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.

For weekly inspiration direct to your inbox our inbox, please register here


June 2022

 

Sunday 12 June.  Trinity 1.  Luke 8:26-39

How do we explain God’s generosity to others?

“Return to your home and declare how much God has done for you.” (Luke 8.39). Jesus tells the man who had been possessed by demons to tell of God’s generosity. Generosity of healing in this case. When God is generous to us, what is our response to that generosity? Do we tell others of the great gifts that have been bestowed on us, or do we keep quiet about it? If we do tell others, how do we choose to go about it? The method we choose may differ according to the gifts and talents that we have. Some may be called to be teachers, some may be gifted as healers, some may be skilled as listeners. We all have been given gifts, how can we use them to tell others of God’s generosity towards all of His creation? Our generous use of our talents in response to God’s generosity to all.

Trevor Marshall is Priest in Charge at Tangmere and Oving in the Diocese of Chichester, and National Giving Ministry Advisor.
 
Sunday 19 June. Trinity 2.  Gal.5.1,13-25

For freedom Christ has set us free.

When we are ‘in Christ’ nothing can ultimately constrain us; we are the freest people in the world. When we are captivated by Christ we sing his song and dance his dance, even if outward circumstances are hard, as they are at times for all of us.

That inner freedom hopefully unleashes an outer freedom too – a freedom to be generous in every area of our lives. Nelson Mandela said, ‘To be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.’ In other words, real freedom focuses not on our own ability to do what we like, but on our desire to make a difference to the wellbeing of others.

Those opportunities comes many times every day. We just have to notice when they arrive.

John Pritchard is a former Bishop of Oxford and author of many popular books.

 
July 2022

 
Sunday 3 July.  Trinity 3.   Isaiah 66. 10-14, Ps 66. 1-8 Galatians 6 [1-6]7-16, Luke 10. 1-11,16-20

We prosper when we respond to the generous heart of God

There can be a temptation to think of prosperity only in terms of money, and ‘prosperity’ can have negative connotations for some.  But in God’s economy, prosperity is a sign of the breaking in of God’s presence and God’s kingdom. All around us creation prospers, in the annual harvest, but also in the renewing of what is broken or damaged. Notice how quickly weeds appear when you think you have cleared the ground. Creation prospers. We prosper when we respond to the generous heart of God, receive of God’s generosity and overflow in sharing it, like a healthy river, or with the energy the disciples had for their missional activity. Those who are close to the heart of God cannot but be generous because God is all generous. We respond to the generosity of God when our service, whatever that might be, is freely offered for the benefit of others and the glory of God.

Jane Winter is Assistant Director of Formation and Ministry in the Diocese of Rochester.
Sunday 10 July.  Trinity 4. Col 1.1-14

They are precious because of what God has done for them

‘To the saints and faithful brothers and sisters in Christ…’ (Col. 1.2) What a very nice way to be addressed. No doubt the church in Colossae was not perfect. Their need for moral instruction (later in the letter) bears witness to this. Yet Paul chose to address them in the most favourable way he could – acknowledging their status in Christ. He reminds himself, as he reminds his recipients, that they are precious because of what God has done for them in Christ. He allows that generosity of status to be the perspective from which he offers them any other teaching or counsel. Can that be an example today: that we think of, and even address, our fellow Christians in the most favourable way we can?

Simon Stocks is Senior Tutor at St Augustine’s College of Theology

Sunday 17 July.  Trinity 5.  Psalm 15

God gives without hope of gain

“does not lend money in the hope of gain. … Whoever does these things shall never fall.” (Psalm 15:5). One of the nicest gifts my family ever gave me was an account with ‘Lendwithcare’. There was £25 in the account. Not an earth shattering amount of money, but it does mean that I can lend money without the hope of gain. The money that I have loaned out has been used to buy land for a subsistence farmer to expand his farm, meaning that he can afford to send his children to school. A relatively small thing on my part has been life changing for his family. If I don’t get the money back, I can ask myself if losing the money has had a negative impact on my life. And the answer is “no”. God gives without hope of gain. He sets us an example to follow.

Trevor Marshall is Priest in Charge at Tangmere and Oving in the Diocese of Chichester, and National Giving Ministry Advisor.

Sunday 24 July.  Trinity 6.  Genesis 18.20-32, Ps138, Colossians 2.6-15 [16-19], Luke 11. 1-13

Forgiveness is generous

(Genesis 18.20-32)  Imagine the conversation between Abraham and God, bartering at its best, God smiling as Abraham tries his luck time and again. How far dare he push God for the sake of wicked Sodom? Forgiveness is a generous act, not because we forgive but because of the amazing way that God forgives. Given the slightest opportunity, God lavishes forgiveness on us and desires His children to receive good things in abundance.

Forgiveness doesn’t come easy. It is generous but it is costly. It cost the cross. It costs us. To let go of what has hurt us and forgive requires that we abound in the goodness of God’s generosity. We may easily put cash in the charity bucket or tap the card reader but it’s much more demanding to forgive.  Welcoming and loving those who have hurt us with the welcome and love God offers – that is generosity, the way of the kingdom of God.

Jane Winter is Assistant Director of Formation and Ministry in the Diocese of Rochester.

Sunday July 31.  Trinity 7. Col. 1.-11

‘Your life is hidden with Christ in God.’

…and therefore ‘Christ is our life.’ (v 4). We are united with Christ in the way that a sponge is united with water – it’s immersed in that which at the same time flows through it. The great illusion is to think that Christ is absent and we have to go and find him. Our union with Christ doesn’t so much have to be acquired as to be recognised.

This gives us a new perspective on life. We have been raised with Christ and therefore seek the things that are above, in particular the self-giving character of Christ. If Christ is our life we’re bound to want to share and express those attractive qualities of Christ that drew us to him for ourselves – the generosity, grace, and unconditional love that in his lifetime made him so popular in Galilee, and so threatening in Jerusalem.

A new perspective, a new love.

John Pritchard is a former Bishop of Oxford and author of many popular books.

