Have you got give?

 

What ‘give’ do you have in your life?

 

You’re probably wondering what I mean by that question. 

Let me answer by telling you a story.

 

Earlier this week, I took the French student staying with us on a day trip to New Haven.

        We had a great day touring the university, investigating the Peabody museum, and eating pizza.

                When it was time to come home, we all piled in my 1999 Toyota Sienna

                and I turned the key, only to hear – nothing.

        The engine wouldn’t even turn over.

We were stuck in the parking garage with dead battery.

 

It fell to me to find someone to jump our car.

        The first person I saw was a woman, walking to her car.

                I asked her if she had 5 minutes to help me jump my car—I had the cables.

                        She apologetically said that she was late for picking up her kids, and couldn’t do it.

                Another woman was on her phone, and would not stop her conversation to talk. 

        Finally I found a man who had just come to his car, and he agreed to help out.

It’s no trouble, he said, I have the time.

 

That’s what I mean by ‘give’ in life. 

        The guy had ‘give’ ; the women didn’t.

                I could judge the two women, but I understood—often my life has no give at all, either.

        It seems so many of us are cramming things in: activities, responsibilities, financial commitments.

It leaves you feeling like there is no flexibility, little room for patience, no time or energy to waste.

If you don’t have ‘give’ in your life, then you find it hard, if not impossible, to be generous.

 

But there are some people who live differently.

        They are the people who can always fit one more at the kitchen table

                They are the folks who help their elderly neighbor pull up the trash can.

        They are the people who arrange their schedule to volunteer in schools and deliver meals on wheels.

They are the people who serve on town committees and support clubs.

 

What is the difference between those who have ‘give,’ and those who don’t?

         I think of Mary Poppins’ carpet bag, and how she pulled out a lamp, potted plant, and a coat rack.

                Are some people like that, possessed of the unique ability to achieve balance in life,

        when the rest of us feel it is elusive?

 

 

 

Our gospel lesson, the theme of our stewardship campaign, gives us a clue.

        “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found, and hid [again];

        then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

                It is a story of simple calculation:

                        a man finds a treasure so much greater than what he has, he sells all his possessions,

                and buys the field in order to gain the treasure.

        That it makes sense— given what he gains, it’s worth it to give up what he has.

The man recognizes the value of the field, and makes changes in his life to accommodate what he values.

 

The key here is what I just said:

        the man makes changes in his life to accommodate his values.

        The ‘give’ in his life isn’t some kind of magic—he makes it happen—by his choices.

He chooses to sell his possessions, thereby creating the ‘give’ that he needs to buy the field.

 

When have you had a little ‘give’ in your life?

        You all have stories of giving—you are here today! 

                Being here is a sacrifice of time and an opportunity to serve,

        but there are many ways and places to be generous.

We’ll be passing the microphone in a minute to hear your stories.

 

But I want to prime the pump and tell you one of my stories of creating a little ‘give.’

        Back in my days in Manchester, there was a girl named Crystal.

                Crystal was smart, musical, and a hard worker.

                        Her family spent a lot of their time and resources on caring for her brother, who has autism.

                Crystal was a pretty good clarinet player, and my husband had been coaching her—

        training her for auditions at the Hartt school of music and for regionals.

 

Soon Jonathan started talking to Crystal about going to music camp over the summer.

        It would really improve her skills—but even more importantly, we knew she would love it.

       

Jonathan and I also knew that Crystal’s family was not likely to have $500 to send Crystal to camp.

        But we could do it.

                We were both working; we had no kids.

        Of course we could have spent that money on cable TV or on a couple of car payments

but this was the obvious choice for us.

 

I am sure my husband has his own reasons, but I am going to tell you why I did it.

        When I was seventeen, I got to go to music camp.

                It was at Oberlin College.

        I played in the wind ensemble and orchestra with high schoolers from around the country.

I liked it so much that I chose that school for college, and even chose as a roommate a girl I’d met at that camp.

We are still close friends to this day.

 

But the reason I wanted to send Crystal to camp has to do with something more.

        I remember near the end of camp playing a piece called, “Salvation is Created.”

                The conductor turned all our chairs to face one another in a circle.

                        He began conducting, but then he stepped outside the circle, and let us play together.

                It was transcendent – like I was suddenly part of something much bigger than myself,

                something far more beautiful than I could possibly convey.

        I knew at that moment that if I could do one thing in this world

it would be to communicate that experience of connection to God and the world around me,

to share that beauty.

 

You see now why I sent Crystal to camp, don’t you?

It never felt like a sacrifice—it simply felt right.

        It was a way of living out my deepest held values, a way to honor what I treasure.

                That’s how it is in the gospel lesson too--

        some might have thought it was a big sacrifice for the man to sell everything

        but that would have only been because all they were seeing was an old abandoned field.

They didn’t know about the treasure hidden inside.

 

Jesus story about the treasure in the field is a parable of the kingdom.

        The kingdom of heaven is like… Jesus says.

                The Kingdom is not just about what happens when you die;

                kingdom means living with Jesus now, in your decisions and in your actions.

        Having ‘give’ in your life is a way to live with Jesus, a way to live in God’s kingdom now

being generous, living according to your beliefs is a gift of freedom

Having ‘give’ in life is a treasure, so whatever you give up, it’s worth it.

 

So now it’s your turn:

        What ‘give’ do you have in your life?

                When have you been flexible in some way that allowed you to respond to others?

        Has there been a sacrifice you have made in your life, that didn’t feel like a sacrifice?

I invite you to share your stories now, as we celebrate today the treasure of generosity.

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