Living Generously

One thing about living in community, that we have been learning here at Scargill, is to live generously. And what I mean by living generously is being willing to forgive, to go the extra mile, and have a desire to serve. A godly hospitality will be generous and open-hearted.

The life of Jesus was always abundant and extravagant, a generosity that never stopped at what was strictly necessary. For instance, a meal time with Jesus was wonderfully over-the-top such as the wedding at Cana with the miracle of turning water into wine, these six stone jars full of water would have been equivalent to 900 bottles transformed into the best red wine ever. How mischievous and wonderfully outrageous is that! Jesus picnics with 5,000 and there are 12 baskets left over. The resurrected Jesus, who not only cooked breakfast on the beach for his friends, preceded this by a miraculous catch of fish that was so big that they were unable to haul in the nets. Just 3 examples!

In Luke 15, we read the parable of the ‘Lost Son’ which could be better described as the parable of the ‘generous Father’, who is extravagant and lavishes his love upon the homecoming of his son. Jesus shows us an aspect of the Kingdom of God, which is one big heart of generosity – nothing stingy here!

And it is this that we are caught up in at Scargill, that in all our fragility and weakness, and at times getting it wrong, our desire is to reflect this generous heart of God to those who come through our doors. So what does generosity look like at Scargill? Chocolate on the pillow, beautiful flowers round the House, well kept grounds and gardens, a variety of cake on arrival, willingness to have a conversation as to how we can make a guest’s visit the best it can be, care taken over special diets, food made with love, willingness to carry suitcases on arrival and departure and an invitation to our guests to make our home theirs while they are with us.

Walter Brueggemann, in his inspiring book ‘Journey to the common good’, writes that the Church has been given a different narrative to that of the culture and society around us, which often speaks of scarcity. He says, “ that journey from anxious scarcity through miraculous abundance to a neighbourly common good has been peculiarly entrusted to the church.”

Living as Kingdom people, people of faith, creates a mindset of generosity. Let us remember what Jesus said, “freely you have received, freely give.” Matthew 10:8

And, of course, being generous is not about what we can get back, as Piero Ferrucci says, “Generosity is, by definition, disinterested.” Think about it.

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Life is too short for bad coffee…

What has your experience been of coffee (and refreshments in general) after a church service?

I am glad to say that church communities are waking up to the truth that good coffee is not just peripheral to their life together, a sort of tagged on extra, but says something important about valuing people.

I wonder if it is too bold to say that good coffee is as important as an inspiring and thought-provoking sermon. The smell of percolating coffee is inviting and the aroma is as enjoyable as the drinking.

As I said, decent coffee at the beginning or end of the service, is saying an important truth about how we value people. When you go to places and you are offered a weak, instant coffee in a plastic cup, which is almost impossible to hold, with rich tea biscuits (and then with a little bowl asking for a donation) – what are we saying?

When we moved to Scargill to begin this adventure one of the first things I decided is that we were going to have decent coffee. This was not just for my own benefit, but was hopefully saying something important to our guests: they matter. Being generous with the quality of our refreshments reflects God’s generosity to us. God is not stingy! He wishes the best for his people and of course good refreshments also show our heart of hospitality.

Jesus shows us what our gracious God is like. In fact, Jesus could only do what he saw his Father doing (John 5 v17) and we see a God who gives abundantly in turning water into wine (900 bottles of the stuff, and the best). We see how Jesus treats people with respect. Jesus treats as first class citizens those who are particularly broken or forgotten by society, and we as his followers, who share his generosity and love of people, are called to do the same. And so, even the coffee matters!

This, of course, can be Fair Trade or Rain Forest Alliance certified which will make the experience of coffee drinking even better.

Nine Hundred Bottles

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This week Scargill’s Director Phil Stone is thinking about the generous love of God.

Those of you who follow the Anglican lectionary will know that today’s gospel reading was The Wedding at Cana. I love this story. It must have been wonderful to taste the wine that Jesus made. Think of the best red wine you have ever drunk and imagine something even better than that! This miracle of water into wine speaks of the God who wants to transform, and the God who does so generously. At Scargill we are all about ‘Lives shared – lives transformed’ with Jesus right at the heart, it is central to our walk with God this acknowledgement that our lives need to be changed. This is a life-long process.

This miracle is about generosity. Those 6 stone jars that are mentioned, we are told, hold 20 to 30 gallons of water. That is a lot of water to be turned into wine. In fact I worked it out that it was approximately 900 bottles – how crazy and how intoxicating! One could sensibly argue that Jesus was being very irresponsible and way over the top. And yet we read that this miracle was the arch sign that revealed his glory. What is thrilling and exciting is that it is this generous love that we get caught up in and are called to give away. A generous God prompts and calls us to be a generous people, generous with our love, forgiveness and our lives. So what might this look like? Well – it might be giving someone some quality time, sharing a meal, an act of kindness or a phone call to a forgotten friend. It could be treating your work colleagues (those you like and those you don’t) to a bag of jam doughnuts and some quality coffee (that would make my day!).

As the wine is poured out at that wedding, enriching the lives of the people, so we too are poured out to be a generous offering to the communities where we live to be a sign of God’s Kingdom.

And talking of glory, just last week we had some glory at Scargill. As the sun was setting I managed to take this picture of the chapel reflecting the sun off its windows – I love this photo, it reminded me as I have been writing this how we are called to reflect God’s generous love to all those around us. I reckon this could be very transforming…

For more details of events and holidays taking place at Scargill check out the programme here which now goes up to December 2013.