 
August 2022
 
Sunday 7 August.  Trinity 8.  Psalm33.12-21

No-one is forgotten

‘He watches all the inhabitants of the earth’ (Ps 33.14) It is quite common to use the phrase ‘blinkered’ in a negative sense: being too narrow in what is seen. Conversely, getting the ‘big picture’ or taking the ‘long view’ are often seen as good. It can be helpful to ‘stand back’ and to ‘put things in context’. The verse from the psalm no doubt was intended to convey the totality of God’s perspective. But perhaps we can read in it a sense of God’s willingness to take everyone into account, with all their varied needs and desires. If so, it can encourage us to be generous and take as broad a view of things as we can. Are there people who are beyond the scope of our perspective? How might we extend our vision, so that no-one is forgotten?

Simon Stocks is Senior Tutor, St Augustine’s College of Theology

 
Sunday 14 August.  Trinity 9.  Hebrews 11:29-12:2

What is important?

“Let us also lay aside every weight and sin that clings so closely and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us”(Hebrews 12.1). So many times in life, I have been distracted by what I thought was success. When our children were growing up, my well paid job meant that I was always late home, tired and stressed. It was only when a wise mentor of mine advised me to write down what was important that I realised the relentless pursuit of wealth meant that my ability to be generous with time for my family was limited.  A written list of what was actually important meant that whenever I was given a choice, I knew what I was aiming for. As a church responding to God, we can write down what is important and then make sure that we persevere in being generous in those areas.

Trevor Marshall is Priest in Charge at Tangmere and Oving in the Diocese of Chichester, and National Giving Ministry Advisor.

Sunday 21 August. Trinity 10.  Isaiah 58.9b-end, Ps 103. 1-8, Hebrews 12. 18-end, Luke 13.10-17

We are released

Bound, burdened and bowed down are not words easily associated with generosity. They are though the experience for so many of us when things beyond our control affect physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. We may have had the experience of being laid low and know how it can affect our ability to live well.  Scriptures flow with the story of freedom for individuals and communities, a freedom that releases a heartfelt natural response of generosity towards God. True worship is not bound by rules and conditions it is a spontaneous outpouring of gratitude and praise. The single greatest act of generosity we offer God is worship. The delight of sabbath worship which brings rest and restoration, and worship that drives our Christian activity of meeting the needs of others. From bowed down, burdened and bound we are released to worship with generosity of mind, body and spirit.

Jane Winter is Assistant Director of Formation and Ministry in the Diocese of Rochester.

Sunday 28 August.  Trinity 11.   Jeremiah 2.4-13

Every good thing was made available

‘I brought you into a plentiful land …. my people have forsaken me’ (Jer 2.7,13) The bounty of God in dealing with His people is two-fold here. Through Jeremiah, God first recounts the bounty that He bestowed on the people of Israel. Every good thing was made available for them. That was God’s generous initiative, through no merit or action of their own. In the context of the passage, that gift is a memory, for the people have since abandoned their thankful devotion to God and are facing the consequences. But God has not abandoned them! God has not walked away. Instead, God is still there, addressing the people, giving them chance to change their ways. For all their rejection, God will not give up on them utterly, but keeps warning them and trying to bring them back to their right minds. This is bountiful forbearance in the face of stubbornness.

Simon Stocks is Senior Tutor, St Augustine’s College of Theology

 
September 2022
 
Sunday 4 September.  Trinity 12.  Luke 14.25-33

First sit down and estimate the cost

Counting the cost of a venture is a sound first step. There is a cost to discipleship, says Jesus, and it means putting Christ ahead even of family loyalties. Sometimes it will feel like carrying a cross to a seriously bad place. So count the cost before you leap in.

This has surprisingly practical implications. I remember at university my church rector teaching about giving, which to a poor student wasn’t an enticing prospect. So, he said, count the cost, think what you can afford – and then double it! That was the challenge of the gospel, not to be wise simply in a worldly way but to be wise in a heavenly way, and to trust that God would make up the difference.

Surprisingly (or not) it works!

John Pritchard is a former Bishop of Oxford and author of many popular books.

Sunday 11 September.  Trinity 13.  Jeremiah 4:11-12, 22-28

He will not abandon us

“I have not relented nor will I turn back” (Jeremiah 4.28) This passage reminds us that although we can be foolish in God’s eyes, He will not abandon us in our time of need. This leads me to wonder how often we are tempted to abandon God when we are in our time of need? There are times when responding to God can be difficult. When He calls us, we may be laden with troubles and distractions. When we set out on our personal journey to love God and respond to that generous love, will we relent or turn back because of worldly concerns? Are there times when our worldly needs get in the way of our generosity? Our generosity can be relentless, not turning back when the going gets hard because we know God will never abandon us.

Trevor Marshall is Priest in Charge at Tangmere and Oving in the Diocese of Chichester, and National Giving Ministry Advisor.

18 September.  Trinity 14.  Amos 8. 4-7, Ps113, 1 Timothy 2.1-7, Luke 16 1-13

All wealth is of God

Few of us would want to own up to being a slave of money, but we’re all aware of the song, ‘Money makes the world go around’.  We depend on the movement of money individually and as societies, and although once just the tool to enable the flow of trade, now money is itself the object of trade.  Being part of the economy though need not mean the same as ‘serving’ money.  If we chose to serve God then we live by a different economic standard, one that requires the flourishing of everyone, one that calls out bad practice and challenges the misuse of wealth. A standard of generosity that does not count the cost but recognises that all wealth is of God. A gift even if hard earned and a gift with responsibility to use it for the growth of God’s kingdom not our own. Who will we serve? 

Jane Winter is Assistant Director of Formation and Ministry in the Diocese of Rochester.

25 September.  Trinity 15.  Luke 16.19-end

We have received – not earned or won

‘You received your good things’ (Lk 16.25) This simple expression belies its significance. ‘You received.’ You did not earn, or gather, or win, or produce. You received. The implication is that every person’s lot in life is, in some sense, from God. There is an element of mystery about why Lazarus should have received a bad lot. But the message of the parable is clear: God will recompense those who receive a bad lot, and God places expectations on those who receive good things. For those with good things, how much easier it is to share when we recognise them as things received – not earned or gathered or won or produced. And for those who receive a bad lot – there is surely good to come.

