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Holy Habits

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Gladness and Generosity

Introduction

The church was born in gladness: gladness for what God had done through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus; gladness at the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. There was gladness in the home, in the temple and out on the streets.

In presenting his portrait of the Christian community, Luke notes in Acts that they had glad and generous hearts. The church embodied the extravagant generosity that is at the heart of the divine Trinitarian community. It was a prophetic countercultural symbol in a world of avarice and greed.

Gladness and Generosity is a joyous and a challenging Holy Habit. Do enjoy its celebratory aspects and let them be a light to others. It is often in the darkest places that the light of gladness or joy shines most brightly. You might like to explore gladness in such settings.

As you explore the challenges represented by generosity, remember that we are called to be generous with all we are and have, not just our money. Sinfulness and its consequences are marked by selfishness. Grace is expressed in generosity and forgiveness. This takes us to the very heart of the gospel message. It is also a powerful challenge that comes to us from countries like South Africa and Rwanda, where people have chosen to be extraordinarily generous in forgiving. How might such testimonies inspire and change you and your church?

Being glad and generous is a Christian way of life. May these resources help you to walk that way ever more faithfully and fully.

Reflections

Gladness and generosity go together in this holy habit because they are inextricably linked. A generously forgiving and trusting nature is often – though not necessarily – a cheerful one. The act of giving gives rise to a cheering feeling; most of us feel better after being generous to someone else. But the root of giving that is generous and cheerful is thankfulness, as we realise what God has done for us and respond with gladness and joy.

There is no ‘ought’ about being glad – we don’t choose how we feel about life – but gladness is more than just a happy or cheerful feeling. Consider what it was like for New Testament churches when they heard Paul was coming – perhaps a bit like an Ofsted announcement! Yet, Paul knew the objective joy of our faith that remains whatever mood we may be in. As loving communities, we seek not just to share each other’s burdens but also to share each other’s joys as we respond to the generosity of God.

When the then Archbishop George Carey visited Sudan in 1993, he was encouraged to meet some of the Dinka people. These proud people included many noted for their Christian faith. It was hoped the visit would show support as they faced massacres in the civil war and suffered the effects of climate change. But the Dinkas are a migrant people, and it was by no means certain that they would be found.

The visitors drove out into the scrubland to a likely place and waited to see if the Dinkas would come. They were about to give up when at last there was movement on the horizon. It was clear that the people and their herds were much depleted. They were moving slowly, looking weak and frail; the visitors were filled with sorrow and foreboding. As the Dinkas came closer, the visitors were amazed to hear them singing, and their songs were Christian songs of praise. At last they met, and together shared in the gladness of worship, with the archbishop and his party feeling they were the ones who had drawn strength and blessing from the meeting.