RADICAL GENEROSITY | The Spirit of God is Upon Us - Reservoir Church
Image Map
Image Map


We Are Reservoir - 2023

RADICAL GENEROSITY | The Spirit of God is Upon Us

Ivy Anthony

Sep 24, 2023

Today we are in the third week of this Fall series called, “We Are Reservoir” – and I love a good unabashedly proud sermon series – where I get to say, “Yahhhhh that’s right – this IS Reservoir!!” And my goodness it is really good and I’m so thankful for it.

I’ve been here at Reservoir for 22 years. And I know this because just two days ago my husband, Scott and I celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary – wooo! And am I proud of us too! (wow, this sermon is just going to be full of humility). We landed in this community that first year we were married, and we didn’t really have a crystal clear form of what it was we were looking for, but we knew what we were not looking for.

Our relationship up to that point had held a lot of conversations where we attempted to wring from our faith and church experiences the excess of ‘not so great elements’ we had absorbed. Our hope was that it would uncover the values and principles that undergirded our love for God in the first place, and that we would find them to still hold true – and could be helpful guides on our church journey.

We landed in a musty elementary school gym where we had to set-up 300 chairs, and the stage, and the signs, and the food, and the coffee, and the. everything. And then break it all down 120 minutes later – and stow it away just so  – so we could keep in the good graces of the school we were renting from. 

And a large majority of the congregation made that church physically happen each week.

Which meant there was this tangible generosity that coursed through the community. People giving of their time – getting up so early, giving of their gifts, their money – expecting nothing in return. Offering. Serving. 

But there was something more than just those actions that we were captivated by. There was this convivial spirit of generosity that we experienced each Sunday – that we found ourselves referencing at points in our week.

Something alive – that was bigger than us, that we got to tap into – that was really good – and that worked in us and through us. What I would name not only a generous vibe – but call a spirit of radical generosity. 

This spirit of radical generosity, quite honestly – even more than the set of beliefs, or the theology, teaching, worship music was what captured our attention.

And that’s what I’ll talk about today… this spirit of radical generosity that can be cultivated in community. And one that, here at Reservoir, we really believe is essential in creating the Beloved Community we are all called to be.

***Now many a “generosity” sermon becomes a sermon about financially giving. Today I’m not going to preach that sermon. Although without a doubt the unbelievable financial generosity of so many of you is what allows Reservoir to do so much of what Reservoir does! So thank you, thank you!***

But this morning I want to talk more about this spirit that clung to the sweaty, moist gym pads on the walls – that kept us coming back each week. Because it is THE SAME SPIRIT that’s present here this morning. One that centers a generous God – who has been building since the beginning – a lineage of love and liberation for all people.  And one that WE, Reservoir gets to partner in …. And one that Scott and I knew that we wanted to be part of too.

This series, “We Are Reservoir” attempts to unveil to you some of the spirit that undergirds our vision. Some of which can be communicated so clearly with bullet points, and found on our website – but much of it can only be experienced, sensed, lived. I invite you into that generous posture this morning.

Prayer: Our generous, loving God. The one who promises to greet us at every turn – yes, in the celebratory moments – but also in the turns of life – that never feel like they stop turning…. Where our sense of grounding, and steadiness is rocked. Would you greet us this morning, in these chairs that have been soaked in the tears and sweaty palms of those of us who don’t know what we believe – how to believe – what belief even means – where to begin…. But also remind us that you have soaked these chairs in your presence – the Spirit of God – as well. May the Spirit of God be upon us this morning. Amen.


The funny thing about generosity – is that I am keenly attuned to the interactions in my day that seem to suggest the opposite. The  not-nice – not-friendly – not aware – not encouraging – not warm – not gracious – not merciful …. let’s just say ‘not generous’ interactions.  

I’ve lived in the Boston area for nearly 30 years. And I can tell you there is nothing that could convince you more of an anti-generous spirit than driving in this region. It’s like somehow people get into this little vehicle – and it becomes the vessel to test out – you know for kicks(!)- how it would be, how it could feel, to be the. most. horrible.human.being.possible. 

Our second child just started driving this summer. And our neighbor (mercifully) gave us this magnetic bumper sticker that says: “New Driver, Please Be Patient.” I chose the bright neon yellow one. We never used such a thing with our first child – we were still naive. We’ve since learned a thing or two. 

