Monday, November 10, 2008

A Precious Gift

By Jerome Chandler

A wise woman traveler found a precious stone in a mountain stream. The next day she met another traveler who was very hungry. The wise woman
opened her bag to share her food. The hungry traveler saw the precious stone & asked the woman to give it to him. She did so without
hesitation & the traveler left rejoicing in his good fortune. He knew the stone was worth enough to give him a lifetime security. A few days
later he came back to the wise woman. "I've been thinking," he said, "I know how valuable this stone is, but I give it back to you in the hope
that you would give me something even more precious! Give me what you have within you that enabled you to give me this stone."
This makes me wonder why when we are giving we seem to only give people what we either have left over of our abundance or that which we no longer want.  But what about giving people something that costs, something of worth TO YOU.  I wonder if this is why so many times in church, especially in this holiday season, the giveaways ( the usual turkeys, used clothing, used toys ect..) fail to produce converted souls to Christ in larger number than they do, because what we are giving away do not cost us anything, theres no sacrifice involved.

What if I gave someone my new car, or my newest suit (I dont have any of these things btw), or better yet went out and bought them something brand new that cost me something.  The world must see the sacrifice!!!  This is absolutely essential to spreading Christ in our communities.
This is why many of us are christian in the first place, we see and read the sacrifices made by the Holy fathers and mothers of the church, the martyrs and confessors, the great bishop for the faith.  Even God Himself sacrificed Himself, that which was closest to Him, His son.  Not so that He could stand back and say "look what I did for you, you must serve Me now", but to get relationship with humanity and creation, and better yet to become one with mankind.  
Do we become one with those we give to?  Not in the sense of theosis which is man becoming one with God, but in the sense of seeing all of humanity as the image or ikon of Christ, thus every person is equal, both sinner and saint, rich or poor.  It was Christ who called us His brethren, and in Mathew 25 goes so far as to literally identify Himself with the poor, even saying that they were Him and He was them.  When we give, do we give looking down on those we give to.  Many times we do and dont even know it.  We show up at a soup kitchen or other charitable event and give or we simply send money to United Way or some other agency, but do we take time to forge a relationship with those we give to, or is it simply "oh those poor people, let me give them something".  Do we truely become brothers with those we give to, or are we simply benefactors, little saviors, benevolent wealthy kings looking kindly on those lower than us?  
Christ got involved to the point where relationship was formed, we kind of get involved without really wanting to "get involved!!"

Even moreso, Christs sacrifice was not done in the spirit of utility 'I'll do this, in order to get that", but was done of pure love.  What I love about orthodoxy is that it taught me that God is not some Higher Being standing back, with His arms folded, in utter anger that some in humanity failed to respond to this great deed He did.  That would be like a man who goes out and buys a girl he has no relationship with, a expensive diamond ring believing that she has no choice but to love him, and after giving it to her, stands wondering why she accepts the gift but doesnt instantly love him, theres no relationship there yet.   I have learned that Christs death was not done in the spirit of utility, which supposes that He died to make people essentially slaves, who serve Him only to escape His appall that people sin.   Our accepting His gift is only the begining of the relationship, one in which we exist in a state of: we became one at our baptism, we are one now, yet we are mystically still becoming one with Him throughout our lives, all at the same time, just like a marriage.

However many times in Church outreach we announce a givaway and a mass of people show up to recieve, then we stand back and expext a mass of souls to come streaming in to the church on sunday.  Well my friends it usually doesnt work that way.  Those recieving charity many times know when something is done out of untility, we essentially give them some turkey for their souls "here, I gave you some soup, why dont you join my church".  Then we stand appaled at why they dont come.  It didnt cost us anything, theres no relationship, no oneness, no intimacy.

So in summary there must be sacrifice, there must be unity, brotherhhood, oneness, and we must forge relationships and really get involved, for real, in addition to our giving!  It takes time too, but only then will we see the results that we seek in our churches and communities.  It must be a precious gift.  Then people will come back asking about the greater Gift, the Giftgiver, Christ, that allowed you to give with such sacrifice.
Peace be unto you and with your spirit; blessed be the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit now and forever unto the ages of ages Amen.
Rev. Jerome Chandler

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