CLERGY CORNER: … freely you have received, freely give

Posted on 29 November 2018 by LeslieM

Many of our most fervent prayers include reminders of lessons our Lord teaches us. A number of years ago I read a prayer, used at the end of a worship service, to dismiss the congregation. The prayer included an important reminder – “freely you have received, freely give.” I have used this prayer of dismissal ever since. It seems particularly important at this time of year.

Our Lord created a world with seasonal cycles. The book of Ecclesiastes reminds us that “to every thing there is a season . . . a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.” Western Christianity observes the time of planting in the spring of each year. The observance is called Rogation Days and includes this prayer for a bountiful harvest: “Almighty God, we beseech thee to pour forth thy blessing upon this land, and to give us a fruitful season.” And then, as the seasons of the years progress, most religions and cultures have traditions of giving thanks, during the harvest season, for what our good earth has provided. Here in the United States, we give thanks, on Thanksgiving Day, often times with this prayer: “Almighty God, we give thee humble and hearty thanks for this thy bounty; beseeching thee to continue thy loving-kindness to us, that our land may still yield her increase.”

Our Lord’s promise to us is that we will freely receive what we truly need. However, there is a caveat to this promise which is spelled out in the book of Deuteronomy: “Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessings of the Lord thy God which he hath given thee.” What does this mean? It may be helpful to think of this giving and receiving as our bank account with God. He will always provide us with the basics — his unconditional love and support — but if we look to receive anything beyond that, then what we can expect is dependent upon what we give back to God from what he has given us. If we give back nothing, if we put nothing in our bank account with him, then we cannot expect to receive anything beyond the basics. Our relationship with God is simple; all we need to do is listen and live according to his lessons.

Why is the freely giving part particularly important at this time of year? The answer is obvious. Most governments, institutions, and churches are making their plans and budgets for the coming year in support of the needs of our commonweal. Whether these needs may be met is dependent, to a great degree, on the willingness of God’s people, to generously give back a portion of the time, treasure and talent they have received from Him. Can our God count on each of us? I recently saw a survey which indicated that charitable giving increased in 2017 by 5 percent. This sounds encouraging, but the survey also indicated that current giving is about 2.5 percent of income, whereas it was 3.3 percent during the Great Depression. Not a hopeful trend!

If we are to model our lives based on the teachings of our Lord, and if we are to uphold the brave words in our Declaration of Independence to further “preserve and protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” then the challenge to be met by God’s people is clear. When we gather at our Thanksgiving tables this year, we must thank God for the blessings we have “freely received” from him, and then commit to “freely give” back to him a generous portion of those blessings so that in this world, his will be done. Holy Scripture teaches us that “the harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few.” The harvest is God’s will and we are the laborers that will bring it to fruition. May our God bless us all during this Thanksgiving season.

Rev. M. Tracy Smith, SSA, Rector is from the Saint Peter’s Anglican Church, 1416 SE 2 Terr., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-695-0336. Wednesday: Holy Communion at 10 a.m., Sunday: Holy Communion at 10 a.m.

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