Giving With Gratitude Because of The Unconditional Love of The Triune God–Giving, Loving and D
Glenn McDonald, Director of Mission Integration for the Ascension Ministry Service Center in Indianapolis, Indiana, is a friend of mine. He is also a covenant brother. We have been in a covenant group since 1995 along with four other Presbyterian ministers. In a recent daily reflection Glenn writes,
The greatest health crisis in human history is shrouded in mystery. More than 100 years later, scientists still struggle to answer important questions about the Flu Pandemic of 1918. What was its point of origin? No one knows for sure. Although at the time the illness was given the exotic name Spanish Flu, historians note that the first outbreak seems to have happened on a military base in Kansas. Influenza strikes most parts of the world every year. The majority of those afflicted suffer fever, body aches, and congestion. After feeling lousy for a few days, most of us recover. The 1918 strain of flu was different. It killed huge numbers of people within a few days. Why was this strain so virulent? Nobody knows…World War I was just coming to an end in the fall of 1918. Humanity was staggering under the unimaginable loss of something like 10 million combatants and another 7 million civilians. But that was just the beginning of the suffering. Within six months, the Spanish Flu had taken the lives of at least 50 million people around the world, from the tropics to the Arctic. Some historians believe the total approached 100 million. The death toll in the U.S. exceeded 675,000, more than all the losses sustained during the four years of the Civil War… The 1918 strain, without warning, vanished almost as quickly as it appeared. That’s yet another of the mysteries. After a century of research, is there a foolproof immunization? Not yet, although a flu shot may protect against 50% of this year’s strains. If you get the flu, is there a cure? So far all we can do is alleviate the symptoms. But the search continues for a Magic Bullet…One hundred years ago the world’s top docs still didn’t know what caused the flu, or how they should treat it. At one point, 30 million people in Japan had been afflicted. A Japanese professor named T. Yamanouchi recruited 52 exceedingly brave doctors and nurses to become human guinea pigs. Scientists wanted to know if the flu was caused by bacteria or by something else. Yananouchi took infected goop from flu victims and placed it into the noses of the volunteers. About half of them got it “as is.” The goop given to the other volunteers was first run through a filter that would strain out any bacteria. The results? All 52 of the Japanese volunteers got the Spanish Flu. The experiment confirmed that influenza is caused by a virus – a strange, primitive entity (little more than a microscopic box of chemicals) that is far smaller than any known bacteria. That information immediately advanced the global medical community’s efforts to provide the best possible treatment for flu victims. In the midst of all the mysteries surrounding the pandemic, this one stands out: Why would 52 perfectly healthy people risk their own lives to be part of a medical experiment? Why would those nurses and doctors subject themselves to the worst plague in human history just to improve the odds for total strangers on the other side of the planet? We may not be able to predict the behavior of viruses. But history has demonstrated that human beings are predictably hardwired to care…Why would a nurse in Japan choose to risk the ultimate sacrifice? Followers of Jesus call it common grace…By God’s grace, no matter what is happening in the world, our call is to join the helpers.
The suffering with which the 21st century began and continues to display resonates with the Babylonian captivity of Judah and the flu pandemic of 1918. Think of genocides, bombings, political corruption and shootings. Suffering begs a question. What is the relationship of God’s people to and with people who are suffering? The texts in 2 Timothy 1:5-7, Lamentations 1:3a; 3:22-24 and Luke 17:5-6 speak to the vaccine of salvation through the touch of generous human beings to those suffering. 2 Timothy 1:5-7 instructs us that we have been given a sincere faith by God through the loving interaction of others. The texts in Lamentations remind us there are times to be silent, break the silence, and protest the suffering through our words, deeds and overall engagement with others in their suffering. And Luke 17 admonishes us never to have faith in faith, but to keep faith rooted in the One we believe in as we embrace those in their suffering.
The good news of God, as we know it in and through Jesus Christ, is a vaccination. It’s a vaccination that strengthens our immune system against the epidemic of sin as it is manifested in the words and actions of a calloused soul. The healing presence of others through their generosity, the time, talent and treasure from their life wallet, is the vaccine of salvation. Thom Rainer says this about churches which focus their budgets on themselves rather than on those captured in epidemics of suffering when he writes, “…where the money of the church goes, so goes the heart…Where funds were used more to keep the machinery of the church moving, and to keep the members happy, than funding the Great Commission and the Great Commandment,” churches began the slow death march. Recognize the slow erosion in your experience of Christian community. Let go of the past as hero for it does not fix anything. Build Geneva Presbyterian Church into a community of faith that looks like the community. And focus your generosity outwardly for the sake of others to experience an answer to the epidemic of sin as it is manifested in suffering, the intended and unintended consequences of a calloused soul. Giving and loving generously from the wallet of your life, for the benefit of others, will deepen your faith and Christian experience.
A tiny faith inspires great things. A result of such a tiny faith is a deepening and broadening one with its corresponding experience. Living into legacy, the legacy of Jesus, is a life worth living.
Glenn McDonald, Morning Reflection (Indianapolis, Indiana: Ascension Ministry Service Center, October 4, 2019).
In this paragraph, I have benefited from the thinking of Ken Evers-Hood, David F. White, Jared E. Alcantara, E. Carson Brisson, Richard W. Voelz and Nancy Lynne Westfield in Joel B. Green, Thomas G. Long, Luke A. Powery and Cynthia L. Rigby, editors, Connections, Year C, Volume 3 (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2019), 365-367, 367-369, 355-358, 362-364, 370-372 and 372-373.
Thom S. Rainer, Autopsy of a Deceased Church (Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Publishing Group, 2014), 31, 36.