Thursday, 8 March 2012

Lenten disciplines - Almsgiving (3)

So we left Almsgiving thinking about the Prodigality of God - who freely lavishes Love and Goodness on this world he has created. Jesus Knows (or does he?) that only one of the ten lepers will return to give thanks - but does that mean he concentrates his healing on the one who responds - indeed we know Very little, about whether Jesus' healing miracles were responded to in faith. We may perhaps presume that because in a few cases such a response is noted by the evangelists, that it was actually a rare occurrence. But then we may well ask ourselves How frequently do I give thanks? Indeed given All that He lavishes on us if we were to give thanks we would Never stop. For every moment, every breath, every view, every human encounter is Gift, and even the most devout of His followers pay little attention to most of it.

Instead of course our lives ought to be healthily focussed not on the gifts but on the giver.

But this matter of Alms can easily find us out.
As I noted yesterday our 'Giving' is all too often self observant, self judged and self referential - far far more Care Full than the 'secret' giving Jesus enjoins on us. And this Care Fullness is not only individual, but corporate.

In one of my former churches there was hanging upon the South Wall a large wooden plaque, listing many benefactors of the parish. Well of course their giving, even post mortem, was not done in secret, but was different to much of ours in that they gave Alms. They gave to the Poor. Bequests for the benefit of the poor of the parish. How much of our Giving nowadays is to the Church? It might be sobering to discover how high a percentage of Christian giving is effectively to ourselves, making sure We have a minister, or We have a building, or We have . . . well we get the point.

There is a lack of thought about the Almsgiving that Jesus enjoins on us that takes us away from our own pre-occupation with ourselves. For to give alms is to give to the poor

Is indeed part of the reason for the decline of the church is that our wealth, vast as it is, for it is our combined wealth, we keep in the family.

The manna was given daily - it wasn't meant to be hoarded, or indeed invested in bricks and mortar. When it was hoarded it went bad. Are we in the church actually hoarding that which was freely given to us? How many sermons exhort us in giving to Give More to the Church? How many exhort us, as Jesus does, to give it all to the poor?

Jesus always promised to build his church - to tend and care for it. Perhaps if we took him at his word, something quite amazing might happen amongst us  - or perhaps we have drunk to deeply of the myth of Scarcity . . . of which more anon.

In the Lenten disciplines we follow Jesus into the wilderness, to live in dependence on the abundance of God. In the matter of giving we are most certainly unmasked in many different ways.

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