Saturday, December 16
Narrative Lectionary Daily Devotions written by Kace Leetch from Clergy Stuff.
God gave Ezekiel a vivid vision of the new temple God promised would be given in the day they were freed from exile and restored to Israel. Here, Ezekiel received a specific description of the altars where sacrifices and offerings were to be prepared and presented. Today, we don't offer live sacrifices. But we do still prepare and present offerings to God. Generally, our offerings are in the form of money, but may also be offerings of our time or skills.
Clearly, God doesn't need our money. So why give? Giving isn't really about God's needs. It's about the needs of God's people. First, we give because our gifts benefit others. Created to live in community, people only survive when we can rely on each other to satisfy all of our needs. When people are hungry, sick, imprisoned -- they need us more than ever. Our gifts can mean the difference between death and life.
Second, we give because our gifts benefit us. Studies show that people expressing generosity had higher levels of activity in the parts of the brain that control happiness. When we give a lot or even a little, we can actually change our brain chemistry! And the benefits of positivity and happiness have rippling effects on those around us, and those around them, too.
We're in a season of giving right now. But I fear it's often a season of obligatory giving. And I don't imagine that has much positive effect on our brain chemistry. How might we turn around the bitterness we might experience by feeling obligated to give? Here are a few of my recommendations.
- Contact people you will likely exchange gifts with that are difficult to shop for, or that you feel financial constraints about. Make an agreement...
- not to exchange gifts,
- to limit the dollar amount,
- to exchange homemade (like baked) items,
- to donate to a charity they're involved with in their name, or
- to spend time together at an event or experience instead of gifts.
- If exchanging a gift is unavoidable, then reshape your thinking about it. Instead of thinking of it as an obligation, consider your gift-giving in light of how we were created -- to live in community and to be generous. Think about why you are giving, and realign your reasoning to a more generous, thoughtful perspective. Think of how the person might feel when they are remembered with a gift. Think of how you will feel when you have done something for someone else. Shift your thinking about gift giving, and you might shift your feeling about it, too.
Maybe all it takes it remember that generosity is not an obligation, it's a gift. It's how we were created. We're wired to give. Happy gifting!
Narrative Lectionary Text: Ezekiel 40:38-47
There was a chamber with its door in the vestibule of the gate, where the burnt offering was to be washed.
And in the vestibule of the gate were two tables on either side, on which the burnt offering and the sin offering and the guilt offering were to be slaughtered. On the outside of the vestibule at the entrance of the north gate were two tables; and on the other side of the vestibule of the gate were two tables. Four tables were on the inside, and four tables on the outside of the side of the gate, eight tables, on which the sacrifices were to be slaughtered. There were also four tables of hewn stone for the burnt offering, a cubit and a half long, and one cubit and a half wide, and one cubit high, on which the instruments were to be laid with which the burnt offerings and the sacrifices were slaughtered. There were pegs, one handbreadth long, fastened all around the inside. And on the tables the flesh of the offering was to be laid. On the outside of the inner gateway there were chambers for the singers in the inner court, one at the side of the north gate facing south, the other at the side of the east gate facing north. He said to me, “This chamber that faces south is for the priests who have charge of the temple, and the chamber that faces north is for the priests who have charge of the altar; these are the descendants of Zadok, who alone among the descendants of Levi may come near to the Lord to minister to him.” He measured the court, one hundred cubits deep, and one hundred cubits wide, a square; and the altar was in front of the temple.