Generosity on the Way

Published: Monday, 01 August 2016

This sermon, given by Geoff Pound at ABC on 31 July 2016, included interviews with Rachel Heard and Nick Olver, and another report on Building Bridges, as expressions of the generosity of which the Scripture speaks. The service also featured a report, a thanksgiving and a blessing of the Winter Hampers that are being assembled and distributed this week to Camcare who will give them on our behalf to people in our community who are in need. It is the fourth in a series entitled, ‘People of the Way’. Check out the introduction to this series and Study 4 for personal and group study that accompanies this sermon.

Reading: Luke 12:13-21 Generosity GP 0716

12:13 Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the family inheritance with me."

12:14 But he said to him, "Friend, who set me to be a judge or arbitrator over you?"

12:15 And he said to them, "Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life does not consist in the abundance of possessions."

12:16 Then he told them a parable: "The land of a rich man produced abundantly.

12:17 And he thought to himself, 'What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?'

12:18 Then he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods.

12:19 And I will say to my soul, 'Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.'

12:20 But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?'

12:21 So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God."

Today’s Scripture is about poverty and plenty, greed and generosity.

A man asks Jesus to fix his family dispute and urge his brother to give him a bigger slice of the inheritance.

You see, the first-born in Jewish law had advantages. The eldest retained control of the family property and most of the liquid assets (See Deuteronomy 21:27). It looks like this younger brother expected more.

Let’s be inspired by the way Jesus never agreed to do everything he was asked.

He refused to get sucked in to this family dispute. He knew his role.

He was not a judge or dispute counselor.

He was a teacher so he turned this request into a life lesson:

"Take care! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; for one's life doesn’t consist in the abundance of possessions." (12:15)

This teacher wants to make his lesson visible, unmistakable and memorable so he tells a story.

A rich farmer had a bumper crop. Because his storage was bursting, he decided to pull down his barns and build bigger ones.

See his business plan?

Bigger barns + ample goods X many years = relaxation, eating, drinking and making merry.

See what’s wrong with his equation? He multiplied the barns and the grain by ‘many years’ but God said ‘You’ve only got a few minutes’.

'You fool! This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?' (v20).

The punchline is that our lives have a deadline.

One’s life doesn’t consist in the abundance of our possessions but in the abundance of our generosity.

So instead of storing up treasures for ourselves, Jesus says, we will do the greatest good and we’ll get the greatest joy out of being rich towards God and rich towards those in need.

Jesus talked about ‘all kinds of greed’.

I want us to hear about ‘all kinds of generosity’.

This morning we’ve already thought of the generosity of sharing hampers with those in need but I want you to hear three other short stories.

CARASA Foundation

Firstly, let me introduce Rachel Heard, one of our young people, who is doing something about sharing resources with people at desperation point.

Interview with Rachel Heard[1]

1. You are a student. Where are you studying and what course are you undertaking?

I’m studying a double degree of biomed and science, at Monash.

 

2. You have a charity and you’ve had it going for several years. Tell us about the starting point?

The idea for CARASA originated when I was in year 6 at Carey Baptist Grammar School. I was twelve years old when our class was taken to one of the portables, and everyone was given a sheet of paper with debts on it. We weren’t told that it was a simulation, so we didn’t really know what was going on. We spent over an hour sitting on the ground in the portable, making matchboxes, with a lady yelling at us if they weren’t made properly, or if we were too slow. Afterwards, she explained to us that this was what children in places like India experienced every day, except for much longer hours and in worse conditions. The experience had a huge effect on me, and I decided that I wanted to do something about it.

 

3. What does CARASA mean and what does CARASA do?

CARASA is an acronym, that stands for Care for All, Reach All, Serve All. [2]

It is the aim of CARASA to free children and women from slavery, starting initially in India. At the moment, CARASA is working in conjunction with an organisation called Freeset, a New Zealand based group that has already established itself in India. Freeset runs freedom businesses, and has a business in Kolkata that rescues women from the sex trade and gives them a job.[3]

 

4. You’ve had the chance to visit India to get firsthand experience. Where did you go and what impact did this have on you?

In India, we visited Freeset’s factory in Kolkata. When Freeset started, there were 30 rescued women working there. When we visited, there were over 300. We were given a tour of the factory, and were able to see what the women do. While we were there, I was given the opportunity to visit Sonagacchi, one of India’s Red Light districts. The district covers a huge area, about the size of a suburb, and there are women and girls lining the streets for the whole length of it.

