Have you been to Baitings Reservoir? I have mentioned it before: it’s my thin place, where I am so close to God. I love the water lapping at the edges of the lake, and that wall holding back that colossal amount of water. And then, there’s the overflow, where the water cascades down, filling another reservoir further down the valley. I love just to watch this, to see the water bubbling, dancing down the slope. It always brings a smile to my face- even in the cold biting wind of a Yorkshire summer…
It has been quite a few weeks here in Todmorden, where I have seen such generosity.
At George’s funeral, who would have imagined stamping your feet at a funeral! We were singing a song from his Sunday School days : “If you’re happy and you know it clap your hands“, where the second verse requires stamping your feet. When we saw the care extended by the care team not only by the staff of Waterside but previous places it was staggering. The love from these carers was so evident. But for what reason?
Last Sunday was the Incredible Edible Harvest Festival here on Pollination Street. There were lots of stalls: the Mosque provided food. There was the rice, two dhalls, yoghurt, and a chapati, given for free. No mention of cost, just because they could. There was the freegan stall where food reclaimed from supermarkets, similar to the Real Junk Food cafes which are part of our cities, gave away their food for free.
There are freegan boxes of vegetables available at the Golden Lion on a Thursday I believe. At that pub, near to the canal, there is the Kindness box. Here you can find adult and children clothes, toys, and food: given away for the benefit of others.
On Saturday the Foodbank comes into operation, where so many volunteers provide food and toiletries to those who seek such sustenance. It isn’t a three strikes and you’re out system like other foodbank’s around the country – here, you can come each week – and the queue is getting longer. Of course it’s free.
In a supermarket this week I met up with the Manager who told me of one lady who was completely out of food and in quite a state of confusion due to worry. Now this manager is really very busy, but she helped the lady with the shopping, then drove her home, unpacked the food, washed the dishes and made her a cuppa. We might all know such a story – it could have been you helping another person.
This Church, the Methodist and the Fellowship, gives of its time, both here in this building and as individuals. You look to support each other, those near to you, those you come across. There are so many people welcome here.
Wow, we live in such a generous town! But what is common to all these acts of generosity? They were unconditional, given freely, no strings attached.
When Paul was writing to those in Corinth he was aware that the Greeks in general had little faith as we knew it. They were either Epicureans who were atheistic materialists, where pleasure was their main goal. If it feels good, do it could have been their motto, or the Stoics, who were great thinkers, where happiness comes in overcoming pain. And amidst this city there were some Christians. They were already known for being different. Yes, there were squabbles between groups within the church. Some might have eaten more than others at festivals – so we will be keeping an eye out later… Most of them had been slaves and were not set free from that bondage. Some were very poor whilst others were quite rich. They, too, could have adopted the perspectives of others and sought pleasure through material gain.
In the previous chapter Paul writes about soon being in Corinth to collect offerings for those back in Jerusalem. Paul encourages them that the nearby communities in Macedonia – why do I always think of vegetables when I read that word? – have been so generous in their giving. “they voluntarily gave according to their means, and even beyond their means” 8v3
The ancient Greek word for cheerful (hilaros, used only here in the New Testament) is the root for our English word hilarious. God wants us to give happily, hilariously because that is how God Himself gives.
Note that in this text there is no particular mention of money. It is giving. This is the emerging church, spreading out from Jerusalem towards Rome. They are finding out what it is like to be the minority, rubbing shoulders with the already present pagan faiths, the worship of Roman emperors – but looking to celebrate that with their generosity.
Can we see today those who may seek to focus everything on pleasure, on materials, the next best thing to get, having more money than the next person?
They did, and they held fast to giving, sharing…hilariously.
In Acts Chapter 2 we may recall that when the Holy Spirit fell upon the new believers they agreed to share and support those who could not provide for themselves. It is something the What If group who meet fortnightly at the Manse have been looking at.
When we share our resources – don’t think just money – so none may be destitute, known as koinonia – here we see God’s love.
Whereas money is the currency of the day in society, I hope I have shown you that here in Todmorden the currency is often kindness, shown in abundance, with generous hearts. The Church in Corinth, who may have felt crushed, marginalised, was transformed by its generosity. God’s love was never one to be limited but given to all, unconditionally. As one scholar writes:
“God does not reluctantly open a little finger and maintain a clenched fist full of gifts. I would tell you today that God’s hands are nail-pierced hands and they are wide open. This fountain of grace is always pouring itself out with no limitation on heaven’s side at all.” (Redpath)
Just like the reservoir, full, having such capacity, has the power to overflow and unleash supply to another reservoir, feeding, supporting another, can we as a church look to continue to emulate that love, that generosity, unconditionally?
Now, that would be a harvest of joy
One question I might leave us with is…how might we do it differently?