks the LORD will receive good things, blessing, from God. The third part dramatizes God’s victorious entrance or advent into the temple.

As Christians we know that Jesus has come as the temple and centre of gravity of the universe, the place where we can meet with God in trust and without fear. 

What a fitting Psalm for reflections on generosity. It is fuel for our prayers that each time we go out into the temple of creation, we live and work for Jesus’ final coming as the glorious king of the nations. This involves the giving of our lives in worship of the One who gave it all in the first place.

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it,

the world, and all who live in it

Esther Prior is the vicar of St John’s, Egham, vice-chair of Church Pastoral Aid Society Patronage Trustees, serves on General Synod as Pro-Prolocutor and the Crown Nominations Commission.  She is a contributor to God’s Church for God’s World:  Faithful Perspectives on Mission and Ministry, published by IVP.

February 2024
 
Sunday 4 February 2024. 2nd Sunday before Lent. Psalm 104.26-end.

Faced with a creative, playful God, how can we not rejoice and sing God’s praise?

If you can possibly squeeze in the entire psalm – do! But if not, you at least need to begin at verse 24 for the rest to make sense: 

‘O Lord, how manifold are your works! 
In wisdom you have made them all; 
the earth is full of your creatures.’

The picture is of a world teeming with life, all of which is created and sustained by God. 

God gives to all creatures with an open hand, but one is singled out for special attention: the sea monster, Leviathan. You could have a lot of fun with this in an all-age service. Try flipping to Job 41 and drawing Leviathan from the description. What is Leviathan meant to be? A dinosaur? The Loch Ness monster? 

Then notice this: in the psalm, Leviathan is formed to play in the sea. That’s it. This great sea creature is just for fun! 

God creates and sustains all life, yes. But God does not just give the bare necessities of life, God also gives the delights – the fun, the playfulness, and the joy.

Faced with such a creative, playful God, how can we not rejoice and sing God’s praise?

Rev. Dr Miriam Bier Hinksman is a curate in the diocese of Canterbury. She has written an academic tome on Lamentations, as well as Reading Hosea: A Beginner’s Guide, available here: https://grovebooks.co.uk/collections/biblical/products/b-108-reading-hosea-a-beginner-s-guide.

Sunday 11 February 2024.  Sunday next before Lent.  2 Corinthians 4.3-6.

God who created light in the beginning still shines light into people’s hearts.

Paul writes that our gospel message is ‘veiled’ to people.  

Doesn’t it just feel like that?  

We share something about the Lord Jesus that seems so clear, so compelling, and our friends or family members just don’t get it.

If it were just that they didn’t see why we are into something, like a love of bagpipe music, that would be their loss, but not especially serious.

But those to whom the gospel is veiled are ‘those who are perishing’. Not seeing the beauty, the splendour, the glory of Jesus has eternal consequences.

Happily, God who created light in the beginning still shines light into people’s hearts, as he did for us.

He does that as we clearly and simply share the message of Jesus and lay down our lives for others.

How can you do that this week? And for whom will you be praying that they will see God shining a light into their hearts?

Tim Edwards is Rector in the Benefice of Knockholt with Halstead in the Diocese of Rochester.

Sunday 18 February 2024.  1st Sunday of Lent.  Psalm 25.1-9.

When we share, we work together to show Christ to the world and express his love.

‘To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.  O my God, in you I trust; do not let me be put to shame.’

This psalm is soul-wrenching; imagine David filled with fear, his enemies closing in, having nowhere else to turn except to God. He breaks down and simply prays ‘I know you love me Lord. Help me!’

What a beautiful expression of hope in the face of fear! This is what the church offers to our broken world. The church – the Body of Christ – is Jesus’ representative on earth and he calls us to hear the cries of those in despair and to generously offer them the hope of God’s love.

Giving to church is about enabling this response. We share what we have as individuals with our church community so that we can work together to show Christ to the world and collectively express his love.

Joshua Townson is Generous Giving Adviser in the Diocese of Oxford.

