Parishioner Michael Swift: God the Giver

god-the-giver-logo-finalGod the Giver

by Michael Swift
September 27, 2015

I moved to Santa Barbara just over two years ago to pursue a PhD in Physics at UCSB.  For my first year, I lived in the overpriced grad student housing just north of Isla Vista.  One night in September, shortly before classes started, I got an email.  Rent was due.  In fact, two month’s rent was due.  And I didn’t have enough money to pay it.  Most of my cash had gone into moving expenses, and my first paycheck for TAing wasn’t for a month.  I freaked out; this sort of thing just doesn’t happen to me.  I paid what I could, and then went to bed, but I couldn’t sleep.  I kept worrying about how I was going to pay this bill.  As I tossed and turned, I said a quick prayer.  I didn’t really know what to ask for.  I just reached out to God, and trusted that God would take care of me.

In the morning, I got an email from the university saying, “You have a Graduate Fellowship Check for ready for pick-up.” It was for the exact amount of rent I had left unpaid!  I was stunned.  God the giver was taking care of me.  It could not be more obvious if it hit me in the face.

Of course God the giver works through human hands, in this case through a fellowship which is partially intended to offset moving expenses and the high cost of living for first year TAs.  But that does nothing to change the fact that this was a gift of God.  I was a stranger in this strange land of Santa Barbara, but I trusted in God, and God provided.

When we think of the blessings flowing from God, these sorts of physical, tangible blessings are often the first ones that come to mind.  These blessings are important, as are what we choose to do with them.  This is particularly topical as we begin our annual stewardship campaign.  We will look at the relationship between our economic and spiritual lives in an upcoming Sunday morning class, “Silver, Gold, and Soul”.  But it is my sincere hope that, when we think of the blessings of God, we don’t stop here.  The generosity of God the giver is so much bigger than that.

For instance, I think of the moment when little 9-year-old me got to go visit the hospital, and hold his brand new baby sister for the first time.  The joy and wonder of new life is a gift of God.  Though my mom certainly put a lot of work into that baby too.

As she grew older, I remember teaching my little sister to read.  She got so frustrated at times, loudly announcing at one point, “I hate reading!”  But we persevered, and slowly the reading became more natural, and she started seeing the stories behind the words.  I remember the pride and joy I felt as she decided she liked reading, then started to discover picture books, and chapter books, and before you know it she was devouring any book she could get her hands on, sci-fi and biography and historical fiction and epic fantasy.  Her eyes shine with the joy of the new worlds each new book opened in her growing mind.  Learning, perseverance, imagination, wonder.  These truly are gifts of God.

I could go on and on.  I could talk about the many other gifts of God I’ve experienced through my family: love, support, and encouragement.  I could talk about the gift of my fiancée, and falling in love, and planning our life together, and falling more and more in love every day even though we live three time zones apart.  I could talk about the gifts of God I’ve experienced right here, being welcomed warmly and joyfully on my first Sunday by Heather Childress and Sally Messerlian and Sheri Benninghoven and Nathan Sigler and countless others.  The blessings have only continued to flow at All Saints: through Eventide, through teaching Sunday School, through the vibrant energy of Rev. Aimee’s ministry, through the All Saints Food Wagon.  The generosity of God the Giver truly has no end.

And you know what unites all of this?  In every single one of these gifts, God the Giver was working through human hands.  Think about it.  The donors who endowed the fellowship that paid my rent.  My mom who carried my sister and gave birth to her.  My sister who worked through the frustration and learned to read.  My fiancée who teaches me to love and brings out my best self.  Each and every one of you whose ministry makes All Saints a place I can call home.  God works through people.  God works through us.  We don’t just receive gifts from God.  You and I are the very instruments of Divine generosity.

So my brothers and sisters in Christ, as you think on all the many gifts you have been given, as you come forward to receive the Eucharist in remembrance of God’s greatest gift, the gift given on the cross, as you are sent out from this place with the gift of the power of God’s Spirit, be ready.  Be ready to let Divine blessings flow through you to a world in need.  Be ready to be the hands of God the giver.

Amen.