Simon Stocks is Senior Tutor, St Augustine’s College of Theology

 
October 2022
 
2 October.  Trinity 16: Luke 17. 5-10

‘Faith the size of a mustard seed.’

Most of us haven’t tried telling a mulberry tree to go and plant itself in the sea. But the challenge to trust God to go way beyond the call of duty is a serious question for all of us. When we prayerfully take a real need to God how far will our faith stretch?
The tales of miraculous provision are too numerous to recount – the only problem being that they don’t seem to happen to us very often! Is God arbitrary? How does God answer prayer? How does God work in the world anyway? All these are legitimate questions for the right time and place.
But when we’re faced with something dear to our heart this isn’t the time to do our philosophical exploration. This is the time to emulate the acrobat who gathers herself above the hushed crowd, breathes deeply, and then launches herself into empty space, gloriously free and utterly trusting that the hands of her colleague will be waiting to catch her.
Will we trust the Catcher?
 
John Pritchard is a former Bishop of Oxford and author of many popular books.

Sunday 9 October.  Trinity 17.  Luke 17.11-19

Thankfulness overflows into generosity

Like a pool springboard above sparkling water, gratitude is the most marvellous launchpad for generosity. A heart overflowing with thankfulness will joyfully spring into thrilling cascades of generous giving.
Jesus healed ten lepers. All ten obediently beetled off for priestly inspection. Only one – who knew the additional life-long exclusion of being a despised foreigner – spun round on his clean-skinned heels once he realised that he was cleansed. Overwhelmed with gratitude, he rushed back to praise and thank Jesus. He was blessed with an even deeper healing.
Nine lives were restored to normal; one life was utterly transformed. We can only begin to grasp the extent of God’s love and blessings, but an attitude of gratitude will catalyse generosity. I’m pretty sure that the tenth man will have gone on to transform his community, launching amazing support networks for outcasts, sharing the good news of God’s Kingdom, and changing lives.
Clare Masters was Lay Minister at Bidborough, St Lawrence and Southborough, St Peter in the Diocese of Rochester.

Sunday 16 October.  Trinity 18, Luke 18.1-8

Thankfulness overflows into generosity

Like a pool springboard above sparkling water, gratitude is the most marvellous launchpad for generosity. A heart overflowing with thankfulness will joyfully spring into thrilling cascades of generous giving.
Jesus healed ten lepers. All ten obediently beetled off for priestly inspection. Only one – who knew the additional life-long exclusion of being a despised foreigner – spun round on his clean-skinned heels once he realised that he was cleansed. Overwhelmed with gratitude, he rushed back to praise and thank Jesus. He was blessed with an even deeper healing.
Nine lives were restored to normal; one life was utterly transformed. We can only begin to grasp the extent of God’s love and blessings, but an attitude of gratitude will catalyse generosity. I’m pretty sure that the tenth man will have gone on to transform his community, launching amazing support networks for outcasts, sharing the good news of God’s Kingdom, and changing lives.
Clare Masters was Lay Minister at Bidborough, St Lawrence and Southborough, St Peter in the Diocese of Rochester.

Sunday 16 October.  Trinity 18, Luke 18.1-8

God will respond with power to the prayers of his people

We live generously, because we believe God is generous, amazingly and inexhaustibly. Yet alongside that belief, we can hold onto other pictures of God, hidden away in our hearts and minds. God as reluctant to give, detached, remote, uncaring.
In the Gospel reading for today, Jesus shares a parable about prayer, in which he describes a needy person asking for help from a figure of authority and influence who is indeed detached, remote, uncaring – and yet ultimately gives the help that she asks for. How much more, he says, will God respond with power to the prayers of his people.
Do we still carry with us pictures of God that detract from the truth of divine generosity? If we are to live from that truth day by day, then spending time day by day in prayer will be important. Prayer in which we remember who God truly is.
Jeremy Worthen is Team Rector of Ashford Town Parish in the Diocese of Canterbury.

Sunday 23 October.  Bible Sunday. Romans 15.1-6

We support others just as we have been nurtured and supported

Today is Bible Sunday and the richness of scripture and the threads of hope and God’s glory are brought together in Paul’s letter. He quotes Psalm 69 here, telling how Christ followed the Psalmist in taking the insults directed to others on to himself. The Christian life is one lived in relationship with God and with others. There is a vital, corporate dimension to faith, in which we support others just as we have been nurtured and supported ourselves by people who have been patient with us when we have been weak and selfish. It is reminiscent of David’s prayer “For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.” How we treat others then flows out of how Christ has treated us, with freely given compassion and patience.
Pamela Ive is Parish Deacon in Capel, Tudeley & Five Oak Green, and Diocesan Director of Ordinands in the Diocese of Rochester.

Sunday 30 October.  4 before Advent.  Luke 19.1-10

How do we respond to God’s generosity?

‘And all who saw it began to grumble’, there is a challenge in our Gospel reading today for all of us who have eyes to see God’s generosity at work in the lives of others. The tightly-worded description of Jesus’ encounter with Zacchaeus sets before us a fascinating example of an individual meeting with God’s grace and responding positively. Zacchaeus, hiding up the tree, has the hand of divine friendship held out to him as Jesus’ human hand beckons him down; ‘I must stay at your house today’. His response is true repentance, that is, he accepts the gift and then turns his life around. Zacchaeus mirrors Jesus’ generosity to him, by vowing to live as generously to others in future. But what of the crowds, and what of us? When we observe the good things that God is doing for people around us, what is our response?
Alison Fulford is Vicar of Audlem, Wybunbury and Doddington, and also Rural Dean of Nantwich in the Diocese of Chester.

