There once was a very old man with multiple heart problems. Towards the very end of his life he had a particularly massive heart attack and was essentially detained in hospital indefinitely. His sons and daughters had largely lost contact with him and, even after this last heart attack, they visited infrequently. Somewhat reluctantly they ran little errands for him, including buying him his weekly Lotto ticket. Then, one day, the Lotto ticket turned up trumps. The old man had won a multi-million Lotto jackpot. The family were thrilled, and then they were chastened. Who was going to tell the old man? If they didn’t tell him right, the shock and surprise might give him an other heart attack and kill him. Then there would be not time to persuade him to change his will if, from their point of view, he hadn’t got it right. So they ummed and ahhed, and, in the end, decided they’d ask the local Anglican priest to do the job. For they had to know who he already had as beneficiaries in the will and the priest, they reasoned, was experienced at handling delicate and weighty pastoral matters with sick and dying people. ‘Please find out for us’, they said, ‘and make sure you do so in a way which doesn’t mean he has a heart attack and dies.’
So the priest went in to see the old man and talked with him for a little while, until he had just enough confidence and the right opportunity to make the urgent enquiry. ‘I know you still like buying your weekly Lotto ticket’,, said the priest. ‘What would you do?’, he asked tentatively, ‘if you were actually to win a huge jackpot? To which of your family would you leave your money?’ ‘Oh’, said the old man without a second’s thought, ‘that’s easy. My family are a bunch of wastrels and hangers-on. In that circumstance, I‘d give all the money to your Church.’ At which moment, overtaken by the shock, the priest himself had a heart attack, and died.
Well, its a joke, isn’t it. and dark humour at that, yet there’s a certain truth in it too, isn’t there? How much expectation do Christians, including Christian Ministers, sometimes have? Do we anticipate that God is seeking to give us gifts, or do we often simply fear the worst, or, at least, the same old same old thing? Do we believe in a generous God, and a God of growth, or just a God of making do?