Fruit of the Spirit: Generosity
August 14, 2022 Rev. Drew Stockstill
Luke 14:1, 7-14
On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the Sabbath, they were watching him closely.
When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host, and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers and sisters or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”
We’ve been learning about the Fruit of The Spirit this summer and today we’re talking about the fruit of generosity. Generosity is best understood in the people we’ve seen embody it. David Kimamia is the embodiment of generosity. David and I worked together building churches and schools in Kenya. We often hosted groups of Americans to help for a day or two on a build, so they could get to know the communities they were supporting, and worship together. David was a pro at helping with the logistics and support of these groups, and his spirit of generosity made him excel. He showed up at work exuberant and eager to serve, generous with his energy, his kindness, and his devotion to his work. David was generous with his love and to know David’s love and friendship was to feel honored. David was generous in private as well as in public, it wasn’t just an act. He was a devoted husband and father, he took care of his mother as well as a few nieces and nephews. David’s generosity could be overwhelming. At times I could be embarrassed by how much he was able to pour out. At the end of the day I was tired, and David had been doing as much, even more than me, but he’d see I was tired and try to help. People who met David were quickly struck by his generosity and eager sincerity, and they never forgot it. To this day, people ask about David. And it wasn’t just that David was like an energizer bunny of selfless giving, it’s that he was so good. It was true. And David told me, the many times I thanked him for being him, that it is God who gives him this gift.
The fruit of the Spirit is generosity and I bet you can think of people you’ve met, even briefly, who embody that spirit. We know we’ve been blessed when we spend time with somebody with that spirit of generosity. Maybe it was a grandparent that just loved to feed you. Food is often the way we enjoy the fruit of the spirit of generosity. Every week here after church we enjoy the generosity of those who prepare food for us to share. It’s not just for the sake of filling stomachs, but to feed our time of fellowship, to gather us around a table for a few minutes to catch up with those we’ve just been praying and worshiping with. Most Sunday afternoons, it’s the spirit of generosity at work in Marcia, and Bridgette, and Leta, and Jim, and Ellen, and the Utuks, and those many saints of this church who have set tables of generosity over the years for the sake of feeding the body and soul of Christ Lutheran Church. You know you’ve been blessed when the spirit of generosity shows up.
When the Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Galatia about the fruit of the Spirit, his hope was to help the new, young, struggling church to know exactly what God is blessing them with to grow as a people in faith, in devotion to God, and in love toward each other and those they are called together to serve. The fruit of the spirit fills the orchard for the people of God to feast on to nourish their life and work together. The Holy Spirit gives us things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and generosity for the sake of the church and its mission. We need these things, we need generosity, to have a healthy and vibrant community that is able to be a special place of healing for those who gather here and those we serve. It is God who helps us be generous, for on our own we would struggle, and sin would cause the fruit to rot and the community to starve, without God’s grace keeping the fruit ripe, and the community fed.
Sin is an enemy of generosity. Sin causes people and communities to fear there isn’t enough to be generous. God gives us all we need in abundance for us to share: love, forgiveness, and belonging – there’s enough to go around. There is enough grace for us to share generously the good news that we are forgiven of sin, of past mistakes, of the shame we carry. We don’t need to treat forgiveness like a scarce commodity by making punishment the chief objective of justice when we can work to make pathways for accountability and correction, reconciliation, and restoration to the community. We can be generous with justice and mercy. We don’t need to treat belonging like a Country Club membership when Jesus welcomed the whole world into his family. We can be generous in our inclusion and enjoy the gifts of the diversity of cultures, worship styles, backgrounds, and experiences that enrich our lives. We don’t need to fear love will run out when love flows from the unending well of God’s own heart, and so we can celebrate love freely given,
and let ourselves fall in love with God and God’s people more and more, knowing that though we may know the pain of loss that comes with love, the love we have shared with those we lose never ends. Love generously, be forgiven generously, and in time enjoy the gifts of forgiving generously, welcome generously. This is the way of the spirit which feeds the church with the fruit of generosity.
