From where does generosity come? That is the question or at least a question.
Generosity’s source is the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Without the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the human race is “lost in the cosmos” (Walker Percy) and bound to death by original sin. With the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, humanity can be forgiven, and freed to live gratefully and generously.
Yes, the power of the death and resurrection of our Lord must actually come to us – through the Holy Spirit; through the Church; through Holy Baptism and Holy Communion; through the Word, read and preached; through God’s relentless, loving pursuit of those in rebellion. And when the power of Christ’s death and resurrection comes to us, God makes us new.
The Service of Death and Resurrection is a time to celebrate how God, through Christ’s death and resurrection, forgave and freed the deceased to live a generous Christian life. In today’s cultural setting, the horrible reality of original sin is routinely ignored. But Lutheran Arthur Piepkorn (1907-1973) reminds “that we were natively slaves, human animals in the thrall of the demonic powers, unable to free ourselves, needing to be freed by someone else.”
Even United Methodist doctrine speaks of “the corruption of the nature of every [person]” and people being “inclined to evil, and that continually” (AOR VII). Nevertheless, in dying and rising, Jesus Christ set free — really freed! — the one remembered that day, from pathological self-absorption (in psychological terms), to live a generous life of giving and serving. That is something to celebrate, big time!
Lent prepares for the welcome of the power of Christ’s death and resurrection into the world, into the Church and churches, and into our lives. But before generosity breaks forth anew, God must deal with our sins through Christ’s cross.