This post focuses on the current sermon series at Byerland Church, “Loving Generously” which is the second part of the “Re-imagine Generosity” theme.
“In our first series, “Living Generously”, the family of Frank Donovan learned to surrender not only their tithe but all they possessed, including their time and talents, as a gift to God. In Matthew 5:24, Jesus describes a person who is preparing to lay his offering on the altar, but remembers that his “brother” has something against him. “Leave your gift there before the altar and go,” Jesus says. “First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (all citations ESV). Loving God and loving one another are inseparable. When we offer our lives to God, He directs us to give them to one another. In other words: if we wish to live generously, then we must love generously.
A funny thing happens, however, when you learn to practice not only transactional generosity with the things you possess but also relational generosity toward the people God has placed in your life. You begin to see that you too, in your own way, are poor and needy. Serving the least of these is humbling. It shifts our perspectives on what is truly necessary and who is truly great in the kingdom of God. In serving the “poor,” we become “poor in spirit” and marvel at God’s grace and redemption.” Jack Alexander, Chairman, The Reimagine Group www.thereimaginegroup.com
Each week there will be a set of questions to stimulate your thinking on the message theme for that week. You can return to this blog post each week for the new set of questions. We invite you to grow with us as you use this weekly resource.
Week 5: October 24 – 30
Loving Generously: “The Golden Rule 12A”
Frank hangs the “1-2-A” on the guest house door as the final preparations are being made for the wedding. The news that Victoria is calling a meeting of the homeowner’s association grieves Frank and Cassie as they feel the loss of their longtime friends. Even their daughter experiences the cost of caring for Julia. What they don’t know is that Julia and Thomas attend Victoria’s meeting. They apologize for the trouble they have caused. They also testify to the Donovan’s generosity and ask them to be merciful. Following Frank and Cassie’s example, they invite the neighbors into their lives and to their wedding. Later, Julia gives Cassie a “1-2-A” bracelet and asks Frank to give her away. At the wedding, Victoria shows up threatening to call the police, but when the other neighbors choose to come to the wedding, she leaves.
Later, Re tells us that Jesus says that a seed that dies bears much fruit. In the same way, true community forms around people who die to themselves. Frank and Cassie invite the poor to the banquet, and then the poor invite the rich to their wedding. Their example illustrates that all are welcome to God’s table. The questions we are left with are, “What can you do right now to show love ‘one to another’? How can you welcome those the world spurns? How can you die to yourself to love generously?”
Click below to listen to Week 5 sermon:
Week 5 questions and challenges:
•The value of a life is always measured by how much of it was given away.
•For in Him we live and move and have our being ~Acts 17:28
•Both Julia and Thomas and the Donovan Family invited people who were different than them into their lives. Who can you invite into your life that may not look like you?
•How would it make you feel to be a part of a community where everyone really was equal, no matter your past, your resources, your education, or your appearance?
•What is the Golden Rule and how does it sum up Matthew 7:12?
•How has someone else’s generous love transformed you?
•Respond to Re’s words: “Love the unloved, the unloving, even the unlovable—-for love awakens love and calls forth community of mutual care and service.”
Loving Generously: “Sharing Christ’s Suffering, and the Suffering of Others”
Video recap: The more the Donovan family invites the poor and the needy into their lives and into their community, the more pressure they receive to revert to their old ways. In Called, Frank and Cassie are forced to make a decision: will they cast their lot with a true community that’s rising up out of the pursuit of God together, a community that invites everyone to the table, or will they cast their lot with their old clique that wants to reserve the table for people like themselves? Frank and Cassie make their decision. In Called we begin to speak of “12A” or “one to another,” which provides a shorthand for a community of mutual giving and care, a community of relational generosity. “One to another” is just another way of referring to a table where everyone is welcome and all are equals in the eyes of God.
To listen to Week 4 sermon, click below:
Week 4 questions and challenges:
•Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. ~Romans 12:10
•Jesus suffered persecution for loving the lowly and rejected. What does it mean if you never face persecution?
•Compassion at its root means “to suffer with.” Jesus suffered with us when He became a man. Who are you suffering with?
•Do you know your neighbors? It’s easy to live next to people and never really know them. How can you love your neighbors this week?
•What issues are across the railroad tracks? What social issues does your city need help addressing? What can you do?
•What is a faith that costs you nothing really worth?
•What does “1-2-A” mean to you?
