While I’ve been mulling over this Lent/Easter message I’ve been struggling with the cloud and heaviness that is associated with this season of the church year compared to Advent/Christmas. How do I reconcile the pain and sacrifice of Lent in relation to the happy preparation and anticipation of Advent, when the outcome of Lent and Easter is the Greatest Gift of All?
And then I listened to Tom Jolivette’s message from last year’s Good Friday Men’s Breakfast. Lent and Easter are all about the Greatest Gift of All, about God’s great love for us and God’s great gift from the heart.
Tom reflected that it is often said the entire gospel is summed up in
John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that God gave God’s son.” The verse is the story of Good Friday. God’s love gave Jesus for us on the cross, so God’s giving and Good Friday are one and the same. That suggests that the entire gospel is about giving! If John 3:16 is the entire gospel and we are called to proclaim the gospel, then we have no choice but to talk about giving!
As we have practiced and experienced generosity and gratitude, we have come to understand that giving reflects the heart of the giver. It was God’s love that inspired God’s giving. The Bible doesn’t say that the world loved God, not does it say that the world deserved to be loved by God. It says God loved the world, so God gave. The heart of God is to love the world! That was the only reason God gave.
John 3:16 appears in the Bible as an explanation to the question Jesus was asked by Nicodemus, a lawyer and religious leader, “What do I have to do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus replied, “Unless you are born again, you cannot inherit eternal life.” That answer was not the list of rules or requirements that Nicodemus expected, and was difficult for him to understand in a literal sense. But Jesus explained it like this, “To you it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.” The gift is that God knew what we needed and did it for us. God is the giver.
Our giving is also about love. Tom gave the example of being an organ donor – we give because of our heart, never knowing who the receiver may be. We give to Trinity because we believe that the Gospel is proclaimed and lives are changed. As followers of Christ, we reflect the heart of God in all our gifts.
Tom’s message closed with two points:
• What we give expresses our love; where we give expresses our priorities.
• Giving is not a zero sum game. When you give away, you don’t end up with less – you end up with more.
When God gave everything God had, there wasn’t any less God. In fact, the life God gave continued to multiply, grow and expand. When we give from the heart, it doesn’t take away anything; it enriches our life, allowing us to grow and expand.
Good and gracious God,
Thank you for the greatest love and the greatest gift of all! May your love be resurrected, reborn and renewed in our hearts that we may share your love generously and grow in the grace of giving. Amen.
(Tom Jolivette’s complete message from the Good Friday Breakfast can be found at www.trinitylc.org under the “Connect” tab; click on “Stewards of God’s Abundance,” then “Our Stories.”)
Tag(s): Newsletter Meditations