This sermon begins a three week series on Generosity. In ______ We Trust? What would you fill in that gap? Americans have been trained to say, “God” because it is printed on all our money. I wonder how true it is. Genesis 3:1-13 sets the stage for the human condition and reminds us why it is so difficult to be generous.
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We have been in A Deep Life for Nine weeks now.
We spend the first three weeks looking at A Deep Life together. I hope you were able to take one step toward being more connected in a spiritual community.
Then we spent three weeks looking at a Deep Life of Prayer. We saw that we can talk to God, we can listen to God, and we can pray together, with each other and for each other. I hope that you were able to take one step deeper in your prayer life.
We spent the last three weeks looking at a Deep Life of Worship. We were reminded that worship is a communal practice that is centered on Word and Sacrament. I hope you were able to take a step into a deeper life of worship.
Through it all we have been reminded that A Deep Life begins with a deep breath.
Can we do that together? Let’s take in a deep breath. Let it out slowly. Again, breath in as slowly and deeply as you can. Now let it out very slowly.
Check your body right now. How does it feel?
Let’s try a little experiment.
Pretend like you are holding on to something tightly. Maybe you’re like Gollum in the Lord of the Rings. “My Precious” clench your hands tightly, draw it in to your chest, hunch your shoulders. Maybe scrunch up your face to scare away anybody who might want to take your precious.
Keep your body like that and try to take a deep breath.
It’s hard isn’t it?
Now, adjust your body so that you can take another deep breath. Notice what has to happen to breathe deeply. You have to open up.
Today we begin the final lap of A Deep Life journey. We look at A Deep Life of Generosity.
I’m a word nerd,
so the first thing I do whenever I encounter a topic is to dig into the meaning and origin of the word. The Greek word that is often translated generosity means this:
Simple, open, without ulterior motive.
Here’s what I want you to remember today. Generosity looks like this [arms open, palms up].
For the next three weeks we are going to be challenged to take a step in generosity. You received a letter in the mail from the pastors. I hope you received it. You’ll see that we have cards that offer different ways that we can be generous. We can give of our time and our treasure.
The title for today’s sermon is “In ______ We Trust.”
If you have a dollar bill, go ahead and take it out. What does it say on top?
In God we Trust.
Do we though?
As I look at the world around me, especially having just come off of a mid-term election, and as I inspect my own life, it seems to me that we spend as much time clenched up like this as we do opened up like this.
Why is that?
The answer is found all the way back at the beginning of the story. Our main text for today is found in Genesis 3:1-13. This is the second half of the second creation story in Genesis. I think it is important to contrast this story with Genesis 1 if we want to get the full impact of its message.
Notice what happens in Genesis 1.
It says that God looked at what had been made and said it was good, then said, “Let there be…”
God sees that creation is good, then opens up to unfold even more creation.
This cycle repeats itself several times. It is good, let there be. It is good, let there be…
Finally, God looks at humanity and says, it is very good, let them be fruitful and multiply…
Do you see the pattern?
Now, notice what happens in Genesis 3.
Adam and Eve are cruising around in the Garden, enjoying all this amazing creation. The only thing God doesn’t want the humans to have is the knowledge of good and evil. The warning is that if they eat of this knowledge, then they will die.
Then along comes the talking serpent, no big deal, and says, “Did God really say? Can you really trust God? God’s just afraid of you. Go ahead, do it anyway.”
Notice what happens. They look at the fruit, and they take it and eat it. [Pull in and clutch to chest]
Then their eyes are open and they realize that they are naked. They are ashamed. They hide themselves and cover themselves up. Then when they are called on the carpet they blame the other for the problem.
They now have the first hand, experiential knowledge of good and evil. Humans know that we are capable of betrayal, and we are afraid of each other. So, we hide in shame, we clutch on to whatever we think is our precious, we lash out at each other in violence. And we die.
This is the human condition, and there is only one cure.
[Open arms, palms up]
To open up and breathe.
The entire story of scripture is God opening up to humanity, reminding us of our original calling, and inviting us to be open to one another, to be generous.
Why are we not good at it?
Because it is risky. When we open up, we are vulnerable. If we open up, someone might take advantage of us, and we have the knowledge of evil, so we continue to hold to other things that we think we can trust.
We trust our intellect. I have to be smarter than everyone else.
We trust our wealth. I need to have enough money to pay for all the things that will make me secure.
We trust our social status. If I can move up the socio-economic scale; if I can just get that promotion, get that bonus, get that bigger house in that nicer neighborhood.
We trust our position and power. If I keep what I have and don’t let anyone else get ahead of me, then I will be safe.
In _______ We Trust.
What are you holding on to right now?
When God looks at you, God says, It is Good, and says let there be.
Jesus came to this earth to show us this in the flesh.
Jesus looked at all the people, even the ones on the margins, and said It is good, then he opened his arms on the cross and took all the fear, the hatred, the violence, the war, and said, Let it be…forgiven.
This is what generosity looks like.
We open our arms to each other, as risky as that may be and we share. I hope that you will ask God how you can take a step this month in a Deep Life of Generosity.