The Generosity Project is a collaborative effort between ABCUSA, regions, and local congregations. The Generosity Project aims to help pastors re-frame the conversation around stewardship and generosity in their congregations. Bi-monthly blogs help support new growth and understanding as we deepen our ministry and discipleship. The reflection below was provided by Rev. Stacy Emerson.
Generosity Begins by Knowing Grace
Grace, she takes the blame
She covers the shame
Removes the stain…
What once was hurt
What once was friction
What left a mark no longer stings
Because Grace makes beauty
Out of ugly things
Grace makes beauty out of ugly things
-Bono, “Grace” from All That You Can’t Leave Behind, U2
“Freely you have received, freely give.”
-Jesus, as recounted in the Gospel of Matthew
Grace brings to mind so many things: second chances, freedom, goodness, joy, unmerited gifts, surprises—a God who loves unconditionally and fully even when we ourselves can’t see our way through. Bono from U2 once told a journalist, “I think I understood grace instinctively before I did intellectually…like unconditional love, agape—I think that leads to grace. Now, you can imagine that a person like myself would put a stretch on agape…But grace is the reason I discovered my gift. It’s the reason I have children. It’s the reason I found my voice in different areas. Grace is the reason I’m here.” Grace is unanticipated, unearned and wholly gracious, and certainly a concept we have a difficult time getting our human minds around. But really, grace comes first. Before we speak, there is grace. Before we act, there is grace. Before we breathe, there is grace. We can’t will it not to be there and we can’t make it show up—grace just is. Grace makes it all possible, really, and not just our survival but our thriving. It is that core belief that then frees us to be gracious—and generous—in the world. Literature professor Marilyn Chandler McEntyre in the Weavings Journal commented, “I have nothing to give that was not a gift to me.” Grace comes first. Out of our experiences of that truth, we then are free to give, to be gracious, forgiving, kind, generous, loving, and bearers of peace and hope. Stories of grace abound if you ask about it. When have you had a door open unexpectedly? When did an opportunity or possibility or the hand of forgiveness come and surprise you? Challenge yourself and your congregation to name the ways grace has shown up and inspired generous living and being. And so let the thoughts of grace linger with you. Find ways to witness its presence in new and amazing ways. You will surely find it will help you to sense the abundance you dwell in because of God, and so empower you to be generous and gracious as you move about the earth, for the very sake of Christ.
Rev. Stacy Emerson is the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in West Hartford, CT and the Stewardship Consultant for ABCUSA. She is also the Coordinator for The Generosity Project which is about helping congregations deepen their understanding of stewardship as a call to generosity as disciples of Jesus; re-framing the stewardship conversation; and cultivating generosity in pastors, lay people, and congregations.