The opening worship All Saints Celebration celebrated the generous examples of giving and service offered by the clergy and the spouses of clergy who have transitioned to be with the great cloud of witnesses. We are reminded of their selfless dedication and service.
In his sermon, the Reverend Leonard Fairley, District Superintendent of the Capital District, talked of how he learned generosity from his grandmother, Gladys, and from his mother. As a child, he recalled watching his grandmother’s hands as she made “Grandma Biscuits” appear.
“This lady would take what she had prepared for her family, and she would invite anybody within earshot, anybody within the neighborhood, anybody who just happened to be at our house. She would invite them to the table,” he shared.
Fairley’s mother and grandmother made bread and after the bread was made to feed their family, it was also used to bless others in the community. He reminded those gathered of how they took what little they had that was blessed, and it was used as blessing to others.
His sermon emphasized those who have gone to join the great cloud of witnesses in heaven including pastors who shepherded their congregations. “Today, we gather and we remember those who have taught us about generosity. Hands that have remembered us in prayer. Hands that have wiped tears from our eyes. Hands that have lifted us up when we have fallen. Hands that have embraced us during the passing of the peace when we have come to the table of the Lord.”
Fairley’s sermon, entitled Generous Saints, was grounded in the scriptures from John 6:1-13 where Jesus fed the multitude with five loaves and two fish. He reminded those gathered that the problem that day was not from a true lack of food nor was it a lack of witnesses to share and give to one’s neighbors. On the hillside where Jesus questioned Phillip about being able to feed the multitude, Fairley said the problem was our own scarcity mentality holding us back from giving. The miracle of the fish and loaves is one of God’s generous abundance.
“Surely, if God could take the meager lunch of a small boy and feed 5,000 people, certainly God can take what we release from our hands, no matter how small and no matter how insignificant and bless the world.”
The desire to give and give generously is all about being a blessing to others. Reverend Fairley stated the following, “What we put in Jesus’ hands never returns void.”
He shared the story of his neighbor, Fred, who had the uncanny knack of appearing when Fairley’s mother had baked fresh bread. After his brother, Calvin, took one biscuit and gave it to Fred, and his sister Sheila called out to their mother to tell on him. Fred ran and hid under the porch, and the children all listened to his mother’s footsteps draw near. Sheila told what Calvin had done, and his mother asked where Fred was. Coming out from under the porch, Fred had crumbs on his mouth. The blessing and the lesson of that day was that Fairley’s mother invited Fred to the table, saying, “Come on, and sit down and eat with us.”
“You see, Jesus does not cause a miracle just to spring up out of nowhere,” said Fairley. “Jesus uses ordinary people who are unafraid to put into the hands of Jesus Christ all that they have and all that they are, and Jesus uses the gifts in each of us to cause miracles to break out all around us. God uses ordinary people.”
The generosity of those ordinary people is an example to all. “If there is anything that characterizes a saint, it is this: saints are extravagant givers who have this habit of sharing from a place of God’s abundance,” said Fairley. “There can be no blessing with closed hands.”
“If we are in doubt that God is a generous God, then all we need to do is come to the table,” that God can take what little each has and make it great. “As we remember those who have gone on to be with the Lord,” Fairley said, “I want you to reach deep into yourselves and ask yourself, ‘What has the person that I remembered today taught me about living a generous life?’”