Overflowing Goodness and Mercy

A Reflection of 2 Corinthians 9:7-12

We are the face of God.  Seriously!  We are how other people will most often experience God.  If we choose to accept our true identity.  Where is God in my life?  The answer is, “Oh so very close.”

Then why, why does it often feel like God is so very far away?  Because God awakens us slowly.  We slowly cultivate a relationship with God by giving ourselves away over time.  As we give, we also receive.  Experience after experience of meeting God in the dark valley of life arrive because we continue to have faith, trust, and give.  They help us to recognize God’s presence even in the most difficult moments.

“Right Eric, there is too much suffering in the world.  I can’t believe a God would make this mess.”  I understand that response.  It is the way I used to respond to God as well.  My faith did not come easily.  It came through having to hold on to something in some very dark valleys.  Slowly, over many years, I began to understand that the Entity that was keeping me from falling any further, the Something that was calling me to take Just. One. More. Step., was the Divine.  Today, as I reflect on the way God speaks to me, lifts me up, encourages me, it is almost always through people who come into my life and give of themselves selflessly, unexpectedly, at just the right moment.  It happens on a regular basis.  I recognize God in other people, because I am now looking for God in everyone I meet.

Well almost everyone.

That woman screaming at me in the food pantry the other day did not look like God.  But after I calmed down, I realized that God was even in her, though hidden by her brokenness…

In his letter to the Corinthian church Paul writes,

10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. 11 You will be enriched in every way for your great generosity, which will produce thanksgiving to God through us; 12 for the rendering of this ministry not only supplies the needs of the saints but also overflows with many thanksgivings to God (2 Cor 9: 10-12  NRSV).

Imagine, people will come to experience God, to even thank God because of the way we give, the way we spend our lives!  Every encounter becomes an opportunity to be the face of God for someone, to recognize God in someone.

Even Jane in accounting.

Yes, even Jane may be an opportunity for us to experience God.  Her nastiness is an opportunity for us to learn how to respond instead of react.  When we respond, we can begin to see that her nastiness comes from environmental circumstances probably beyond her control.  Being kind in response to her meanness just might be the divine medicine that slowly helps to transform her.

The Church is the place, the community, where we can learn how to live the way I just described.  Why should I give my time to the church?  Why should I support the church?  Because it is the place where we learn how to experience God.  It is the place where we are reminded every week that even the woman in the pantry is God and needs love; that even Jane in accounting needs us to respond compassionately to her.

In this season of the church we are asking the congregation members to consider how they will support our church financially in the coming year.  It is also a time to consider how our church is important to us, or could be important to us if we gave just a little more of our time and resources.

“One old Hasidic rabbi asked his pupils how they could tell when the night had ended and the day had begun, for that is the time for certain holy prayers.  “Is it,” proposed one student, “when you can see an animal in the distance and tell if it is a sheep or a dog?” “No,” answered the rabbi.  “Is it when you can clearly see the lines on your own palm?”  “Is it when you can look at a tree in the distance and tell if it is a fig tree or a pear tree.”  “No,” answered the rabbi each time.  “Then what is it?” the pupils demanded.  “It is when you can look in the face of any man or woman and see that they are your brother or sister.  Until then it is still night.”

Jack Kornfield, After the Ecstasy, the Laundry.

May the church become the place for all of us to awaken to the light of God’s day.  May we all consider the importance of the church in our lives.  And when we give, may other people come to experience God through the way we live.

Pastor Eric.