I remember hearing a story about a colleague and his wife who received a gift from a parishioner. The gift, dropped off at their door one Sunday afternoon, was a beautiful, delicious smelling deep-dish apple pie. They decided that it would be their supper that evening, and so it was. After their dinner, they cleared the dishes, put away the leftovers, washed up and decided to spend the evening together reading in the living room. My colleague’s wife told him to go ahead and that she would join him shortly, so off he went to read the Sunday newspaper. After some time he realised that he was still alone so he went to see what his wife was up to. Looking into the kitchen he saw her making an apple pie in the same dish their gift had come in. When he asked her about it she replied, “It was such a lovely gift, but I can’t send the plate back empty.”

This story always makes me think about giving and receiving. As followers of Jesus, we know that we are called to give selflessly, for that is the example of grace. The question that arises has to do with whether we can truly appreciate giving graciously if we do not know how to receive graciously. When we receive a gift, can we honour the giver by simply receiving, or do we feel obligated send the plate back with something in it?

God’s gift to us has no strings attached. Like the little ones receiving cold water, we have nothing to give back that can compare to the gift we have been given. Our only response is to graciously receive what has been graciously given, and to live in it. In doing so, we can begin to comprehend the heart of gracious giving and share it with others.

First John reminds us that we love because God first loved us. Be loved and love. Graciously receive and graciously give. Give not out of a sense of obligation but because you want others to share in the gift you have received. The thirst is great and there is plenty of water for all.