>What can I give him, poor as I am?
This is the question at the heart of giving. And as we are crunched by the recession this becomes an ever more pressing question, particularly for a middle class which has come to treasure money so highly. It really dismays me when we hear in our churches about giving – and it is always centred on money (or so it seems). What can I give him, poor as I am?
Christina Rossetti discusses this in her poem “In the bleak midwinter“. For her money doesn’t enter into it – and in this recession all of us are questioning the worth of what money will buy (particulalry those of us on their third skip in the process of moving house). Take money out of the equation and what can we give? Those unable to buy off their giving with money perhaps know the answer best. They operate in an economy of gifts aware they can give “their heart”, that they can pay attention, that they can give themselves, that they can for-give, that they can give thanks.
And my own thanksgiving – a woman working on the platform at Crewe Station who was amazingly kind, patient, hospitable and gentle with my mother in helping her find the right train – someone bearing the fruits of the Spirit. British Rail won’t have been paying her for that but some gifts money cannot buy.
Miroslav Volf (in Free of Charge p116)describes the work of the Holy Spirit in terms of gifts. “The Spirit is the gift that gives spiritual gifts”. He writes; “the Spirit opens the doors of our hearts for Christ’s indwelling …. by the power of the Spirit we make ourselves available for Christ to be born in us … The Spirit is the gift that gives Christ”.
“Think of the Spirit as the arms of our hearts that embrace Christ and as the open doors of our energies and skills that welcome Christ in.”
Photo by Logan Antill.
>Morning Prayer today included the wonderful reading from Leviticus 25 outlining the teaching on Jubilee.
It’s green – recognisnng the rights of the land – every 7th year was to be a sabbath of complete rest for the land – a time for the land to sigh.
After 7 lots of 7 years – ie the year after the 49th, the 50th – “and you shall proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants”. All capital transactions were to use the Jubilee as its basis. So if land was sold it was sold until the next Jubilee year with the land returning then to its original owner. The price for the sale was to be linked to the number of crops.
How amazing is that! In our country we talk about ‘old money’ and ‘new money’. We talk about the ‘landed gentry’ who are the beneficiaries of a capital system which knows of no Jubilee.
Is it surprising that there is no reference in the Bible to the Jubilee principle being put into practice? Of course it isn’t. Because in this world of ours people like to accumulate power (and property). We shouldn’t be surprised that vested interests prefer the status quo. The consequence is that inequality, oppression and poverty become systemic, and people become alienated. It also means there can never be Jubilee, because that is when liberty is procalimed throughout the land to all its inhabitants.
(This picture was taken by Jeanette)
I live in a village community which would be transformed by the Jubilee principle. Inheritance (particularly land) is an enormous issue within families and grievances stretch generations back. Fault lines are embedded in the fabric of community life. It’s not stereotypes that divide communities such as ours. It’s not race, gender or age – though they do paly a part. It’s who snubbed who three generations back, and which side people founght on in the war that counts (the Civil War I mean!)I suspect that when hurts are deeply embedded in the fabric of a community most people don’t even realise that they are there.
The Church is able to offer a breathing space – a place to untangle the past and space to take on enterprise with fresh partners and renewed relationships. The political realignment of the Jubilee principle may not be feasible but the life of the Church (the mission of God) show that the fault lines aren’t inevitable, and that alienation and division are short-lived – certainly less than 50 years. This sounds very idealistic doesn’t it? Why’s that?
Without an abundance of nonmaterial values and an equal abundance of nonmonetary exchange of material value, no true community ever existed or ever will. … When we attempt to monetise all value, we methodically disconnect people and destroy community.
True community requires proximity; continual, direct contact and interaction between the people, place, and things of which it is composed. Throughout history, the fundamental building block, the quintessential community, has always been the family. It is there that the greatest nonmonetary exchange of value takes place. It is there that the most powerful nonmaterial values are created and exchanged. It is from that community, for better or worse, that all others are formed. The nonmonetary exchange of value is the vary heart and soul of community, and community is the inescapable, essential element of civil society.
Birth of the Chaordic Order – page 43