 

November 2022
 
Sunday 6 November. 3 before Advent.  2 Thessalonians 2.1-5, 13-end

Our hearts will be strengthened by Jesus himself

Every gift, every act of service, has a cost. From noticing the need, through aligning our hearts with the responsibility to make a difference, to signing over portions of our own resources (time, money, skills) for the purpose of blessing others – it’s costly work. Even when it’s Spirit-prompted, if it’s done in our own strength, giving can easily morph from generous to grudging.
The end of this chapter reminds us of God’s enabling love and grace, his eternal encouragement and good hope. These will power us up for the life-task set before us of good deeds and words. What a wonderful encouragement – that our hearts will be strengthened by Jesus himself for this life of generous service.
The deeds of Kingdom mercy that we enact in God’s strength are a foretaste of the rhythm of heaven, the first fruits of a greater glory. It’s going to be good. So good.
Clare Masters is Lay Minister at Bidborough, St Lawrence and Southborough, St Peter in the Diocese of Rochester.

 
Sunday 13 November.  2 before Advent, 2 Thessalonians 3.6-13

Be generous with gifts, skills and energy

What does generosity have to do with work? Perhaps it depends if we think generosity should be somehow effortless.
In 2 Thessalonians 3, Paul might sometimes sound ungenerous: ‘Anyone unwilling to work should not eat.’ Yet he also writes about working day and night so that ‘so that we might not burden any of you. This was not because we do not have that right, but in order to give you an example to imitate.’
Paul’s ‘example’ was – at least – twofold. First, it was an example of being generous with gifts, skills and energy, in doing whatever work God has called us to. That is an essential dimension of living generously. Second, it was an example of not always claiming our ‘right’, our entitlement. Generosity may sometimes not be about what we do, but about what we hold back from doing, to give space for other people and other things.
Jeremy Worthen is Team Rector of Ashford Town Parish in the Diocese of Canterbury.

Sunday 20 November.  Christ the King.  Colossians 1.11-20

How do we use our power?

Whenever I read this passage an image which comes to mind of the deep blue window in the Church of Reconciliation in Taizé where the Ascended Christ cradles the world tenderly in his lap. The cross is also in that window, a reminder that Christ first gave up his power in order for the world to be reconciled to its creator. How we use our power, in all its guises, builds up or destroys. We can audit the power we have been given and consider how we use it.  As we face an increasing threat of climate change and the effects which that has, particularly on the world’s most vulnerable, we can carry this image, the tender cradling of life by a risen and ascended Jesus, calling us to follow Him, the Servant King, as we reflect on the power we hold in making decisions about how we live.
Pamela Ive is Parish Deacon in Capel, Tudeley & Five Oak Green, and Diocesan Director of Ordinands in the Diocese of Rochester.

Sunday 27 November. Advent Sunday.  Romans 13.11-14.  Matthew 24.36-44

The coming Kingdom is of justice, mercy and peace.

Have you ever woken up from an ‘exam-dream’? The sort of dream where you experience anxiety because you are going to face a test and you just aren’t ready? Our New Testament readings for Advent Sunday can seem to induce an exam-dream mentality within us. They impress upon us the urgency of being ready for the return of Jesus, and the coming of the Kingdom. The writers, however, are communicating this urgency not because they want us to be caught out, but to enable us to prepare as well as we can. So, let us do the necessary revision, and remember what we have already learnt: the coming Kingdom is one of justice, mercy and peace. In short, the good things of God, shared generously with all. In following Jesus, and being transformed into his likeness, we seek to practice these things in the here and now. It is this that makes us ready for his glorious return.
Alison Fulford is Vicar of Audlem, Wybunbury and Doddington, and also Rural Dean of Nantwich in the Diocese of Chester.

 
December 2022
 
Sunday 4 December. Advent 2. Psalm 72.1-7, 18, 19

Prosperity and justice are inextricably linked. 

The images of flourishing and abundance, fruitful hills and drenched fields, fill our hearts with a longing for security and plenty, indeed a longing for heaven itself. As in many Psalms, the identity of the kingly subject seems to shift. Is this a prayer for an earthly king, or a celebration of a perfect Messiah King? Either way, this Psalm reminds us that prosperity and justice are inextricably linked.  
Achieving justice for the afflicted, defending the vulnerable from oppression, rescuing children from poverty… these are the criteria which define true kingship. If our hearts are seeking after God’s ways, these kingdom imperatives will stir up a desire for justice which is as urgent as our obligation to give generously to those in material need.
Prosperity can only truly abound when every citizen is able to share the blessings. Is God calling you to an extraordinary generosity of justice-seeking action?
Clare Masters was Lay Minister at Bidborough, St Lawrence and Southborough, St Peter in the Diocese of Rochester.

Sunday 11 December.  Advent 3.  Matthew 11.2-11

Are we ready to rejoice in signs of God’s generous love?

‘Blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me’ (Matthew 11.6). Why would anyone take offence at Jesus and the miracles of divine deliverance unfolding around him?
Jesus’ response to John’s question connects what he is doing with the great promises of Israel’s prophets about the abundant life to be released by God’s salvation, in passages like our Old Testament reading. Perhaps some were offended that a preacher from Galilee should imagine that he could be the focus for the fulfilment of these promises. Perhaps some were offended he could claim any fulfilment when the fullness of that prophetic vision still seemed a world away, with continuing Roman occupation and so much injustice around them.
Living generously as a follower of Jesus means being ready to rejoice in signs of God’s generous love in our midst, even if at the same time we are also painfully aware of the obstacles that prevent its full expression.
Jeremy Worthen is Team Rector of Ashford Town Parish in the Diocese of Canterbury.

Sunday 18 December.  Advent 4.  Isaiah 7.10-16

We are called to receive the Christ Child with joy and trust

“God loves a cheerful giver!” Give cheerfully not with bad grace, but there’s a flip side to that coin. God also loves us to be a joyful receiver. Ahaz, being promised peace by God, is offered the opportunity to receive a sign to assure him to put his trust in God not armies. But he grumpily and with false piety turns down that generous offer. Instead, Ahaz was to put his trust in the King of Assyria to save his kingdom. It turned out to be a bad choice. God gave his sign anyway.

To us the promise of a child, Immanuel, God with us, speaks of Jesus, who God gave to save the world with his overwhelming generosity and at great cost. Ahaz’s story is a reminder that we are called to receive the Christ Child with joy and trust, the one whose love then compels us to give in a similar fashion.
Pamela Ive is Parish Deacon in Capel, Tudeley & Five Oak Green, and Diocesan Director of Ordinands in the Diocese of Rochester.