Sunday 25 February 2024.  2nd Sunday of Lent.  Psalm 22.23-31.

We allow the sovereign Lord to shape us into open-handed people.

You can’t escape the recurring theme of the sovereignty of God in the Psalms of the day for the last couple of weeks. Today is no different. For dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations. There will come a time when all peoples and all nations will acknowledge this.

There is an underlying invitation for us to line up with his rule. Honour him! Revere him! Be a part of his open-handedness towards all he has created. Today, as we reflect on the call to generous living, to hear the call to remember the poor. What a wonderful vision captured in one little phrase: The poor will eat and be satisfied.

According to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, around one in five in the South East are currently living in poverty - that's 1.9 million people behind this statistic, in our churches, and in our communities. As we allow the sovereign Lord to shape us into open-handed people, we will be caught up in the sweeping story of his reign and our lives will praise him. 

The poor will eat and be satisfied;
those who seek the Lord will praise him—
may your hearts live forever!

Esther Prior is the vicar of St John’s, Egham, vice-chair of Church Pastoral Aid Society Patronage Trustees, serves on General Synod as Pro-Prolocutor and the Crown Nominations Commission.  She is a contributor to God’s Church for God’s World:  Faithful Perspectives on Mission and Ministry, published by IVP.

March 2024
 
Sunday 3 March 2024. 3rd Sunday of Lent. John 2.13-22.

Through Jesus Christ, everything essential has already been given to us.

‘Stop making my Father’s house a market-place!’

How many of us will admit to being essentially selfish? It’s not easy, sometimes, to acknowledge that our motives for coming to church, or serving God, can be mixed. At our services there can be a whole lot going on that is not just to do with preaching and living out the gospel. There can also be an element of what’s in it for me?

The animals being sold in the temple were needed for the Passover sacrifices. Moneychangers were needed for coins from faraway places to be exchanged. All this was necessary for the proper sacrifices to be made in worship. But somewhere along the line, all this buying and selling activity had become a profit-making exercise, with the buyers and sellers forgetting that the whole point of it all was worship.

Through Jesus Christ, everything essential has already been given to us. Why, then, do we feel the need to turn our acts of worship and service into opportunities for personal gain? 

As long as we are human, our motives will be mixed. But let us remind ourselves, again, that Jesus has turned the tables, and turned the world upside down.


Rev. Dr Miriam Bier Hinksman is a curate in the diocese of Canterbury. She has written an academic tome on Lamentations, as well as Reading Hosea: A Beginner’s Guide, available here: https://grovebooks.co.uk/collections/biblical/products/b-108-reading-hosea-a-beginner-s-guide.

Sunday 10 March 2024.  4th Sunday of Lent.  John 3.14-21.

God gives his Son, the only eternal Son, whom the Father has loved for eternity.

John 3:16 is the most famous verse in the Bible.

It highlights three things about God’s generous love:

Whom does God love? The world. The emphasis is not on the breadth of the world, or its beauty, but where things have gone wrong. The world is ‘us’ as we reject God and his good rule.

How does God love? He gives – not flowers or kind thoughts – he gives his Son, the only eternal Son, whom the Father has loved for eternity.

How to receive this love? Everyone (every single person – including those who think this could never include them) who believes, who grasps who Jesus is, is not condemned (no matter what anyone may have done), but receives life.

The most important thing is to see God’s love – we are than changed to share and show that love – but it starts with receiving it for ourselves.  

Do we know this love?

Tim Edwards is Rector in the Benefice of Knockholt with Halstead in the Diocese of Rochester.

Sunday 17 March 2024.  5th Sunday of Lent. Psalm 51.1-13

Let your light shine before others.

David, having asked God to renew his heart, shares a hope that by what he does, people who’ve fallen away from God will return to him.  Remember Jesus’ words: ‘let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.’  By what we do we show people what it means to have a relationship with God, which is why we are called to be generous – so that we can be reflections of the Father’s generosity to the world.