Now, as the new school year starts around the Greater Boston Area – I feel like there’s an uptick in crazy driving. Maybe because there’s school buses, drop off lines, late-to-work parents & caregivers and otherwise frustrated drivers out in full force! And so my drive to work here in Cambridge from the south shore – becomes at a baseline, much more “exciting. I make my way most days through a few boroughs of Boston –  Mattapan, Roxbury, Northeastern/MFA area, over to Storrow Drive, Cambridge and then here. And most days I feel you know, like I’ve accomplished something – by 9 a.m. – like SURVIVING.

This Fall though I wasn’t interested in feeling accomplished, I was more interested in feeling sane – by the time I landed in this parking lot. And I was like, “wait a minute! Maybe I could put that “New Driver, Please Be Patient” magnet on my bumper. And I did – and wouldn’t you know – my drives hold a little more ease, and a lot less beeping.

And I think, “Oh!” If only we could walk around with signs that say 

“PLEASE BE GENEROUS TO ME – please! I’m a new driver. I’m navigating A LOT.

I’m feeling new in this place. In this health crisis. In this conversation. At this intersection of life.”

I say some version of this to my son all the time

“Listen, I have never parented a 15 year old boy before …one specifically like… you…. You know, in all your… “You-ness…” 

I’m new to this!

Isn’t this how it really is to live our lives with God at the center too?

So much still feels new – still feels unchartered with God. Each day.

And as I look at Jesus’ ministry –  I’m curious to see how he made his way through days that were altogether unchartered!

There’s a swath of scripture in the gospel of Luke that I was drawn to where the theme of “generosity” might not be the most obvious theme, but I want to spend a few minutes with you, teasing it out, because at the heart of it all  – generosity might just be the center of Jesus’ whole ministry.

We are going to look at the gospel of Luke, Chapter 4. .. now up to this point Jesus has experienced a lot – he’s returned from the Jordan River – having been baptized by John the Baptist, where he is filled with the Holy Spirit, and a voice from heaven says,

You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

And then he’s in the wilderness – where he eats nothing for 40 days, and is tempted by the devil. And then he comes out of the wilderness and we pick up the scripture here in verse 14: 

LUKE 4: 14-22

14 Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and news about him spread throughout the whole countryside.

15 He taught in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. 

16 Jesus went to Nazareth, where he had been raised. On the Sabbath he went to the synagogue as he normally did and stood up to read.

17 The synagogue assistant gave him the scroll from the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me.
He has sent me to preach good news to the poor,
    to proclaim release to the prisoners
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
    to liberate the oppressed,
19  and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

20 He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the synagogue assistant, and sat down.


Every eye in the synagogue was fixed on him.

21 He began to explain to them, “Today, this scripture has been fulfilled just as you heard it.” 

22 Everyone was raving about Jesus, so impressed were they by the gracious words flowing from his lips. They said, “This is Joseph’s son, isn’t it?”

As I said, this was kind of a mic drop moment. Not only in content which we’ll get to – but also because Jesus reading this small section of scripture from Isaiah would have been noticeably short for a synagogue service. And the selection he reads while not new to those who heard it – does indeed hold a NEW sheen as Jesus shapes it for the mission statement of his ministry to come. 

And there’s a small, but fairly pointed omission that Jesus makes…

You see he ends by reading the words of prophet Isaiah,

“God has sent me to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor”

– but that actually isn’t the ending of the verse in Isaiah. In Isaiah- which is chapter 61 if you want it for reference  – the full verse reads,

“God has sent me to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, AND the day of vengeance of our God.”

JESUS does not read this last line –

“And the day of vengeance..”

And it’s here that he starts something new – where he begins to lay the building blocks of what it is to be a generous beloved community. Because in that omission he is explicitly refuting the central organizing principle of justice up to that point,

‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 

But what does he offer instead? I think it’s helpful to layer in what Jesus encountered in the wilderness – these three temptations…

You see in the wilderness Jesus is tempted by the devil whom I think personifies the world’s systems of evil. Devils that prowl and speak their gospel of scarcity and authoritative power, and say,

“Look at the world – there’s nothing here, there isn’t enough. There’s nothing in abundance…only deficits  –  you won’t encounter generosity. Unless you possess it – conquer it, construct it for your gain.”  

The first temptation. 

The devil says,

“Since you are God’s son, command this stone to become bread.”

It doesn’t really seem like such a big deal. What harm is there in that? Jesus is hungry! But the invitation is really to misuse power. Even if that power causes a change that points to God. But Jesus cares about invoking change – with community. 