 
January 2023
 
Sunday 1 January. Christmas 1. Matthew 2.13-23

In the economy of grace, the cost is met, and we are invited in to participate in new ways of living

 ‘But who pays?’ asks the wise Mrs Beddows in Winifred Holtby’s famous novel South Riding. It is a question that helps us think about the dynamics of grace and generosity in our difficult Gospel reading today. Herod causes the little boys to pay in this awful narrative. He has power, they do not. He cannot accept the good news brought to him by the wise men, so they suffer.
‘Who pays?’ we can ask as we look at our world, beautiful but marred by sin and injustice. Who pays for the high levels of consumption and waste this festive season? We know it is the environment and the poorest members of our society, here and far away. We believe that Jesus offers us a deeper reality, one in which God in divine generosity breaks this cycle. In the economy of grace, the cost is met, and we are invited in to participate in new, equitable ways of living.

Alison Fulford is Vicar of Audlem, Wybunbury and Doddington, and also Rural Dean of Nantwich in the Diocese of Chester.

Sunday 8 January.  Christmas 2. Ephesians 1.3-14

We are chosen, holy, redeemed, forgiven, and drenched in grace.

Many of us are blessed to know the privilege and wonder of being parents. (Yes, there’s toil and struggle too, but that’s off-topic!) Giving good things to our beloved children is sheer joy. In this passage of superlatives, we’re swept along in a tidal wave of blessings in Christ, poured out by a loving Father.
Two of our three children are adopted, and we’re aware of the even deeper intentionality which powers our love for them, through their chosen-ness and their rescue from peril.
The word “lavished” is so wonderful, telling of an exuberant, extravagant, sumptuously rich generosity. Our heavenly Father bestows on us the full measure of all the spiritual blessings accorded to us as beloved adopted children. We are chosen, holy, redeemed, forgiven, and drenched in grace. Our new purpose? To bring God glory. And emulating the lavish character of the Father is an excellent place to start.
Clare Masters was Lay Minister at Bidborough, St Lawrence and Southborough, St Peter in the Diocese of Rochester.

Sunday 8 January. Epiphany.  Matthew 3.13-17

Offering gifts to God has always been part of Christian discipleship.

Material gifts carry symbolic value, some kind of communication about relationships. In the ancient world, they could convey allegiance, loyalty and submission. When the writers of Isaiah and Psalm 72 anticipate kings bringing gold and precious things to Zion and its anointed ruler, this is part of what they have in mind. It is clearly in the background too for Matthew’s account of the visit of the Magi.
Offering material gifts to God has always been part of Christian discipleship. It needn’t always be money, and it needn’t always be about ‘giving to the church’. But it says something about the relationship between us and God – God who does not need what we have but delights in what we offer.
With the growth of electronic donation, of various kinds, we could lose the traditional symbolic action of offering the people’s material gifts as part of Sunday worship. Does it matter?
Jeremy Worthen is Team Rector of Ashford Town Parish in the Diocese of Canterbury.

Sunday 15 January.  Epiphany 2.  Psalm 40.1-12

I give my heart to God

In the poem by Christina Rosetti “In The Bleak Mid-Winter”, the poet ponders on what she might give to God. “What shall I give him, poor as I am?” The Psalmist had already arrived at the same conclusion which she did, “Yet what I can I give Him, — Give my heart.” The psalmist wonders at all the bountiful mercy that God has shown them and knows that they cannot begin to communicate God’s generosity adequately. God asks in return not for sacrifices or any ritual burnt offerings. He requires the psalmist, and us, to have ears and hearts open both to him and the world. If we have both our ears and our hearts open to God then we hear what it is that he wants us to give to the world, communicating to it his faithfulness and salvation, his loving kindness and truth.
Pamela Ive is Parish Deacon in Capel, Tudeley & Five Oak Green, and Diocesan Director of Ordinands in the Diocese of Rochester.

Sunday 22 January.  Epiphany 4.  Matthew 4.12-23

What should we entrust to God’s generous love?

I am a list-maker: on my desk is well-used pad, listing all the things I need to do. I keep this list because I can’t keep all these tasks in my head! Are you also a list-maker? Our passages today remind me that there are some things I cannot add to my list, to try and achieve myself. For instance, when I walk in darkness, I cannot cause the light to shine on me  – whether we take that in a literal, emotional or spiritual sense. And again, I cannot create a stronghold for my own life, no matter how much I plan ahead. The Gospel account of the early days of Jesus’ ministry reveals him as the one who enacts God’s promises to save us. He displays God’s own loving kindness and generosity towards us. What do we have on our inner ‘to-do’ lists that we should be entrusting to God’s love for us instead?
Alison Fulford is Vicar of Audlem, Wybunbury and Doddington, and also Rural Dean of Nantwich in the Diocese of Chester.

Sunday 29 January.  Epiphany 4.  John 2.1-11 

Something out of nothing

‘Can I afford it?’ is a question we often ask in life, counting and measuring our resources to see if we’ve got enough to cover what’s being asked of us. It’s not just a money thing; we do it with our time, our energy, our patience, our hospitality – working out whether we have enough for what’s needed.
This first ‘sign’ in John’s Gospel is about Jesus giving a generous gift when, on the face of it, he had nothing to give. The wine had run out, and there was no off-licence round the corner.  If the wedding wasn’t to sink into disaster, something needed to come out of virtually nothing.  From six clay jars of water came an abundance of the finest wine.
When life leaves us feeling over-stretched and like we can’t ever be enough, give enough or do enough, this story brings hope:
•   Jesus’ ministry was full of ‘multiplication miracles’ like this – moments when he took what was inadequate and made it into far more than enough. Was he showing what God’s Kingdom is like?
•   The jars were made of clay and full of water, both of which often symbolise humanity. When we offer our humanness to Jesus, he can use us to do things we never dreamed possible.
•   In Jesus’ hands, the insufficient and inadequate became a gift of stunning generosity.
When generosity feels too difficult, our resources too meagre, we place ourselves in Jesus’ hands, trusting God to multiply, to bring something out of nothing.

