When we are generous, it reminds us of who we are and who we were created to be: creatures who are made in God's image, and God is a generous God. (Time: 4:15.)
This is Bishop Carlye Hughes from the Episcopal Diocese of Newark, and I want to talk with you today about generosity. If you are an Episcopalian it is not unusual to hear people talk about generosity in the months of October and November, because we are knee-deep in pledge campaigns in parishes across the diocese – well across the entire United States – this is the time of year that Episcopalians think about what people are going to give, the commitments they make and then vestries turn around and make decisions with the help of treasurers about just what ministries the church will be able to be committed to based on what their membership has made a decision about giving to the church.
I want to talk with you about that generosity but in a completely different way. In part it's what I've heard from other people – some from you some from churches I've served years ago – about what they think in terms of being generous and what had the impact they have felt in their lives. And the one that resonates with me to this very day is a 14-year-old boy who was volunteering, serving food at a soup kitchen, and I remember him coming up to me afterwards saying, "I really enjoyed doing this but I don't quite understand why I feel so warm inside every time I do it." And I'll tell you when he said that to me I couldn't help but chuckle with a sense of glee and hopefulness about the future. He so loved feeling warm inside that he wanted to continue volunteering. He couldn't quite name what that is and I want to name it for him and name it for all of us: it is remembering who we are, that we are creatures who are made in God's image and God is a generous God. And when we are generous – whether it's with our time or with our finances or with the skills and intelligence and education that we have – when we are generous with God and with God's people, we will indeed feel warm inside and in some way connect it to God in a way that reminds us of who we are and who we were created to be.
I had another person say to me that one of the things they loved about giving to their church was the sense of joy it gave them every single Sunday when they saw children headed off to Sunday school, when they knew that the young adults were going to meet with someone who would help them deepen their faith, when they saw the choir get up and they could enjoy the singing much more because of what the choir was doing – that all of those things gave them an incredible sense of peace, an incredible sense of gratitude, an incredible sense of joy. For that person too, this sense of being generous connected them to who we are meant to be as people who are created in God's image.
The easiest thing at this time of year is to focus so much on pledging that we think it's all about pledging and all about the budget and not anything else. There is something true about that – it's important to know what our finances are so we can make plans for the coming year. But the most important thing is to remember that we are created by a loving and generous God, and that when we decide to be generous with our church, and when we decide to be generous with God's people, that we are then connected to that loving and generous God, and we are like God when we do those things. So as you give – whether it's to your church in time, whether it's to your church in finances, whether it's to your church in the energy with which you bring – when you make that decision to give, I hope you feel warm inside too.