FROM THE WORDS OF WELCOME:
Weeks ago, when I was selecting scripture for our worship today, the Sunday before Thanksgiving, I could not have known that the message would be so fitting days after the death of our beloved, Jud Gale: “Your great generosity will produce thanksgiving to God through us.”
We gather this morning both broken-hearted and thankful:
Broken-hearted by Jud’s death and thankful for his life;
Broken-hearted that this Thanksgiving there will be empty seats at our tables –
Left empty by those who have died in the last year
and because of a relentless pandemic
That keeps us separate from many we love;
A pandemic that has made so much of how we live, how we die and
even how we remember those who have died more difficult.
Through it all, our God is present, offering steadfast, faithful love and grace;
Inviting us to recognize our blessings and share them – as Jud so generously did.
For Jud, and for the bonds that unite us forever with all those we love,
we give thanks.
We also offer our deepest condolences to Kari, Emily, Peter, Henry & Susan, Ben & Kristina, Mary Helen & Matt, Catherine and the whole extended family…
A note about today’s Order of Worship…For those of you who have become accustomed to our Sunday services on Zoom, which I have been told were the highlight of Jud’s week, you will notice that the sermon is shorter and that instead of time for silent reflection we will see a slideshow, followed by a time of remembrance. If you have planned to say something, could you please let us know, by indicating your wish in the chat. We also anticipate more people will want to share than there is time for in the service – so we will reopen chat at the end and also invite folks to type their remembrances – a copy of which will be given to Jud’s family.
And for those who are here to honor Jud, know that this is just one of a number of ways he will be prayed for and remembered in the year ahead, including next August or September, when there will be an interment followed by a public celebration of Jud’s life.
Like so much of what we are experiencing during the pandemic, our gathering today is a creative adaptation of what we wish we could do for Jud. At the same time, we gather this morning in trust that the God who created Jud, and who creates us, is just as present to us in this form on Zoom, as God is, when we gather in person. There is no limit to how the grace of God is present… we need only open our hearts.
SERMON: “Generous Jud”
“Your great generosity will produce thanksgiving to God through us.”
Anyone who had the good fortune of hearing Jud’s spontaneous reflection at worship on Mother’s Day, knows that he is someone who recognized his many blessings, beginning with his beloved Mother. Anyone who had the great fortune of knowing Jud as a family member, friend or part of this community, also knows that out of heartfelt love Jud was willing to share whatever he had (his time, his wisdom, his talents and his resources) to make a difference for someone else. To make a difference for us.
Perhaps this is why Jud was fundamentally a joyful person – he recognized his blessings and liberally shared them with others. Jud leaves us with a powerful example of how to be a follower of Jesus. In him we see someone with a spirit of generosity. Jud’s life is a testament that Christian generosity isn’t merely about what we do. It’s about who we are. Jud Gale was a man of character.
In today’s scripture reading from the Second Letter to the Corinthians, Paul is trying to convince a reluctant Gentile Christian community to share financial resources with the famine-plagued Jewish Christian community of Jerusalem. For some reason, the Corinthians did not believe they could afford to give, even though those in Jerusalem were desperate. In a separate letter to another Gentile church – the Roman church – Paul had to remind them that without the inheritance of faith they received from the Jewish-Christian community, they would not have such spiritual treasure.
Paul felt he had to convince the Corinthians to be generous. Many of us need to be convinced, too. (I can’t help but think of Jud’s involvement in many of our church stewardship campaigns…And one campaign in particular that enabled him to meet his beloved Kari. Now this tradition of stewardship continues with Catherine.)
Even a cursory look at our country suggests that we need to take today’s lesson and Jud’s example to heart. Rather than a generous spirit towards others, especially those seen as “other” or “undeserving,” there is a pervasive culture of self-interest. Look how many people refuse to wear masks because they see it as an affront to their liberty…
Instead, notice that from the very beginning of the Biblical witness, in Genesis, to the end, in Revelation, God is revealed again and again and again as pure, extravagant generosity. In Genesis, God’s magnanimity toward humankind is explicit: “See, I have given you every plant-yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food” (Genesis 1:29 as noted in Henry).
In the final book of the Bible, Revelation, God announces a new heaven and a new earth. In the midst of this sumptuously rich place of abundance, not once but twice an invitation is issued: “To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment” (Revelation 21:6b); “And let everyone who is thirsty come. Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift” (Revelation 22:17b).
The way God creates and freely gives to us out of love, what Jesus demonstrates in his ministry, and God promises to recreate at the end of days, is pure generosity. This is the Divine Narrative that we are called to fully embrace. We are to be generous as God is generous. Jud lived this.
The call to be generous is not only for the benefit of those who are in need. Because grace is the very nature of God; we who bear the Divine Image can be generous. As our Divine Parent is gives freely out of love, we discover that when we do the same, we learn more about who God is, and we grow into the people we are called to be; we discover purpose, meaning, and joy.
Greek Orthodox priest Fr. Barnabas Powell suggests, “Our spirit of generosity is tied forever to the depth that we appreciate the generosity of God toward us. A small understanding and appreciation of God’s generosity produces small generosity in our own lives, and a deep and comprehensive appreciation of God’s generosity toward us produces a powerful and fulfilling generosity in us.” Think of how much Jud appreciated the blessings he had in his life – from the love of his mother, to all of his family members, the love of two wonderful women – Betsy and Kari, the love of his friends and this community, the love of the sea and more!
Like Jud, those who are truly generous know the joy that flows from giving. In God’s economy, whatever wealth we may have isn’t an invitation to live large, but an opportunity to give large. Rather than asking, “What is the least I can give? Or the least I can pay? Or the least I can do?” — which is a way of seeing the world through a lens that shrinks my sense of self, shrinks my sense of others, and shrinks my sense of God — the practice of generosity expands my sense of self, expands my sense of others and expands my sense of God. Generosity opens us to experiencing even more of the flow of blessing. Jud graciously used his wisdom, kindness, talents, and resources to make a difference for others. He knew how to live generously.
Jesus has invited all of us to join in his banquet, to gather at his table. Shortly before Jud died, he said to me, “I am going to a party.” Throughout his life, to the very end, Jud accepted his invitation to the Divine Banquet. Today he joins those holy ones who recognized and shared their blessings in this life, who have lived as children of our generous God. We are thankful to God for Jud’s generosity and example to us, a source of joy. Amen.
BENEDICTION: by John Wesley
(Like Jud), Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can. Amen.