Lyndall Bywater is a freelance writer, speaker and broadcaster.  She is the author of Prayer in the Making (Bible Reading Fellowship) and Faith in the Making (Bible Reading Fellowship).

February 2023
 
Sunday 5 February.  3 Before Lent.  Isaiah 58:1-9

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Sunday 12 February.  2 Before Lent.  Psalm 32

For his steadfast love endures forever

Saying Psalm 136 aloud in a liturgical context brings its own particular challenges. It is easy for the refrain to start feeling a bit - well, repetitive. ‘For his steadfast love endures forever’ we drone, wondering how many more times before this interminable list comes to an end. Yet there is something very powerful about reading this psalm aloud, at a steady pace, and hearing our voices say those words over and over again, declaring that the basis of every response we make is the prior reality of the goodness of God.
Our thanksgiving, our experience of the beauty of the world, our capacity to offer praise and thanks: all these depend on the loving and lavish provision of God. We could extend and continue the Psalm by listing all the ways in which we daily experience God’s generosity and then discover our own hands and hearts, wallets and diaries, opening up in joyful gratitude.
So God’s steadfast love is boring? This psalm gently invites us to move beyond our jaded desire for novelty and to savour the repeated refrain, rather than skip past it in our haste for - what exactly?

The Rev’d Canon Dr Helen Burn is Vicar of St Justus, Rochester, in the Diocese of Rochester

Sunday 19 February.  Next before Lent.  Matthew 17.1-9

A call to generosity and a warning

Today, many churches will hear the account of the Transfiguration and the disciples’ experience of Christ in his true glory.  What is may be less well-known is that the Greek word used in the text gives us the English word metamorphosis (meta “change” and morphe “form”).  The best-known example of a metamorphosis in the animal kingdom is the butterfly, but in the realm of generosity, a good example of this is Ebenezer Scrooge.  It is one of the most powerful redemption stories in English literature, with a truly hateful character experiencing a complete and utter transformation.  Scrooge, who starts as a “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner”, is metamorphosed into a generous man who exclaims “I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel.”  It’s a Zacchaeus-like journey of absolution and a call to generosity as well as a warning against hoarding wealth.  In this upcoming season of Lent, how might the empowering presence of our glorious Christ metamorphose (transfigure) us more and more into becoming the people of God?
Fabian Wuyts is Vicar of St James’, Taunton in the Diocese of Bath and Wells.

Sunday 26 February.  Lent 1.  Genesis 2.15-17; 3.1-7

Secure in God, we turn outwards to kindness and generosity

The Genesis story begins with a man and a woman in a garden, living in contentment, enjoying the company of their Creator. Three chapters later, they’re estranged from God and bereft of that deep sense of wellbeing. It’s hard to know whether Adam and Eve were generous when they lived in the garden, the author of the story doesn’t paint that much detail for us. But our knowledge of human nature would suggest that they probably felt more inclined to generosity when they were content than when they were not.
Their journey from paradise to alienation was aided by the Serpent who cross-examined Eve with one devastatingly clever question: ‘Did God really say?’ And followed by a killer argument: ‘God doesn’t want you to eat the fruit because God doesn’t really want the best for you’. Fast-forward to the New Testament and we find Jesus facing those same tactics: God’s word being questioned, and doubt being cast on God’s goodness. Jesus must have had to hold very tight to the comfort and reassurance which his Father in Heaven had spoken over him at his baptism.
When we doubt God’s goodness, our energies are redirected inwards towards self-preservation and self-protection. When we find our security in God, we are more able to resist the whispers casting doubt, and our energies turn outwards to kindness and generosity.

Lyndall Bywater is a freelance writer, speaker and broadcaster.  She is the author of Prayer in the Making (Bible Reading Fellowship) and Faith in the Making (Bible Reading Fellowship).

March 2023
 
Sunday 5 March.  Lent 2.  Genesis 12:1-4a

The generous God calls us to be his generous people so all people might be blessed

These wonderful verses lie right at the heart of our faith because this is where God begins saving humanity.  Genesis 1-11 describes the goodness of God’s creation followed by the spiritual and moral demise of humanity. Genesis 12 kicks off the story of salvation. Verse 3 sums up the goal of God’s saving work, ‘through you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ That in itself is an extraordinary statement of generosity. When humanity has disobeyed God (Adam and Eve), turned in on itself (Cain and Abel), broken the structures of the universe (the angel ‘marriages’ and Noah), and joined together in hubris (Babel), why should God want to bless humanity? This is also a story of incredible hope and faith. Given humanity’s record to date, how on earth did God think that humanity could produce a people of blessing? But this is precisely the center of our story of salvation: the generous God calls us into being his generous people, so that all people might be blessed. It starts with the children of Abraham and, following Jesus’ commands to his disciples (Mathew 28:18-20), goes out to all nations. Generosity is in our DNA. If we are children of God, called into his covenant people, then this is simply who we are. So, in a world where we spend so much time and effort desperately trying to claim and justify our identity, why not instead, just bless as God calls us to?
Andy Angel is Vicar of St Andrew’s, Burgess Hill in the Diocese of Chichester, and author of a number of books including The Jesus you Really Didn’t Know:  Rediscovering the Teaching Ministry of Jesus (Cascade Books).

Sunday 12 March.  Lent 3.  Exodus 17:1-7

Harden not your hearts.  God will provide

The waters of Meribah and the incident that took place there are rooted in Israel’s collective memory. The word Meribah means ‘quarrel’ and signifies more than a disagreement, rather a fundamental rejection of God’s means of provision. Exodus 17 vividly depicts a people feeling desperate and lashing out. Just in case we might forget our own propensity for distrust and disobedience, Morning Prayer on Friday begins with Psalm 95’s warning:  
‘O that today you would listen to his voice! Harden not your hearts as at Meribah…’
What is at the heart of the panic and complaining? Scarcity and fear come to mind, and we know from behaviour during the Covid pandemic that these two forces often bring out the worst in people. It is possible that PCC discussions around finances, parish share and the budget have the potential to go in a similar direction.
Yet God does provide what is needed. This is the message of the wilderness, over and over again. When the people are able to move beyond panic and blame, there is enough. If we unharden our hearts we will hear God’s voice and be able to receive.

