This week I am with my colleagues at the annual clergy orders retreat. Bishop of Missouri Annual Conference Robert Schnase is this year’s keynote speaker. Bishop Schnase is the author of Five Practices of Fruitful Congregation. He followed the success of that book with the publication of Five Practices of Fruitful Living in 2010, in which the same five practices—radical hospitality, passionate worship, intentional faith development, risk-taking mission and service and extravagant generosity—are applied in the realm of personal living. Bishop Schnase reminded us that the critical thing is the adjectives—radical, passionate, intentional, risk-taking and extravagant.
Bishop Schnase opens the first chapter of Five Practices of Fruitful Living, Receiving God’s Love, with this quote of Paul Tillich: “Accept that you are accepted.” A new horizon of life and faith opens up when we finally understand God’s unconditional love.
“The pivotal first element in our walk of faith—the practice of Radical Hospitality—involves our saying Yes to God love for us, a willingness to open our lives to God and invite God into our hearts. It involves our capacity to receive grace, accept Christ’s love, and make room for God in our lives.” (p. 17, Five Practices of Fruitful Living)
Let this energy of God’s unconditional love flow into us and overwhelm us and it will be like having a fountain of living water inside us. Like South African Bishop Desmond Tutu has said, “In the end what matters is not how good we are but how good God is. Not how much we love Him but how much He loves us. And God loves us whoever we are, whatever we’ve done or failed to do, whatever we believe or can’t.”
Looking back my life, I find little reason that God would do that. But God does. I’m here, I have survived, because of God’s love. I want that love to shape me, cause me grow, so that I may become one day as loveable as God regards me. More, I want to be loving as God would have me. I want to live in thank-ful-ness. I want my life to be a reflection of God’s radical hospitality and extravagant generosity, toward myself, my family and friends, my church family, my fellow human beings and all my relations of God’s creation.
Let us use the month of November to ponder God’s Radical Hospitality and Extravagant Generosity. Think of generosity not just in terms of sharing with others a portion of our possessions but in terms of our fundamental attitude toward life in God. God’s unconditional, extravagantly generous love settles something deep in our souls, shapes our fundamental attitude toward life and each other, and shifts our life’s priorities. As we grow in our faith we understand more clearly that human beings are born to be generous and compassionate. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving and pray that we may know the deep joy of living in thankfulness and generosity.