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?
Last Tuesday our Archbishop met with our local deanery clergy and spoke with us about being expectant, as a means of sharing in God’s growth and generosity. ‘How expectant are we?’, he said. ‘When we come to pray, do we expect God to hear us? When we come to worship, do we expect to meet Jesus? Do we expect to encounter something of the love and mystery of God? Do we expect to be empowered, and changed, at least in some small ways, by being here together with God? Do we? That is what Jesus is calling us to in our Gospel reading today. He is saying that, yes, things may seem ordinary, even bleak. Yet the kingdom of God, the flow of God’s love, is like a tiny seed which will grow into an amazing harvest, or into a magnificent tree, capable of giving life to a myriad of different lifeforms. Do we see that? Do we expect that? Do we trust in that amazing power of love?
This season of stewardship we have entered is an opportunity to renew out sense of trust and expectancy: our trust in the depthless love and generosity of God and our expectancy of its surprising growth among and beyond us. That is the heart of stewardship: sharing in that astonishing generosity and growth of God’s grace. Will we respond?
Our Archbishop is encouraging us all to share in this expectation of God’s growth. For the thing of greatest value that we can do, he rightly says, is ‘to know God’ and help others ‘know God’. This is the heart and purpose of our life together : to help one another ‘know God’ in Jesus Christ, so that we and others can experience the profound grace and generosity of God and become fully alive with that grace and generosity, thus helping God create a fruitful harvest and life-giving tree for all.
So how expectant are we? Are we willing to be generous so that God’s growth may flourish among us: helping to grow our children, family and younger people’s ministries; deepening our worship and sense of God’s presence; nurturing new disciples among us; extending our love to others; making of us a tree of life and a rich harvest? It all starts, and continues, with God, but it requires you and me, with a fresh expectancy and a deepened generosity: an enlarged generosity in outlook and deed, in spirit and in giving.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.