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Why do I think Israel Folau is wrong? I believe this, simply because he underestimates God’s generosity! One of the hardest things for us to understand and accept is that God is overwhelmingly generous. It’s hard for us to accept because many of us are not naturally that way inclined in our own dealings with others. So, we assume, as we often do about God, that he is just like us. When we hear about God’s generosity, we sometimes doubt. But it is our own miserliness that causes us to doubt, not the evidence that he gives us in his dealings with us.

A few years ago, when we were leaving Adelaide to move to WA for a period, Alison and I held a going-away party in the small hall, called the Activities’ Room, at the back of our Parish Church. We invited many friends and asked them to bring food and drink. It was a feeding of the 5,000 experience: there was plenty of food to go around. Alison had made some lovely sausage rolls – they were home-made and quite delicious. These were placed on the table along with the other food. The Activities’ Room backed on to the Church carpark, which was something of a thoroughfare for pedestrians between the local train station and the rest of the suburb. During the course of the evening a young man, slightly tipsy or perhaps slightly high, wandered in off the car-park and started piling the sausage rolls into his cupped hands. Of course, the generous thing to do would have been to think that he was obviously hungry and in some need. And part of me wanted to say, “Yes, that’s ok, we have plenty of food, help yourself.” But what did I do as the Priest-in-Charge of the parish do? I charged over and forced the young man to put most of the sausage rolls back!

We doubt God’s compassion and generosity, because we often find it so hard to be compassionate and generous ourselves. Yet the overwhelming evidence about God, both in the scriptures and in our experience of God in daily life, is that he is compassionate and generous. He will provide for our needs and he will care for us. This is the good news. Jesus praises the poor widow (Luke 21: 1–4), because she is incredibly generous: far more generous than all the others, who contribute a small percentage of their existing wealth. Yet she contributes an incredible amount, all she had to live on, far more than the others.

In a simple culture, where the production and availability of food was very much a day-to-day, year-to-year struggle with the elements, the image of God providing food for his people was an extraordinarily powerful one. Perhaps in Australia we fail to appreciate its power. I suppose for us the image which has a great deal more power would be that of God as being the fountain of living water. As we begin to emerge from a drought that image probably hits harder. But for many people around the world, whose daily existence is indeed a struggle for food, this picture of God providing rich food is almost unbelievable.

And therein lies our very struggle: we struggle to believe that God could be generous. And in struggling to believe that, we also struggle in our prayers: our prayers for plenty of rain and an abundant harvest. But these prayers are nothing more than an acceptance that God wants to bless us richly. To be sure, it’s a losing battle to pray for rain and an abundant harvest, if we then continue to wreck the very environment that produces the rain, or if we continue to expect to grow wheat in areas that simply can’t sustain it. But in the productive lands that make up much of our farming lands, should we pray for and expect rain? Absolutely! Because we believe that God wants to bless us, does have compassion for us, and wants to be generous to us. Praying for rain is not about asking God to do something outside of the laws of nature. It’s not about asking him to break that laws that he has created. No, it’s about asking him to be the cause behind the natural forces of the world: the cause behind the cause. What causes rain? Well it’s the build up of moisture in the clouds, which then reaches breaking point, often over areas where there is good vegetation, and down it comes. But what is the cause behind the cause? It’s God.

So, we ask God to be generous. We ask God to be far more generous than I was, when the young guy wandered in from the carpark. God wants to be generous. He wants us to load up our cupped hands with everything that he offers. There are many images of the kingdom of heaven that appeal to me. But if I’m honest with myself, the one which has the most appeal, is the most powerful, and will be the most satisfying, is that of a feast of rich foods, with Jesus at the head of the table, smiling at us all.

The Reverend Dr Theo McCall
School Chaplain