I am always amused when I discover the Holy Spirit at work because the discovery usually happens when I am in the thick of executing something I thought I had planned myself. Ideas come to me, I test out the idea with others, I do the planning to implement the idea – basically the whole process involves a great deal of self-direction. But when an idea really blows me away is when the idea takes off in even better ways than I planned. When I finally realize how inspired the idea is, I realize that the idea could not have possibly come from me alone. The only way those incredible moments of confluence occur is through the Holy Spirit.
I had one of those moments this week. On Sunday we kicked off our stewardship campaign entitled “Journey to Generosity.” All sorts of activities are a part of that campaign: inspirational materials from our Stewardship Committee explaining the campaign, reflections from fellow parishioners, Parish Parties, sermons from the clergy, and meditations from national church leaders. All of those experiences would be enough to situate us in a place of profound gratitude. But then other things started happening.
The first has been attending our adult formation series. The series is about evangelism, so I had expected our energies to be focused on the work of spreading the good news. But the first sentence from the book we are using says, “Evangelism is your natural expression of gratitude for God’s goodness.”[i] While I thought our conversations about gratitude and generosity would be limited to stewardship, here gratitude was permeating other areas of church life. The second thing that happened was welcoming the first of three babies due this month at church. As I held the first one yesterday, especially after a rough twenty-four hours of mourning another massive shooting in Las Vegas, I looked at that tiny child and felt a profound sense of gratitude for the gift of life.
Our “inspired” idea to talk and pray about our Journey to Generosity has already morphed into something much bigger. I find myself being grateful not just for the generosity of parishioners who are passionate about our church and support its work through financial giving. I am also grateful for a community of people who are so enthusiastic about their gratitude that they want to go out and share the good news with others. I am grateful for a church community so generous in spirit that they can take tragedy and find rays of light and hope all around. I am grateful for a community whose gratitude is so powerful that they have a vision of making our community a better place: through our Fall Festival, through our visioning work with our Vestry, and through daily service to others. What seemed like a catchy campaign slogan has actually been naming a way of life at Hickory Neck: a life rooted in gratitude and generosity. Thank you for letting me be a part of this journey with you all. You inspire me every day and you transform my relationship with God every week. God bless you on your journey to generosity!
[i] David Gortner, Transforming Evangelism (New York: Church Publishing, 2008), 1.