When I was at the end of my second curacy, I am afraid I hated Sundays. The pressure that was placed on me by different people requiring different (and indeed mutually exclusive) things was so intense. I stopped sleeping on Saturdays as the pressure grew overnight in anticipation.
But now - I love Sundays. I love my church. I love the traditional folk at 8am, the families at 11am, the space and time to be more relaxed at our 6pm service.
Yesterday was Harvest, and we thought about our generous God. This was helped enormously by an experience I had on Saturday, and I think you might enjoy the story.
So here I am, in my study, preparing a sermon on generosity. In the morning, I've had a text from two of our musicians, Andy and Esther, saying they are free to play (they normally do on the first Sunday of the month) and I've left an answerphone message saying - great! Plus, would Esther like to help lead some of the service? Then I get a phone call from Andy. They sing in a choir loosely attached to a Cardiff church, and the woman who runs the choir has asked them (fairly strongly, I suspect) to go to their church as it is Harvest Festival there. Andy sounds fed up, and says he wants to be with us but they feel like they have to help Gauri. I say, of course you must go, don't worry, see you in the evening.
Then as I put down the phone, I grind my teeth and start to fume at the injustice of it! It's our Harvest too! These are key people for us! Not only are they 1/3 of our musicians, they are a fabulous young couple, and if there are visitors at the service, I want them to see young people at the front! Perhaps I should ring Gauri and let her know that this isn't on. Perhaps I should ring Andy and Esther and convey to them the strength of my feelings. And I am slightly aware of the irony of preparing a sermon on generosity whilst feeling quite selfish about these lovely people, but only slightly.
Instead, I call Kirsty to check she and Dan are playing. And Matthew, Dan's son, who is improving all the time as a guitarist. They are. I tell her about the problem with Esther and Andy. She sympathises. We grind teeth together. We agree to leave it, cos they are probably feeling bad.
I sit at my desk. I stare at the phone. I make a decision, and pick it up, dialling Andy and Esther's number. Gloriously, it is engaged!
And just gently, I feel the Lord's smile, and I hear him say: "You know, sometimes generosity has to hurt to be generosity." If it's easy, if I don't miss it, it probably isn't being generous to give it. The cross is a place of pain and giving - the ultimate generous act from the completely giving God. And suddenly, I get the profundity and the humour of the whole thing. I get the point. I get that I have been given an opportunity to be generous as I prepare this sermon, and I very nearly totally blew it. But for the grace (ie generosity!) of God.
Anyway. We had a great day. The Lord blessed us. There are one or two people just moving into faith for the first time, and seeing them alive with Jesus was a total joy. We are giving to Soteria Trust's Soteria College in Ibadan Nigeria as our Harvest offering, and Naomi had prepared a phenomenal power point presentation about it. I think our folk will really give well to it. And (a bit shamefaced, true, but there you go) I really enjoyed preaching about the generous God who calls us to be generous too.
How was Andy and Esther's morning? You'll have to ask them...