Welcome to the month of June. Last year, June was celebrated as ‘Generous June’ and I am going to extend my artistic licence to repeat that celebration today. Generous June is an initiative that seeks to engage churches, communities and individuals with generosity throughout the month.
The aim of ‘Generous June’ is to join across our many varied cultures, traditions and contexts, to share in developing our understanding of God’s generosity, and how it can influence all aspects of our day to day lives. But before we consider this suggestion, let’s invite ourselves to reflect on the pandemic whose government restrictions relax on 21st June.
Covid-19 has been painful for us. Family and friends’ bereavement, loss of income, illness and its long-term effects, delayed NHS operations, the sacrifices of our key workers (known and unknown), impact on our local and national public services, isolation, mental health challenges, family tensions and so I could go on.
The 31st chapter of Psalm bible reading cites the following words: “Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow, my soul and body with grief. My life is consumed by anguish and my years by groaning; my strength fails because of my affliction, and my bones grow weak.”
These words were spoken by David of the helplessness and hopelessness felt when rejected. Yet shared adversity is sometimes easier to accept when we are supported amongst community and recognise our true relationship with the sovereign God. Although some of us may feel that Covid-19 has got the better of us, we can rise up stronger with greater courage because God will preserve us starting with restoring optimism and building good mental health. As Christians, we are not idle bystanders against the face of grief amongst our village residents. We are in a time of lament (words of complaint, sorrow, anger and frustration and often enough, bitterness).
We embrace lament as a response to the pandemic. For admitting that we don’t have the easy answers to difficult circumstances. For refusing to use the crisis as a loudspeaker for what we’d been wanting to say in any case. For weeping at the tomb of friends, family and relatives known. For the inarticulate groaning of our spirit.
The Apostle Paul said, ‘Rejoice with those who rejoice’, and ‘weep with those who weep’. Yes, and the world is weeping now. Our initial calling as a Church, first and foremost, is to take our place humbly among the mourners in the Parish. Grief, after all, is part of love, and we are here to share virtual hugs with all who have experienced the negative effects of the pandemic.
Despite the adversity, we keep on keeping on. We keep going. It is time to reflect on and share generosity. Generosity is not only for the month of June but a new beginning coming out of the pandemic. We first tell ourselves to be strong and then we share that with others. Strong like Jesus who wept at the tomb yet possessing enough strength to walk alongside others in generosity.
The eighth chapter of the 1 Corinthians bible reading exemplifies the Christian response out of difficult circumstances: “Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God in his kindness has done through the churches (in Macedonia). They are being tested by many troubles, and they are very poor. But they are also filled with abundant joy, which has overflowed in rich generosity. For I can testify that they gave not only what they could afford, but far more. And they did it of their own free will.”
The generosity of God amongst the pain and struggles in our community, and beyond the giving and sharing, is summed up by these lovely words of Erich Fromm: “Who will tell whether one happy moment of love, or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies?”
Let’s all be generous to each other. A smile goes a long way with or without giving. Let’s all be joyful and thankful as we experience the wonders of the beautiful countryside. Let’s be joyful that we have turned the corner of the pandemic with the expected full relaxation of government restrictions later this month. Let’s be thankful for the gift of a new day.
Stay blessed with love.
Reverend Rickey Simpson-Gray
Parish of the Claydons