Being a Christian is not something we do alone, though, but as members of the church, the ‘Body of Christ.’  When we give our money and time to church we commit to working together to build up our Christian family so that, as a community, we can show the world what it means to have a relationship with God through faith. 

Joshua Townson is Generous Giving Adviser in the Diocese of Oxford.

Sunday 24 March 2024.  Psalm 118.19-29 – Liturgy of the Palms.

Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf enables our salvation.

Christ has opened a way for us, enabling us to enter the gates of the righteous. His sacrifice has won him the label, a ‘man of sorrows who is acquainted with grief.’ He took upon himself our pain and bore our suffering. As Isaiah puts it: 

He was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
and by his wounds we are healed.

This sacrifice on our behalf made him our chief cornerstone as Christ became our salvation. As we reflect on generosity through the lens of this Psalm – the sacrifice of the rejected one brings to mind the words of the great hymn:

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
that were a present far too small.
Love so amazing, so divine,
demands my soul, my life, my all.

The one who is the gate to righteousness invites us to mirror his generosity in our own lives. The invitation to walk the way of righteousness is an invitation to a life of self-giving love.

I will give you thanks, for you answered me;
you have become my salvation.

Esther Prior is the vicar of St John’s, Egham, vice-chair of Church Pastoral Aid Society Patronage Trustees, serves on General Synod as Pro-Prolocutor and the Crown Nominations Commission.  She is a contributor to God’s Church for God’s World:  Faithful Perspectives on Mission and Ministry, published by IVP.

Sunday 24 March 2024.  Palm Sunday.  Psalm 31.9-16 – Liturgy of the Passion 

Generosity, is an act of defiant hope, declaring our trust in God through thick and thin.

Our Stewardship (Generosity) Season in 2022 was buffeted by the gathering storm of the ‘cost of living crisis’. At the time we were uncertain about how fuel bills were going to affect us, as individuals and as a church. It felt counter-intuitive to be talking about generosity at a time of such great uncertainty. We felt the call to generosity, though, was prophetic in assuring us that it was not the time to hunker down. It was a time to ‘lengthen our stride and widen our embrace’ (1 Chronicles 11.9 Message). We were able to heed this call because we knew in whom we had believed.  

 

The Psalmist is mired in his own crisis. He cries out to the Lord in his distress, not mincing his words. I have become like broken pottery, he says.  Such a vivid image of a shattered life. In the end, when all is said and done, his very real troubles do not extinguish his trust in God. More and more, I am convinced that Christian Stewardship, with its inbuilt call to generosity, is an act of defiant hope, declaring our trust in God through thick and thin.

But I trust in you, Lord;
I say, “You are my God.”
My times are in your hands;

Esther Prior is the vicar of St John’s, Egham, vice-chair of Church Pastoral Aid Society Patronage Trustees, serves on General Synod as Pro-Prolocutor and the Crown Nominations Commission.  She is a contributor to God’s Church for God’s World:  Faithful Perspectives on Mission and Ministry, published by IVP.

Sunday 31 March 2024. Easter Day. Isaiah 25.6-9 and Acts 10.34-43.  

God’s incomparable love goes out to the ends of the earth.

Who is salvation for? 

For whom will the Lord set a table groaning with rich food and well-matured wine?

Who will benefit from the destruction of death, that we celebrate on this resurrection day?

One word rings out from the Isaiah reading today – all. 

All peoples and all nations.

From the women who first witnessed the empty tomb, the message of God’s incomparable love continues to go out to the ends of the earth.

And so it is that the apostle Peter is able to say, ‘All the prophets testify about him, that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sin through his name’ (Acts 10.43). 

How will all the people who come through the doors of your church today know that God’s forgiveness and salvation is also for them?

Rev. Dr Miriam Bier Hinksman is a curate in the diocese of Canterbury. She has written an academic tome on Lamentations, as well as Reading Hosea: A Beginner’s Guide, available here: https://grovebooks.co.uk/collections/biblical/products/b-108-reading-hosea-a-beginner-s-guide

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