Tuesday, November 20, 2012
from scarcity to abundance
for the last couple of weeks at catawissa avenue united methodist church, we've been talking about the opposite worldviews of scarcity and abundance. i have been trying to make the point that the story our culture tells is almost always based on scarcity, while the story of the Gospel is always unexpected, unwarranted, unlikely abundance.
imagine having a meal with Jesus when he was here doing his ministry. how awesome would that be? i have the sense that he could at once make you feel completely at home and deeply loved and also challenged and inspired to be a better version of yourself. exhilarating. but enough about us. imagine that you were asking him about him. you might ask his favorite color, what kind of animal he would be if he was an animal, and so forth, and then imagine that you ask him, "Lord, what is this all about? i mean, why did you really come here? what is your mission statement?"
and then listen to his reply:
"i have come that you may have life - abundant life." (john 10:10)
so there you have it. abundance. Jesus wants abundance for you. he doesn't want you to just scrape by, or to live the destitute life. he wants you to live an abundant life. there are no tricks or bait-and-switch tactics here. he just wants you to be fully alive, in a way that you have not yet even imagined. the only surprise here is this: that this abundant life might not look the way it looks in your imagination.
it's way better.
but we have to be willing to make the move (it may be terrifying) from scarcity to abundance. we have to be willing to leave the landscape of looking out for myself first. we have to be willing to surrender our strong sense of security for ourselves. we have to break the habitual cycle of thinking that there aren't enough resources, that there isn't enough time, that there won't be enough energy, and so forth. think about the "not enoughs" for a moment:
-there isn't enough clean air in the environment
-there aren't enough jobs in the economy
-there isn't enough money in my account for me to be comfortable
-there aren't enough good and decent people anymore.
-there aren't enough respectable politicians and good leaders in our government.
-there aren't enough good things on tv anymore.
-there isn't enough food in the world for all the hungry.
-there soon won't be enough space on this earth for us all.
-there isn't enough time in a day for me to accomplish everything i need and want to do.
-there isn't enough food nearby to feed this crowd of 5,000 people.
oh, wait a second. that last one might not be one that you've said before, but i'll bet you've heard it. it was one that phillip and the other Jesus-followers were saying one day. how can we possibly feed so many with so little (one "insignificant" child had offered a ridiculously "not enough" bit of bread and fish)? and then Jesus did what he does: he turned scarcity into overflowing, overwhelming abundance, beyond the imagination, so that not only did everyone there eat their fill, but there were twelve baskets of leftovers. i know you've heard the story a million times, but have you gotten the point yet?
abundance. when it seems like there is not enough, God can show you that there is way more than enough. but it may very well require you to surrender your prized portion. it may mean that you have to put yourself low on the priority list, take care of others first, so that you can discover that Jesus has a habit of saving the best wine for last (read the story of cana....pretty cool stuff).
of course this requires deep trust in God's provision. if i am going to put others needs before my own, i am going to have to trust that my needs will still get met in the end. this may not be an easy proposition for any of us. believe me, i understand that. but the Gospel story - the witness of our faith - is that if we begin to trust God in this way, we will discover a life that we could not have previously imagined. we will find abundance in the barren places. we will find beauty where there was ashes. we will find resurrection where there was only death. we will find dawn where there was only dark night. if we stop clinging to the few things that we have (and even worse - the things that have us), we will find that we have hands and fingers that are open enough to receive blessings that we dared not dream of.
give thanks, this week. by all means, have a heart of gratitude. God knows that there is so much to be thankful for. but i want to challenge myself - and you - to do something else this thanksgiving and advent: to move from scarcity to abundance. to start to let go of my 'not enoughs.' to start to open up to new possibilities. to start to be intentional about finding ways to help my neighbor rather than padding my own comfort and security. i want to live the abundant life that Jesus came to give us. i dare you to try it, too. there's enough for everyone.