No one ever believes me but I am not making this up. It is ancient wisdom. It is what Jesus taught. We can’t have it all until we give it all away. But when we give it all away we take more not less. It turns out that generosity is at the heart of God. So much of what is worth having is what God gives to us in abundance. Life, itself, it could be said, is the gift of a generous God. Somehow we have trouble equating self-denial and abundance but as we know what seems to be a paradox is very often where the deepest truth is found.
Kathleen Norris tells a delightful story about one time when she was visiting a monastery in South Dakota in the spring and participated in a ceremony of blessing: The gardeners led us, carrying a processional cross, incense, and few seedlings to be blessed. The cantors and abbots brought up the rear. We called on the angels and Saint Isadore, patron of farmers. The long skirts of the monk’s habits kept time: “From all evil deliver us O Lord; from drought and pestilence, deliver us O Lord.” When we got to the garden we made a circle and the abbot led us in prayers, sprinkling holy water on the plants, on the well-weeded soil, and on us. In the wind the monk’s scapulars made a sound like the wings of the nighthawks wheeling about. No matter what one believes in, there is something wonderful about blessing things.
The ceremony put us in a good mood. We stood in small groups, visiting. With the blue light of dusk came the smell of rain. A few drops; not enough to make much difference, but something.
. . . . .and the novice, a shy and bearish young man, picked a sprig of lilac to take to his room. He lumbered off with it, holding it close to his chest, the purple made more vivid by the severe black of his habit. “Take more,” an old monk called to him. “Take more.”
Take more may be a surprising message to those of us who are more used to hearing ‘give more’. Yet each of the readings for today are asking us to take more. In the words of Isaiah it is all in the name. You shall no more be called ‘Forsaken’ but you shall be called ‘My Delight’. The prophet says to the people of God, take more. Do not settle for your old failures, rise up and be glad for a new day. Do not think too harsh or unforgiving of yourself, realize your true worth. Know that you are not abandoned but loved. Take more love.
Paul describes the gifts of the Spirit. God gives the Spirit which in turn gives gifts which in turn are to be given to the community. The gifts are different and given to individuals but they are incomplete until they are fulfilled in the community where all the gifts work together to create a living church. In community we have the benefit of a variety of gifts that complement each other and are made whole in community but what happens if we do not use the gifts? Everyone has at least one. What happens if we do not share them or do not receive them? We are guilty of not taking God’s gifts to us or of even recognizing the gifts we have been given. Our name is not ‘Forsaken’ but ‘My Delight!’ God wants us to take more of the Holy Spirit not less. Take more.
In the Gospel, Jesus says take more even while he is giving himself up for the taking. When Jesus resists his mother’s entreaty to supply more wine for the wedding party he hesitates by saying my time has not yet come. The inference seems to be that once he reveals himself by turning water to wine there is no turning back. From here the road will lead to Jerusalem and a cross. Jesus is not only giving wine to the party he is giving himself to the world. Jesus is giving it away big time so that we will take more. This is what love is. Love lays itself down for others. The generous heart of God has spilled out not only the miracle of wine in abundance from where there was none; not only the joy of this wedding celebration; not only a useful gift for the community, but a son, God’s own heart is given to be broken in the world to show us all how generosity is what leads to life and, that even though generosity may suffer a broken heart, even as love will break our hearts, if we are afraid to give it all we will never be able to take more.
When the news from Haiti began to come in it seemed that Haiti’s name was “Forsaken” but it is not God that has forsaken Haiti but a world that has not been willing to solve the issues of poverty that make a tragedy of this nature even more devastating. For all those who have lost their lives and who have lost loved ones suddenly and randomly when the earth moved and the buildings came down and for those whose lives will be lost because of the conditions of poverty and helplessness, there is no word right now that can speak to such grief and pain. (A colleague of mine has reported that her brother in Haiti has lost three children. They are just gone.) All that can be said is that we believe God is present in that unspeakable pain and God’s heart is broken, too. And that God’s heart is big enough to hold all of those living or dead who have been hurt by this event. Already the whole world is coming together to aid the victims of this tiny broken country and God is present in that too. We remember that whether we live or whether we die we belong to God. We do not believe that it is God that causes such suffering as Haiti has known not only in these recent days of horror but for many years of neglect. When earthquakes strike it is because the earth moves and woe to those who are in the wrong place at the wrong time but it is not because those particular people are chosen to suffer and die but rather that as people created in love and freedom in a natural world also set free to live in time and thus do what living things do, to move and breathe, converge and conflict, all people are vulnerable to suffering and death and even though we have escaped the immediate horror of this event in Haiti personally we are linked by our humanity to those who have not escaped this time. Our heart are broken because we care, because love is still alive in us left this time to reach out as best we can to those who have known such devastation.
When Owl’s house was blown down by the high winds, Eeyore found a new home for Owl to live in. Unfortunately for Piglet it was Piglet’s house that he had found. This is what happened next:
“Just the house for Owl. Don’t you think so, little Piglet?”
And then Piglet did a noble thing and he did it in a sort of dream, while he was thinking of all the wonderful words Pooh had hummed about him.
“Yes, it’s just the house for Owl,” he said grandly. “And I hope he’ll be very happy in it.” And then he gulped twice, because he had been very happy in it himself.
“What do you think, Christopher Robin?” asked Eeyore a little anxiously, feeling that something wasn’t quite right.
Christopher Robin had a question to ask first, and he was wondering how to ask it.
“Well,” he said at last, “ it’s a very nice house, and if your own house is blown down, you must go somewhere else, mustn’t you, Piglet? What would you do, if your house was blown down?
Before Piglet could think, Pooh answered for him.
“He’d come live with me,” said Pooh, “wouldn’t you, Piglet?”
Piglet squeezed his paw.
“Thank you, Pooh,” he said, “I should love to.”
Give more. Take more. Be more. Take more love. (Remember, the only love you get to keep is the love you give away!) Take more Spirit. Take more faith. Take more life. Take more care. Take more pain. Give your heart to the broken world, to the God of love and compassion. There is so much more. So much more.
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