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  • Seasons of the Spirit: Reckless Generosity

    As we move into the season of Pentecost, we remember the story of those gathered long ago in Jerusalem, all of whom were given the “gift of the Spirit.” All had access to the reality of being created and loved by the Eternal One. Each carried the breath of the Holy Spirit within them. In the UCC, we believe that the power of the Spirit is revealed best in community, in the shared wisdom of those gathered in Jesus’ name.

    We remember well our friend, the Rev. Jena Roy, who, among her last acts before her passing into eternal life, reminded and demonstrated for us of the concept she lived: “reckless generosity.”  She seeded for us the idea of a renewed Ripley Chapel, alive for creativity, possibility and new ways of sharing the love of God for all. Jena did not want to control the outcome, as is often our tendency as human beings. Instead, she gave us an example of sowing the seeds and then allowing through communal visioning, honest giving and receiving, the way God’s hope would be revealed and become manifest for us as we move together with faith into the future.

    Jesus’ parable of the sower comes to mind. The sower is “recklessly generous” with her seeds, allowing them to fall upon all kinds of ground, as opposed to only choosing the “good soil” to sparingly invest in. As Bertrand Russell said, “One must care about a world one will not see.” To be committed to the future means to be willing to try new things. As Wayne Gretzsky quipped, “Skate to where the puck is going, not to where it has been.” In Macbeth, Shakespeare wrote, “If you can look into the seeds of time and say which grain will grow, and which will not, speak then to me.” It is challenging, since we cannot see where the growth will come. If we could, it would be a simple chore to squish the bad seed and nurture the good seed. But that is not the vision Jesus gives us in the sower’s parable. God is generous.

    The future will arrive without our prodding, without our over-planning. The best we can do is consider the lessons of the past and see if they apply to the present circumstances. We must ponder together the hopes and dreams God gives us. “The hand that sows the seeds of stars always starts the ancient music going again.”

    The new community formed by Easter’s good news is that God takes the broken fragments of our pasts and uses them to create a new world based on the Creator’s inclusive, loving embrace. God gives the Spirit to each of us. Our new community of discipleship is grounded in reciprocal care and mutual love. Released and broken are our judgmental ways, our self-justifications of earned goodness and deserved rewards. In Jesus, we see the call to mutual service in loving one another with utter disregard for human rank and status. We are not a mutual admiration society, but a place in which we give ourselves to one another in love, showing an interdependent offering of service. Giving and receiving is our joy. God’s unconditional love poured into us through the Holy Spirit grounds us so we can be recklessly generous. And they will know we are Christians by that generous, welcoming, and accepting love.

    —Rev. Dr. Ken Orth, Pastoral Counseling and Spiritual Direction Affiliate, First Congregational Church of Winchester (UCC) and Healing Worship Minister, Old South Church in Boston (UCC)