While we were in India, we also made a trip up to the district of Murshidabad. 38% of the women who were rescued by Freeset originally came from Murshidabad, so that is where Freeset decided to establish their preventative work. We met six young women who had been given an opportunity to have a job, and Freeset taught them to weave scarves. When we were there, they had only been in training for 6 weeks, and we were actually their first customers. It was incredible to see the difference between these girls, who had never experienced slavery, and the women at Freeset Kolkata. These girls had a sense of innocence about them, and the pride when we got excited about the scarves they had created was obvious.

The trip to India had a huge impact on me. It was heartbreaking to see the conditions that so many women and children are in, and the cycle of slavery and disrespect. But it was also incredible to meet the young women up at Murshidabad, and to see so clearly the kind of difference we can make in people’s lives.

5. How much money has CARASA raised?

So far, we’ve raised over $25,000.

 

6. What is the cost of freeing a child/ a woman?

The debts that are keeping these women and children in slavery, and sometimes across generations, can be as little as $30.

 

7. What is a manageable project that people can contribute to?

One of our initiatives is the 5 cent piece bag.[4] On one side are the words ‘small change makes big changes’. When these bags are full of 5 cent pieces, they contain about $30, which is enough to free someone from slavery.[5]

What a terrific initiative.

Many thanks Rachel for sharing this story of generosity.

Do talk with Rachel after the service about how we can join her in this superb project.

We passed around a five cent piece bag around the congregation today to relieve people of their annoying loose change. It worked. It brought us great joy to think we were alleviating someone’s debt!

Ashwood High School Chaplaincy

Now we come closer to home, to Ashwood High School, as we hear from the chaplain, Nick Olver.[6]

There’s so much new at Ashwood:

This year they got a new name—it’s no longer Ashwood College but Ashwood High School.

You’ve probably seen their new uniforms.

Earlier this year they turned the sod for the new $5 million building upgrade.

They have a great new principal, Brett Moore.

They have a new Wellbeing Coordinator and

A new chaplain, Nick Olver, who is dreaming up some new programs.

1. Where were you born?

Geelong.

2. Which footy team do you barrack for?

Carlton.

3. Where else have you served as chaplain?

Most recently I worked at a school in Swan Hill.

4. You work with students. Doing any studies yourself?

I am doing a degree in social work.

5. Is Ashwood High School chaplaincy your only job?

I also work as chaplain at the Upwey Secondary College and as part of my work at Ashwood I am the Camps Coordinator, which brings me more closely in touch with students.

6. What do you do to relax on the weekend?

I like doing gardening and walking the beach.

7. How do you see your role as a chaplain among students and staff?

I work as part of the Wellbeing team. My work with students is mainly on a one to one basis which I enjoy. Sometimes students are referred and at other times they knock on my door. Staff members have issues they want to chat about as well.

8. On Good Friday at our combined service with Ashburton Uniting, we gave our offering to the Ashwood High School chaplaincy. We also have people from ABC involved in running a Breakfast Club each Friday morning at the School. Any other ways we can support you?

I am glad of the opportunity to come and personally thank you for your financial gifts and for the consistent attendance of those at the Brekky Club. I get to hang out with the students at occasions like this and it’s a great thing to have a group from ABC (and other churches) who can organise it all. It is heartening to know that as a chaplain I am not alone but that there are churches like you at Ashburton who support me, take an interest in my chaplaincy and who join with me in projects like the Breakfast Club. It would be good to have more people involved, Friday by Friday.

9. Any new ministries emerging through the Ashwood College chaplaincy?

I am a great believer in mentoring, having been mentored myself. We are in the process of exploring and developing a mentoring programme for students at the Ashwood High School. Once this is underway there will be ample opportunities for people here at ABC to be involved.

A big thank you to those of you who give generously of your time each Friday morning at the Brekky Club.

Do talk to Nick about the mentoring program and opportunities to be involved with your time and encouragement to promote the wellbeing of many students.

Thanks Nick for coming and sharing with us this morning.

Building Bridges

Now even closer to home I want to give a brief update on a very significant program borne out of Ashburton Baptist and the WellSpring spirituality centre.

I speak of the program called ‘Building Bridges’.[7] Our own Gabi Mogg is a graduate of Building Bridges and she can tell you more from the viewpoint of being a participant.

Tim McCowan is the founder and director of the program. He is unable to be here today because of commitments at St Kilda Church. He’s not the sort of guy to blow his own trumpet so let me blow it for him and encourage the many who lead this program and some of you who contribute generously with finance to make it happen.

Since 2003 the Building Bridges program has run with students in years ten and eleven and their teachers from different secondary schools.

They meet over six sessions a year to dialogue, question and explore each other’s lives and faiths.

Each program seeks to bring together students from Jewish, Muslim and Christian schools.

When I have been to the Building Bridges graduation at the end of each year, you can see among the students the friendships of trust and respect that have developed. I heard a Muslim guy saying, that participating in Building Bridges was the first time he’d ever spoken to a Jewish person, and he said that he discovered that they have got so much in common.