“Jesus could fulfill his needs, but he chooses to live in relationship with others, in shared life with others, in shared humanness with others. He doesn’t opt-out of humanity, even in the hunger pains. He finds his nourishment in the same places and same ways everyone else does. There’s no magic.”


Jesus replies:

“It’s written: People won’t live by bread alone.” 

There’s a more generous way.

The second temptation.

Is where the devil takes Jesus to a high place and shows him all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil says,

“I will give you this whole domain if you will worship me.”

This is the temptation to political power. It’s not inherently wrong. Here at Reservoir we have FIA and partner with GBIO to influence change by power.

“There have to be ways we use power for good. But often, very often we end up worshiping power to have power.”

Jesus is not interested in trading his place in the kin-dom for a throne in the destructive empire -not as the ultimate means of liberation. 

Jesus answered,

“It’s written, You will worship the Lord your God and serve only God.” 

A generous God.

Then a third temptation: 

The devil brought him into Jerusalem and stood him at the highest point of the temple. He said to Jesus,

“Since you are God’s Son, throw yourself down from here; God will command the angels to protect you.” 

Prove that you are God – by doing “this” –  x, y, z.  It’s a transactional way of regarding God. Still based on an authoritative, hierarchical power.  But what religion is about is real transformation. Changing our mind toward generous love, changing our heart toward a generous posture in community, changing our body toward living in the present moment. (being generous to ourselves) (Richard Rohr 3.3.23) The whole point of Jesus gets lost when our arguments are about proving something about God – Jesus isn’t interested in proving himself.

Jesus answered,

“It’s been written: Don’t test the Lord your God.”  

God is more generous than this.

Jesus rejects all of these temptations of power and individualism. And realizes that the way of vengeance will not fit.

And chooses a more generous, albeit messy, and hard way forward.

He says I’d rather be a new driver – journeying along this free-way of life with everyone.

“Otherwise I’m held prisoner and captive to, oppressed by, my senses chained to the power of evil. I PREFER THE SPIRIT OF GOD TO BE UPON ME…”

I don’t know, on the one hand this feels pretty obvious. Well yes, of course Jesus would want to organize the kin-dom of God on principles of love, generosity, freedom –  values that can hold and still flex – and stand the test of time – and still be ALIVE!  Our values here at Reservoir are like these – connection, humility, action, freedom and everyone .. 

I think these values are pretty radical.

Radical in Jesus’ day – and still radical today.

Now let me take a beat on this word, “radical.”  

 RADICAL means in Latin to go to the roots.

In plant biology – “the radicle” is the primary embryonic root, emerging from the seed first to enhance water uptake. The new driver – that funnels in the health and vitality of the plant – filtering what nourishment will go to the whole plant system

Jesus as he makes his way through the temptations – returns to the roots and the histories and the legacies and the lineage of his faith. To set-up the new way forward in this kind-dom.

At each temptation he says,

“It is written…it is written…it is written… in scripture it says…my roots offer me this….”

He plants himself in the wisdom of the scripture.

And he takes the heart of them – and he calls them to life – to the generous expanse they apply to.

And it’s then that he’s able to state with clarity the mission for the community going forward. 

Jesus subscribes to a different social understanding. It’s why after he handed the scroll back to the synagogue attendant – everyone stared, stopped,

What does this exactly mean a kin-dom where:

  • The last, shall be first
  • The sick, healed
  • The oppressed, liberated
  • The prisoners, free
  • The outcast, returned to community
  • The unhoused, sheltered
  • The widowed, embraced
  • The downcast, uplifted
  • The grieving, comforted
  • The despairing, surrounded in praise
  • The ashamed, blessed with grace

What does it look like to RENEW? RESTORE? REBUILD THE KIN-DOM? This BELOVED MESSY COMMUNITY with love and GENEROSITY as the organizing principle?


When we say at Reservoir we are a community that embodies ‘radical generosity’ – it isn’t because we each individually try to be the best follower of Jesus, or serve above and beyond (although we do need volunteers!). It’s because we hold tight to our roots. The Jesus who stood in the midst of a synagogue and said,

“The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!”

is not a Jesus of the past – but the same Jesus – that sits right with us this morning – and says the same thing,

“this scripture you’ve heard today – is too being fulfilled – with your partnership…” 

Because if the scripture of the gospel is to live this life as a generous people – 

preaching good news to the poor,
    Proclaiming release to the prisoners
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to liberate the oppressed,

Then boy oh boy – are we going to need some roots – some deeeeep roots! God says we will be called priests of the Lord, that we will be named ministers of God as we use them as anchors and as the way forward.

