This Generous Undertaking
June 28th was my first sermon at Trinity-St. Paul’s, as well as my covenanting with the congregation, presbytery and conference. Here is an excerpt from the written form of my sermon, discussing 2 Corinthians 8:7-15.
What the NRSV translates as “this generous undertaking” in verse 7 and The Inclusive Bible translates as “the work of grace”, is the Greek word Charis. Charis is variously translated as: generous undertaking, grace, favor, thanks, generous act, privilege, and blessing – and that’s all in one translation of the Bible! The term Charis describes what the Corinthians are called to – Paul is specifically asking the Corinthians to give financial support to “the poor saints of Jerusalem.” However, it is not solely a financial concept: charis is the same term Paul uses a couple of verses later about Jesus, although we hear it translated as “favour.”
We could paraphrase Paul as saying: “we want you to excel also in this grace. For you know the grace of Jesus.” Or we could say Paul wrote: “we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking. For you know the generous act of Jesus.” Generosity and grace are inseparable concepts. The practical aspects of generous giving are woven into the immaterial reality of a grace that pours all over our lives. Even Paul’s request for money is not only a financial discussion – it is also about creating relationships between Jews and gentiles, between two distant faith communities. Goodness, grace, begins not with us, but with God.
This, then, is our starting point. We are loved, and it has nothing to do with our merit, our committee work, our knowledge or lack of knowledge about worship practices… In the 2nd Corinthians passage, we are reminded of the generous grace of God, and the goodness that is possible (key word possible) as a result. We are also invited to engage in “this generous undertaking.”
Question for Reflection: How do we take part in this generous undertaking, this work of grace?