The gospel story we heard says that Jesus was invited to supper at a religious leader’s house one Saturday afternoon. It was a meal served on the Sabbath. Did anyone grow up with a big Sunday dinner? Did the family get together for a roast or fried chicken? That’s what the Sabbath gives us. God didn’t require a union to tell God that it’s good for people to have time to rest. We know God’s generosity in the gift of the Sabbath where God commands us to rest, to stop working, to worship, and if when we have the good fortune, to get together with family and friends to feast, watch some football, take a nap, a walk, call a friend. Jesus was enjoying just such a Sabbath but these religious leaders were very curious about him. They had some concerns about some of the things they’d been hearing about Jesus. He was known to be quite generous with the company he kept, quite generous with the forgiveness he was offering, quite generous with whom he invited into the kingdom of God, and he was being quite generous with his interpretation of the laws. So, they invited him to dinner, and they were watching him very closely. Would he do something they could use to dismiss him or accuse him?
But as it turns out, it was Jesus who was watching them, and Luke says, Jesus noticed some interesting things. He noticed which guests took the best seats, the places of honor, he noticed who had been given an invitation and who had been left out. So, Jesus, the invited guest of honor, gives them a little hip-pocket sermon (we call them in the military). “Don’t go after the best seat, instead be generous, and go seek out the regular seats. Is there a kids’ table? Sit there, it will be more fun anyway. Then, the worst that could happen is somebody comes and tells you to move on up.” Plus, they’ll think, well here’s a good person, somebody who isn’t after their own. Here’s a humble fella.
I’ll give you a recent example of this parable, but not to toot my horn, this was completely accidental humility. Humility born of my ignorance. When I was away last month for active duty, a part of the daily routine was a Command Unit Brief, a CUB. This was a meeting with the commanding officer every afternoon at 1600 for all the different section leaders to update her on the day’s operations, challenges, and how we were progressing in our mission. The CO is a Lieutenant Col. And next to her is the Sgt. Maj. And Executive officer. Big wigs. And around the table are other officers and senior enlisted who are all overseeing the day-to-day operations of hundreds of Marines, their helicopters, medical issues, weapons, fuel, water, housing, food, you name it. A 3-star General is flying in from DC to observe. The pressure is high. And I’m supposed to be at this meeting, for reasons I do not yet know. I’m a pastor. What do I know about these things? So, it’s time for the meeting, people gather around the table, picking their seats. I find a seat away from the table, against the wall, in a corner, behind a pole, next to the youngest, newest Marine in the room who is afraid to look up from his boots. The meeting is about to begin. I see the CO about to enter then I see the Sgt. Major looking around. Somebody is missing? Somebody’s about to get into trouble. I’ll need to comfort that person later, I think. Then he spots me, “Chaps!” he yells. You’re next to me and he points to the honored seat beside him and the CO and XO. “Me?” He doesn’t repeat himself. I make my way past the junior marines, past the senior marines, a slightly shocked Maj. gathers his things and finds another seat and I take my place as the Sgt. Maj, as he yells, “Attention on Deck” and everyone snaps to attention. The CO takes her seat and says to me, “Chaps, this is where I need you.” “Yes, ma’am.” Better to be invited to the table than asked to make room for someone else.
The generosity of my senior leaders changed my understanding of my role in that mission. The CO and Sgt. Maj needed me next to them and the rest of our time together proved why. Jesus teaches
us to be generous, not only because it’s a good thing to do, but our generosity has the power to
lift up others. You never know the person you bless with love, forgiveness, belonging, how you may have changed the way they view themselves, you may have empowered them to live more boldly, more gracefully, to walk more faithfully with God, and to extend generosity to others. In Romans, Paul encourages us to outdo one another showing honor.” Let us enjoy the fruit of the spirit, outdo one another in showing generosity, for in doing so, you not only honor them, you honor their