Now Jesus doesn’t give us a social program, with a clear strategic plan to do this work – but he does offer us two things that I think are critical for a radical generosity to be the potent, change-making spirit it can be:

  1. Call out Evil
  2. Heal

If we had time to read the rest of Luke 4 today – we would see that as Jesus leaves the synagogue he starts calling out evil. He calls out a demon taking up residence in a man  – he says, “SILENCE” to the evil.

He goes to Simon’s home and cares for his mother-in-law who has a high fever – scripture says he bends over her, and “speaks harshly” to the fever  – and as the sun sets on the day – he deflects every evil that challenges or tempts to compete with a spirit of generosity. And he speaks harshly each time to it. He says vengeance, violence, conquering  – will have no room here – but generosity will be as powerful.

To call out evil – is radical generosity. 

Without Jesus and this radical generosity we will be convinced that we are running short on everything, that life is full of scarcity, void of kindness, we’ll believe that we are running short on love/ On years – on time – on moments of happiness – of money – – Scarcity. Scarcity. Deficit.   

BUT we can’t be held captive by that narrative.. if we have captives to free…and new drivers to greet.

“When Jesus talks about setting the captives free, he knows the captives. When he talks about justice for the oppressed, they are the ones he eats with and drinks with. When he talks about healing the wounded, they are his friends, his family, his community.  His spirit of generosity is one that weeps with those who weep – and rejoices with those who rejoice.”


And I think he invites us to do the same.

This relational spirit of generosity that guides our living – can also heal us.  

The demons fled.

The fever left.

The trappings of evil hold no power.

And what is left is the clarity of the Spirit of God upon us – all of us – radical generosity then can be experienced in abundance…at every turn in our lives.

  • This year I was greeted by radical generosity when I was leaving a swim meet and an older gentleman I had just met – and as I went to put on my coat – he held up my sleeve to help me never skipping a beat in conversation. And yet I stood there with the beats of my heart side-swept by such a spirit.
  • I watched as one of you during clean-up at this summer’s church picnic, greeted a neighbor who was walking by, one you hadn’t seen in awhile, a man who had lost his wife of 40 years during Covid. And you went up and you greeted him, and you laid your head on his chest, and said
    • “Oh, how I’ve missed you.”
    • And this man exhaled
    • “this is exactly what I needed today.”
  • In June my husband’s father died – and he was staying with his mom in NH for a few days. I was responsible for all things on the homefront, and meals–not my forte! And I placed plates in front of my kids – bracing for negative feedback. And my eldest turned & looked at me and said, “It’s hard, huh mom? It’s hard. … yah?”
  • I cried and cried.. And she cried!  Nothing about the food – and everything about my heart.
  • We have a 10-year old on the Reservoir Cafe team who a couple of weeks ago – just took to it – setting it all up with gusto – getting plates and baskets and freely displaying the cafe in all its beauty. Never looking for approval or disapproval – just freedom and ease.

And these are four among hundreds of examples of radical generosity that I have encountered over the last few months. And each time it heals me a little bit from the road rage of life. It really does. And it is more than just the word, or the action – and more about the Spirit of God being so present and generous and with all of us. 

And I also heed the words of Peruvian theologian, Gustavo Gutierrez who says this ‘radical generosity’ is

“not only a call to generous relief action, but a demand that we go and build a different social order.”

Jesus was flipping the social order – and is still calling us to this work. AND radical generosity starts with our everyday, ordinary engagement with others – family, friends, strangers – your actual neighbors.

And so we come together this rainy morning. As many lovers of Jesus have done before us – in musty gyms, in fields, in hush harbors, in deserts, and in fancy buildings.

We come together and join with the spirit of God, that is still in the making, still on the move.

And we acknowledge our partnership, our roles that WE THE PEOPLE are needed to help create a beloved community – to form a more perfect and generous union.

And we acknowledge that WE THE PEOPLE are needed to promote the general welfare and cultivate a culture of radical generosity. 

And we acknowledge that WE THE PEOPLE  must establish justice as we do the ongoing work of fulfilling the saints and the prophets legacy of love and liberation.

So maybe today to close, we can say,

“It is written …. It is written….that God so loved the world that God gave their one and only son … One that was sent not to condemn the world, but to save us.” 

Lord save us – because we are all new drivers here on this earth… Save us unto radical generosity again and again. 




Richard Rohr, CAC 3/3/23