This WellSpring program was judged so significant that in 2014 the Rev. Dr. Tim McCowan was awarded a medal of the Order of Australia. With so much mistrust and fear toward people of other cultures and faiths, Building Bridges is so relevant and timely.

Building Bridges is happening in 20 schools here in Melbourne, in 3 different regions.

In the Eastern Region it involves schools like Minoret, Mt Scopus, Carey Donvale and Caulfield Grammar, Wheelers Hill.

In the Central Region it includes Xavier, East Preston Islamic, Bialik, Strathcona and Melbourne Grammar. Wouldn't it be wonderful Nick Olver, if Ashwood became part of this program in the coming years?

In the Southern Region it includes King David, Mt Hira, Kalista Catholic and more.

What is absolutely thrilling is that Building Bridges has just gone interstate. In Perth the ground had been prepared and on Friday of last week close to 100 students from Islamic, Jewish and Baptist schools met with their teachers for the launch of Building Bridges in Western Australia.

Tim McCowan was there to facilitate the first session, and he said:

“I’ve never had such a response before. The four schools in Perth are saying that they see this as being so important that they’re scheduling it in class hours rather than after school.”

“The students were so ready and quick to engage. Normally the breaking of ice happens more at the 2nd and 3rd session but this happened in the first session. There was goodwill, desire and a keenness to listen and learn.”

Against such a backdrop of fear in our country and internationally we can see the significance of such a program. Instead of throwing grenades of condemnation at people who are different the Building Bridges program teaches students to be constructive.

In 13 years more than 3,000 students have been a part of this program. Maybe in 13 years time a person who is elected Prime Minister of Australia could be a graduate of Building Bridges, and be a leader who knows how to listen, how to cooperate and not pedal fear but promote respect.

Kudos to Tim McCowan, to WellSpring and to the many of you who have supported WellSpring and Building Bridges over the years.

Finally

We’ve been thinking this morning of Jesus’ call to be generous people and his estimation that life consists not in accumulating but in sharing.

Today we’ve looked at a few creative examples of how generosity can flow. We’ve been challenged to be a part of the movements of generosity that inspire us.

A hamper of groceries blessed with love and care can bring so much joy.

A 5 cent piece bag, when full, might help to free a woman or child from slavery.

An hour on Friday morning serving brekky at Ashwood High might just show some student a different way to live.

Supporting the Building Bridges with our interest, gifts and prayers will build respect and connections across the divides of culture and faith.

Just a few of the ways we can express our generosity toward God and those in need and grow truly rich.

Soon after the comedian and author, Anh Do and his family arrived as refugees from Vietnam they discovered how great this country of Australia really is.

In his book, The Happiest Refugee, Anh Do writes:

“What a great country!

Almost every day we discovered something else that made mum and dad shake their heads at how lucky we'd been.

If you got sick, you could go to the doctor for free.

If you couldn't get a job straightaway, the government gave you some money to help you get by.

But their parents said: "You listen to us, kids."

"As you grow up, you make sure you do as much as you can to give back to this country that gave us a second chance."[8]

Prayer

Generous God, we thank you for blessing us with life and country, with family and friendships, with work and service that give meaning and purpose.

We thank you for today’s reminder about riches and wealth—that life is about sharing rather than stockpiling,

giving rather than grasping.

So help us, not only to be inspired but to get involved,

to trust that the little we do in your hands may be blessed and multiplied and bring joy to others and ongoing fulfillment to ourselves.

Through Christ, who has given us all,

Amen.

Benediction

You are God’s servants gifted with dreams and visions.

Upon you rests the grace of God like flames of fire.

So love and serve the Lord in the strength of the Spirit.

May the deep peace of Christ be with you,

the strong arms of God sustain you,

and the power of the Holy Spirit

strengthen you in every way, in everything you do, every day.

Amen.[9]

 


[1] Photo of Rachel and links to the CARASA web site and Facebook Page can be found at this link.

[2] Check out the CARASA web site and CARASA Foundation Facebook Page.

[3] Check out the web site for Freeset: In Business for Freedom.

[4] Take a look at the Five Cent Piece Bags and see where you can get yours.

[5] More on the Five Cent Piece Bags.

[6] Here is a photo of Nick Olver.

[7] An introduction to Building Bridges on the WellSpring website. Link to the Building Bridges website.

[8] Anh Do, The Happiest Refugee, Allen & Unwin New South Wales, 2010, page 31.

[9] Diane Karray Tripp, A modern Benediction used at Cityside and Ilam Baptist Churches in New Zealand, cited in Theology of Work Project