The Rev Canon Dr Helen Burn is Vicar of St Justus, Rochester, in the Diocese of Rochester

Sunday 19 March.  Lent 4.  Psalm 23

Look for a grateful, generous heart in the midst of challenge

Last summer, I had the privilege to travel to Burundi, one of the poorest countries in the world.  Despite the poverty, many of the people I met had generous hearts, including Elisha who, with his wife, had been refugees in Tanzania for more than a decade.  Despite the hardship he and his family endured, Elisha looked back with gratitude to God for his provision and faithfulness.  He had walked through very dark valleys, but he also experienced the Shepherd’s comfort and protection.  He had been hungry, cold, tired and frightened, but the Lord finally made him lie in greener pastures, led him to stiller waters and restored his soul.  Events and realities that would have embittered many had the opposite effect on him.  When I think of Elisha, I want to be more like him, grateful, generous and free.  Is there someone in your life that stirs your heart to be more generous and free?  If not, why not look for someone, and continually look to the Lord, the good shepherd, who can help you form a generous, grateful heart in the midst of the challenges you may face.
Fabian Wuyts is Vicar of St James’, Taunton in the Diocese of Bath and Wells..

Sunday 26 March.  Lent 5.  Ezekiel 37.1-14

Speaking of love and courage and hope lets the Spirit breathe life

In one of his visions, the Prophet Ezekiel found himself in a truly grim place, a valley full of bones, death and decay on every side. It was a visual representation of the despair felt by his people as they lived with the grief of exile. They were saying, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope is lost. We are cut off completely.’

What to do in such a bleak situation? God’s answer was to invite Ezekiel to tell a different story, and as he dug deep, voicing words of faith and positivity which must have seemed totally incongruous in that valley of death, the very bones started coming to life.

To choose to speak out words of hope when everything seems hopeless is an act of profound generosity. When negativity sets in, it’s costly to invest in the belief that things can be different, and it can be even costlier to voice that belief. What if we’re wrong? What if things don’t come together in the way we hope they will? Yet the hold of hopelessness is only broken when someone has the faith to imagine a different story and the courage to speak it out.

As Ezekiel spoke that prophecy of life, life began to spring up all around him. When we choose to be generous with our words, speaking love instead of hate, courage instead of fear, hope instead of despair, the Spirit breathes life into those around us.

Lyndall Bywater is a freelance writer, speaker and broadcaster.  She is the author of Prayer in the Making (Bible Reading Fellowship) and Faith in the Making (Bible Reading Fellowship).

April 2023
 
Sunday 2 April.  The Liturgy of the Palms.  Psalm 118:1-2, 19-24

A church which has tired of rejoicing is in need of a pause

In the part of the psalm the lectionary omits, we see the LORD God rescue his servant – most likely the Davidic king from defeat in battle against his enemies. This is why the psalmist is so excited in verses 19-24 of this song. God has rescued them from political and military aggression. The worshippers (most likely) accompany the psalmist towards the temple and they are having a party. God has been good and they want to worship God in his holy temple: “I thank you that you have answered me and become my salvation” (verse 21). The praises of verses 19-24 come out in something of a splurge – almost like a very excited prayer meeting with lots of people praising God at once. (This text does not, at least on the surface, exhibit the logical flow of ideas we might find in a more reflective text). But this teaches us something about generosity. It is good and worth celebrating. A church which has grown tired of rejoicing in God’s goodness in saving us is a church in need of a pause – to reflect on what truly matters. Holy Week gives just such a pause as we enter into it.  When we immerse ourselves in Jesus’ astoundingly generous gift of his life that rescues us from our enemies (sin, death, and the devil), we have the opportunity to reconnect with the exuberant generosity of God once again and let gratitude fill our hearts once more.
Andy Angel is Vicar of St Andrew’s, Burgess Hill in the Diocese of Chichester, and author of a number of books including The Jesus you Really Didn’t Know:  Rediscovering the Teaching Ministry of Jesus (Cascade Books).

Sunday 2 April.  The Liturgy of the Passion.  Philippians 2:5-11

Be of one mind

I love singing “At the Name of Jesus” – it’s a great hymn and it captures the second half of this ancient Christian song brilliantly although it only nods to the first half. One of the various things I note about much contemporary hymns and songs is that they are focused on Jesus’ victory and ourselves as recipients of God’s blessing. Little could be further removed from the point Paul makes here as he either quotes or possibly writes this hymn. “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus” (verse 5a), says Paul. In other words, let’s have the mind of Christ. Specifically, he is trying to urge the Philippians to generosity of spirit. He makes a heartfelt plea that the congregation should be of one mind. Later in the letter, Paul urges Euodia and Syntyche to be of one mind (Philippians 4:2). They are clearly not of one mind and their arguments within the congregation are causing enough of a problem for Paul to single them out. They are probably ministers as they have clearly ministered alongside Paul. Ministry can burn people out. Something has happened between these former co-workers in the gospel. Paul calls for them to exercise the generosity of spirit that Jesus himself showed us in giving his life in the cross. This call probably felt pretty costly. The call to generosity of spirit often is, but it is something to which we are all called if we belong to Christ.

Andy Angel is Vicar of St Andrew’s, Burgess Hill in the Diocese of Chichester, and author of a number of books including The Jesus you Really Didn’t Know:  Rediscovering the Teaching Ministry of Jesus (Cascade Books).

Sunday 9 April.  Easter Day.

Bring new creation out of what was broken and dead

What a richness of readings on this Easter Day.  Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16
Preachers are keen on pointing out to once-a-year Christmas congregations that Jesus is not just for Christmas, but for all year round. The same is true of Easter: the message of Christ risen and the overflowing life of God poured out for us is not for a short season, but is a reality to inhabit every single day. As the Psalmist reminds us:
‘This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.’
Resurrection is perhaps the ultimate expression of the extravagance of God, bringing a new creation out of what was broken and dead.
Colossians reminds us that our vision and priorities are to be aligned - where we set our minds is where our decisions and commitments will follow. How do we invest ourselves in the ‘things that are above’? Beginning and ending each day with gratitude for what God has done in raising Christ from the grave is one way in which we can keep our eyes fixed on eternal realities.