Week 3: October 9 – 15
Loving Generously: “Tearing Down Walls”
Video recap: The film Kind only touches very lightly on social inequalities, but there’s no question that those with resources are better able to defend their interests when trouble comes. For many of us, if we find ourselves in trouble, there are dozens of people we might call who would come. By contrast, for those who are poor, it isn’t just “about the money,” it’s about the absence of a support network. There are unspoken “walls” that separate human beings from one another, partitions of race, class, and culture. The people with resources and privileges live on one side of the wall, where there is one set of rules; but there is an entirely different set of rules for the people who live on the other side of the wall, with nothing. One possible takeaway from this week’s film is precisely this: what can you do today for people who live on the other side of “the wall”? Why do we show generosity toward some people (tipping the valet, for instance) but not toward others (tipping the janitor)? How can you be a “get out of jail free card” or a safety net for someone who has fallen on hard times?
To listen to Week 3 sermon, click below:
Week 3 questions and challenges:
•Today, open your eyes and look for an invisible person, someone you would normally walk past. Do something unexpected to bless them.
•It’s easy to look away when you see people who make you feel uncomfortable. Today, commit to looking everyone in the eyes and smiling at them. •What does “poor” mean to you? How are you poor?
•What can you do to serve someone who is poor—either financially, spiritually, or emotionally?
•What social issue upsets you? Spend 5-10 minutes praying for God to move in that issue.
•Chuck described being poor as being on one side of a wall when all of the resources you need are on the other side—-how would that make you feel? •How has God blessed you with a “Get Out of Jail Free Card”?
Week 2: October 2 – 8
Loving Generously: “For Sale, From Possessions to Blessings”
Video recap: In For Sale, Cassie invites Julia to her home and finds, viewed through the lens of a person who possessed much less, that many of her belongings were far beyond what her basic needs are. Now this is not reason to feel guilty or beat ourselves up for the financial blessings God has given us; rather, an opportunity to be celebrated. It means that we have much to give. As Re notes in the vignette for this week, the kingdom of God is filled with paradoxes. In dying, we live. In losing, we give. In giving, we gain. When we make a sober assessment of our possessions, most of us will find all kinds of clutter that we can clear out of our lives. And then an extraordinary thing happens: in clearing out the clutter, we create a greater capacity to give. And in the act of giving something up for God, what was secular becomes sacred. An old watchwinder, an hour of our time, a bag of old clothes delivered to the homeless shelter – all ordinary things that open up extraordinary opportunities for loving generously.
Click below to listen to Week 2 sermon:
Week 2 questions and thoughts:
•The gospel changes not only our hearts, but all of our relationships—with our work, our families, and others. How has the gospel changed your life? •Frank and Cassie discovered their stuff had come to own them. They responded by having a yard sale. Pray for God to show you ways you can simplify—then come up with a plan of action!
•”Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” St. Francis of Assisi
•Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people. ~Galatians 6:10
•Choose 5 things to give away this week.
•Jesus tells the young man to sell all of his possessions. How would you respond to that command? What does the answer to the question reveal about your heart?
•How do Re’s words, “Everything in your life is either a tool or an idol,” make you feel?
Week 1 Sermon followup:
To think about: Last week we closed our time together by taking 60 seconds to ask God to give us a plan; something that he would invite us to step into. What happened in your week that felt like something God invited you into? Did you respond by obedience or did you shrink back and say some other time? Recall how the Donovan family responded to Julia who had lost her apartment. They offered her their guest house. Reflect on your week, what did God invite you into so that you would be given the opportunity to share your life and love with another person?
Week 1: September 25 – October 1
Loving Generously: “When You Have A Party, Invite…”
Video recap: In Banquet, Frank Donovan tears up the name card that had reserved a seat for a VIP, in order to illustrate that worldly prominence means nothing at the feast table of God, where all are welcome and where the last will be first.
Week 1 sermon, click link:
Week 1 questions and thoughts:
•“This is what I’m sure of, I can only show love, when I really know how loved I am.” ~ Steven Curtis Chapman. See his video for “Love Take Me Over” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8DiZhNVu1I
•For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. ~1 Corinthians 1:18
•Generous love requires a love that comes to man only after a life transforming encounter with the Eternal Good Shepherd.
•List here opportunities to serve in your community:
•Pray for our missionaries—-list names, places, and specific missionaries
•The disciples asked Jesus, “Who, then, is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”
•Who can you invite to dinner this week?