Living in Abundance

It is interesting where you find yourself in the midst of certain texts.  This text brought me back to the summer of 2003. I had just finished working at summer camp in Wisconsin. I had met an amazing woman (who would eventually become my wife), but she was headed back to college in Minnesota and I was headed back to college in Indiana. We adopted these verses as a way to try and convince us that we wouldn’t worry about the distance that separated us. Although to be honest, I’m not sure these words stopped me from worrying. This text did not keep me from worrying that some tall, blonde Norwegian hunk would catch her eye when she got back to school. This text didn’t keep me from worrying that we would only see each other once in the next couple of months. This text didn’t keep me from worrying that our schedules would be too busy for us to even talk to one another all that often.

Do not worry? Once again Jesus seems to be giving us an impossible task this week. Because, on any given day, there are a number of things to worry about. Did I get everything done at work, have Laura and I spent enough quality time together, have I kept in touch with my friends, are people still listening to my sermon. I don’t think I am in alone in worrying either. We live in an anxious culture. The evening news keeps viewers by telling us the next thing we have to worry about. (Newscaster voice) Coming up at 10, the latest food you thought was healthy is not healthy anymore, in fact it may take years off your life. I admit to not watching much local news, but when I do I seem to always hear something similar. Commercials are constantly trying to make us anxious about something; usually ourselves. Particularly, infomercials make us anxious because the overly excited man or woman selling the item, tells us how much better our life will be if we purchase this item. (Infomercial voice) For only three easy payments of 23.95, you too can be the brand new owner of this knife that can cut through metal. You wont have to worry again about not being able to cut your food. I don’t know about you but I haven’t eaten a whole lot of metal lately. But these commercials try to get at our insecurities and make us anxious. We are not complete unless we own whatever item is being hawked at that particular moment in time. I was at the airport recently and saw a sign that said, “If you see anything suspicious call 1-800… and then when I was going to the terminal I heard over the loudspeaker “The threat level as determined by the Department of Homeland Security is Orange. I am not quite sure what Orange means but it sure sounds bold, scary, and angry. It makes me even more anxious because I don’t know what it means.

After experiencing all of this in our world day to day it seems impossible to hear the words of Jesus, “Do not worry” and take them seriously. So how do we live out this command from Jesus. Well first lets look back at the beginning of our text this morning. Jesus didn’t begin this text talking about worrying. Instead Jesus began this text saying that we cannot serve two masters God and money. According to Jesus, if we try, we end up loving one and hating the other. So what is the connection to worrying? This seems a bit off topic. But, notice Jesus does say that loving money is bad or evil, but just that it doesn’t make a good master. When we allow money to rule our lives and let money make all of our decisions in our lives, we give into the world’s view of scarcity and worry. When we believe that money can satisfy our deepest needs, then we discover that we never have enough. Money, after all, is finite. And so once we decide money grants security, then we are ushered immediately into a world of counting, tracking, and stock piling. No wonder we worry – in a world of scarcity, there is simply never enough.

Scarcity, after all, creates fear. We might even say that the word, scarcity, alone conjures up the very essence of worry in us. We need to get what we can now, because it might not be there later. Abundance, on the other hand, produces freedom. So rather than imagine Jesus’ world of abundance, the rulers of Jesus day committed to keeping the power they derived from a fear born of scarcity. So instead of peace and abundance that Jesus preached the rulers wanted worry and scarcity.

The alternative Jesus invites us to consider is entering into relationship with God, the God who is infinite and whose love for us and all creation is infinite as well. Love operates from a different “economy” than money. Jesus invites us into a different alternative. An alternative that tells us there is always enough love to go around, there is always enough, there is always enough, there is always enough.

I found an idea while reading for the sermon this week that I really loved. I have a task for you to accomplish this week. I promise it wont be too difficult, but it is a little bit of homework. There are so many images of scarcity, and worry, and fear that seem to be always looming over us. There are so many images that we could come up with that would represent these images in our lives, so I would like each of you to come up pictures of their opposites. This week I would like you to take pictures, or bring in pictures of abundance, and courage, and trust. Bring us the images and pictures of where you have seen God at work caring for the world in a way that helps you relax, breathe, count your blessings, and trust in God’s providence. So go out and look through your photo albums or take pictures during the week and bring them in. Look for these places of courage, of sites of abundance, of signs of trust. Look for places where you see God’s kingdom breaking into our broken world. Perhaps these will be pictures of your children and grandchildren, or maybe of someone just doing an honest day’s work. Maybe they will be pictures of groups of friends, or the photos from the incredible and utterly unanticipated – and isn’t that almost always the way abundance is? I’m confident that we’ll be amazed at the number of places we see abundance, courage, and trust once we look.

After we collect these images and photos over the next week, we will display them over the next couple of weeks in the welcome center. As we look at this collective collage, we will see the abundance of God’s mercy, grace and love present in life of Messiah Lutheran Church. So that even though we are constantly bombarded with images of scarcity, worry, and fear, we can bring images of God’s love that can bring peace into our lives. While there will still be worries, there will still be doubts, and there will still be fears (and infomercials that want to sell us the next greatest thing that we must have) may these images of abundance remind us that God is at work in each of lives in intimate ways. Amen.

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