The Rev Canon Dr Helen Burn is Vicar of St Justus, Rochester, in the Diocese of Rochester..

Sunday 16 April.  Easter 2. 1 Peter 1.3-9

God’s goodness and generous heart towards his creation

Last week most of us exchanged the traditional Easter greeting “he is risen!” and the traditional response “He is risen, indeed!”  It’s a joyful exchange celebrating God’s goodness and generous heart towards his creation.  Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, God’s plan of rescue is open to all.  Those who receive the gift are given a “new birth into a living hope” and an “inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading”.  What’s more, they are “being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed”. These realities are generous gifts made available through Christ.  How can we show our gratitude towards such a generous God? One possibility in this Easter season is using the Prayer of Generosity by St Ignatius:
Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous.
Teach me to serve as you deserve,
To give and not to count the cost,
To fight and not to heed the wounds,
To labour and not to seek to rest,
To give of myself and not ask for a reward,
Except the reward of knowing that I am doing your will.

Fabian Wuyts is Vicar of St James’, Taunton in the Diocese of Bath and Wells.

Sunday 23 April.  Easter 3.  Luke 24.13-35

Hospitality which leads to communion

There’s a verse in the Epistle to the Hebrews which says that if we extend hospitality to strangers, we can unwittingly end up entertaining angels. For the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, this meeting was even better than an angelic encounter. This was a meeting with the risen Jesus himself.
Did they want to welcome him into their conversation? Would they have preferred to keep themselves to themselves? Grief often causes us to close down so as to protect ourselves from the pain of uncomfortable conversations and intrusive questions. At first it was indeed an uncomfortable conversation. This strange man seemed to know nothing of the events which had caused them such pain. The choice to open up, in spite of their pain, may have been the most life-changing thing they ever did. As they gave him the precious gift of their story, sharing their heartbreak and sorrow, he led them into hope.
We tend to think of generosity as being something to do with giving positive things, like our money, our time, our talents, our energy, or our love, but anyone who has ever had the privilege of listening to another person share their grief will attest to the fact that it is just as precious a gift as those other things.
Then, as they neared their overnight accommodation, they offered him hospitality again, welcoming him to eat and lodge with them – generosity that opened the way for a profound moment of communion and revelation.

Lyndall Bywater is a freelance writer, speaker and broadcaster.  She is the author of Prayer in the Making (Bible Reading Fellowship) and Faith in the Making (Bible Reading Fellowship).

Sunday 30 April.  Easter 4.  John 10:1-10

The Father sends the Son who generously welcomes us to the party

Corny church sub-culture jokes apart (“I have come that they might have life and have it in abundance [pronounced a barn dance]”), these are amazing words. Why should Jesus have left the Father’s side where he enjoyed perfect love in order to show the Father’s love to us (John 1:18)? The gospel of John gives the answer. The Father and the Son so love each other, and so love the world, that they together agree that Jesus will reveal the love they share to the world and – despite rejection by many – will share that love with those who will receive it, and teach those who receive it to share it with others. The plotline of the gospel of John is the cascade of love from the symposium of heaven to earth. A symposium is a party with plenty of good food, great drink, engaging conversation and laughter amongst beloved friends. It’s true, I cannot prove beyond doubt that John 1:18 pictures the Father and Son at this kind of party but they cannot be in the court of heaven on separate thrones as the Word is in the breast of the Father – the position taken for reclining at such parties in the Greek and Roman world, and the one the beloved disciple takes in Jesus’ breast (John 13:23) at the supper which John makes look remarkably like one of these parties. I like this image: the Father sends the Son who generously welcomes us to the party.

Andy Angel is Vicar of St Andrew’s, Burgess Hill in the Diocese of Chichester, and author of a number of books including The Jesus you Really Didn’t Know:  Rediscovering the Teaching Ministry of Jesus (Cascade Books).

May 2023
 
Sunday 7 May.  Easter 5.  John 14:1-14

The salvation of the world has been brought about by God in Christ

This well-loved passage from John’s Gospel tells us that what Jesus, and the Father, desire is that those who believe will experience the power of God at work through them as it was through Jesus. It is that simple. We can get bogged down in budgets and finance and easily forget what our church efforts are for - what are trying to achieve?
In the Genesis and John readings, the agency is all with God. God renews the flooded earth and releases Noah and all in the ark when it is time; at the right time, Jesus will return to the Father and prepare a place for those who know and abide in him. Our role in the great drama of salvation is to respond faithfully to the initiative of God. What a relief! It is not all down to us. The salvation of the world has been brought about by God in Christ, and our role is to offer gladly whatever we can and let God do the rest. This allows us to be radically generous and to trust that the God who renewed the face of the earth is still engaged in the work of re-creation.

The Rev Canon Dr Helen Burn is Vicar of St Justus, Rochester, in the Diocese of Rochester

Sunday 14 May.  Easter 6.  John 14. 15-21

In Christ we are not on our own any more

In my Bible, the title of this passage is “Jesus promises the Holy Spirit.”  The title I would like instead is “you are not your own and you are not on your own!” Jesus promised to his disciples, and by extension to all his followers, that they would not be on their own.  The “Paraclete” translated as Comforter, Advocate or sometimes Helper is with us, as Jesus was with his disciples.  He is the Spirit of truth, who lives with us and who is in us.  God’s own presence cannot be closer and more permanent than that!  The Spirit of God opens our eyes, our mind and our heart to the personal reality of the trinity and our inclusion in the very life of God.  Anyone caught up in the very life of God, who is the Eternally Self-Giving One, will have a growing desire to express this generous self-giving in his or her own life and context.  In Christ we are not our own anymore, and with the presence of God’s Spirit we are not on our own.  The life of the Spirit will produce fruit and among these is generosity.

Fabian Wuyts is Vicar of St James’, Taunton in the Diocese of Bath and Wells.

 

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