Rev Susan Johnson, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, writes a regular column for each issue of Canada Lutheran.
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I've been thinking a lot about generosity lately. Partly because I have been so overwhelmed by the generosity I have been receiving in well wishes, congratulations and indications of prayer. I feel richly blessed and I thank you for it! And even more because generosity is an important attribute of the church that I want to be a part of—part of my vision of how the ELCIC will be known—as a generous church.
So what do I mean when I talk about being generous? It's much more than just the way we deal with our financial resources, although I think that is still an important part of being generous. I think being generous as a church involves some of the following:
• A generous church is a church that takes hospitality seriously. That welcomes the stranger into our midst. Not just as visitors, but as full members of our communities.
• A generous church is a church that takes planning and preparedness seriously so that we are ready to respond in times of need. That is why I'm glad we are looking at the question of pandemic preparedness. It's not about responding out of fear, but being ready to respond out of a spirit of generosity, not just in the event of a pandemic, but in any time of need—flood, ice storm, power outages and so on.
• A generous church is a church where members are generous in their treatment of each other. Where we ascribe the best intentions to each others actions. Where we are willing to give each other the benefit of the doubt. Where we make sure we talk to each other instead of about each other.
• A generous church is a church that takes good care of the gifts God has given it. As one of our offertory prayers puts it, ourselves, our time, and our possessions! We are broadening our understanding of stewardship to include our care of the world that God has made. Our church has adopted a Signs of Hope, Practices of Love campaign that includes a Stewardship of Creation Initiative.
• A generous church is a church where members joyfully share of their financial resources. In our chapel service at the National Office this morning the reading was from 1 Timothy 6: 6–10 where we were reminded; Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains. It is so easy in our consumer-driven society that encourages the acquisition of more, newer and improved material goods to become enslaved to our money and forget that we are indeed wealthy as individuals and as a church in the eyes of the world. Our generous giving of our offering and tithes to God through our church at the congregational, synodical, national and international levels helps to free us from that slavery.
God bless you and encourage each one of us in all aspects of our generousity.
Bishop Susan C. Johnson
Canada Lutheran, October/November 2007