Richard Dawkins in ‘The Selfish Gene’ tells the story of the world as a story of selfishness. Christianity tells the story of the world as a story of generosity. Both stories are an interpretation of how things are, though at different levels, and so open to dispute and disagreement. They are in marked contrast!
Then Christian story with its foundation in the Bible, begins with Creation. Why is there something rather than nothing? God did not have to create anything but did so because it was intrinsic to his nature. The words ‘generosity’ and ‘overflowing’ are often used to convey the sense of outpouring love that marks the beginning of the Christian story.
It is easy then to see how Jesus is understood as part of this same movement flowing out from the heart of God. The Incarnation (as this is called) follows the same logic (if that is the right word) as Creation. Only this time the movement out in generous love is to restore, to heal, to forgive and to recreate.
Then the Christian story talks of the work of the Spirit, God’s ongoing outpouring of him/herself to empower us to fulfil who we are called to be. This part of the Christian story used to be called ‘sanctification’ but now is more usually thought of as learning to let go of our false self so that we can be brought home to our true self. The inner logic though is again one of overflowing or outpouring.
So the story of the world from this perspective is about generosity; and while of course at one level Richard Dawkins may well be right, at a deeper level the story of generosity is truer to how things are. ‘O generous love!’ Christians sing in the hymn ‘Praise to the Holiest in the height.’ I suggest that to be true to this, the Church, society, and all of us, have constantly to make deliberate acts of generosity.
This month we launch our Harvest Appeal 2015. Last year we raised an incredible £15,586 for the Olive Tree Campaign. After three years of supporting that vital work we are now turning to Africa and the work of SOS Sahel. There is a talk in the hall on Sunday 18th October, 11.30am-12.30pm to which everyone is invited. We will then be sharing lunch together.
I know that I am not a naturally generous person so I need the ancient spiritual disciplines of prayer and acts of generosity to help me journey away from my false self and towards my true self. A great teacher of prayer, Ignatius of Loyola, gave us these words to use if we are people who pray: ‘Lord, teach me to be generous……to give and not to count the cost….’ And the Harvest Appeal is an invitation for me to make a deliberate act of generosity.
This journey is worth making – because generosity lies at the heart of everything!