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Easter 4 A ~ "Abundance"~ Susan McGurgan



A few years ago,

at the height of the pandemic,

I dreamed that the pain of isolation, the drive to find a vaccine,

the shared wounds

of grief and loss

and vulnerability

might lead to a better future.

“Once we have gained control

over this virus,

it will be like a new beginning for us!”


And for the most part…

we have,

And for the most part…

it isn’t.


Oh, we have returned to the gym and the salon.

We embrace friends.

We gather at weddings

and go to ball games.

The familiar texture of life has returned

and there is so much to celebrate.


But many things have not changed.

We still live in times

that are frayed around the edges.

We can close our eyes,

we can stop our ears,

we can put down the remote

and turn off the news,

but if we are breathing at all,

we know that the world

is still a place filled with danger

for so many people,

including many of us gathered here.


It is still a time of massive migration—

a time when millions of people

are uprooted from land and home

for reasons beyond their control—

Unendurable poverty.

Political upheaval.

Persecution.

War.

In our own country,

public violence continues to desecrate places

that should be sanctuaries of safety.

It is a time of rupturing—

for households,

for relationships,

for institutions.

We wonder if the earth,

our home and our heritage,

will survive our abuse and neglect.


For many people in our world,

there is an aching hunger for a place to rest,

for a place of peace and safety—

and the growing realization

that there may be

no place

they truly belong.


It is easy for the comfortable to turn away

and find comfort in retail therapy;

find distraction in devices that never sleep

and in noise that never ends.

In this landscape,

it's easy for the secure

and the insecure

to believe that maybe

there just isn’t enough to go around.


Maybe that’s just the way the world is.


After all,

there have always been

winners and losers,

haves and have nots,

lucky and unlucky,

predator and prey.


Viewing life through a lens of scarcity

has a deep and dangerous hold on us.

It’s seductive and it's easy

and it “explains” so much.

And even better,

it lets the comfortable and the safe

off the hook.


If life is a pie chart with limited pieces

then there is nothing you or I can do,

right?

It’s tragic and sad, but I can’t change that.

I mean, I could give you my piece,

but then my family and I would suffer

and what would be the point?

We would just trade one tragedy for another.

And besides,

you will be blessed in Heaven,

won't you?


This notion of rationed grace

and restricted blessing

is both widespread and dangerous.

It twists us inward

and narrows our view.

It warps our ability to live out the Good News.


When we look to the ministry of Christ--

when we turn to Scripture

and liturgy

and the life of community,

we find a very different dynamic.

We discover abundance.

Overflowing,

unlimited,

endless,

gratuitous,

abundance—

Not scarcity or rationing or pie charts.

Abundance.


”You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.”

”I came so that they might have life

and have it more abundantly."


Jesus wants us to see

that this “in-between” time we occupy—

this waiting time

between his coming on earth

and his return in the future,

is not a time for fearful and isolating worry.

It is not a time for hoarding

or protecting privilege.

This is not a time to let evil flourish

or allow pie charts

to take up residence in our pew racks.


Jesus wants us to see that God’s banquet

is already being spread.

The Good News is here.

The Kingdom has already begun.

It is growing quietly like seeds in the ground

and like leaven in bread.

It is present abundantly,

not only in the future life to come,

but in this life,

in this world,

right now,

even in landscapes that appear barren and stark.


The Eucharist is the heart of this abundance,

when Christ himself is broken,

poured out

and shared as food for the journey.

And part of our task as disciples

is to live and proclaim this Eucharistic truth.


We will constantly bump up against the reality

that life is insecure,

and we are not in control.

But Jesus brings the Good News

that we are not alone in our struggles.

Jesus allowed his eyes to see

the pain and misery of the world--

a world in which there is an aching hunger

for a safe place to rest.


He saw,

and he did not despair.

Along with the pain,

he saw the potential for wholeness

in the midst of brokenness.

He practiced abundance

in the face of a world that believed in scarcity.


For Jesus, life “as it is”

is always a gift from Abba,

never to be denied or escaped,

but to be lived robustly and with great love.

Even as Martha and Mary mourned,

Jesus called Lazarus to leave the tomb

and cast aside his burial garments.


We are invited into that same vision;

that same work of exiting tombs

and casting aside burial garments.

We are invited into lives

of wholeness and abundance

both here and now,

and tomorrow

in the world to come.


This invitation is not easy

and the vision is not simple.

There are concrete, heart-wrenching reasons

why so many people

view the Gospel message of hope

with skepticism--

even despair or anger.

Lives of overflowing abundance

are impossible for them to envision.


This is our challenge.

We cannot simply “believe” in justice

or proclaim words of hope.

We cannot parrot the sayings of Scripture,

we must live them honestly and authentically

in the world.

As it did for Jesus,

the practice of abundance will open our eyes

to see the dispossessed,

the lonely,

the wounded.

It will open our ears to the cries of the poor

and those held captive by illness, addiction, racism.

Like Jesus,

our embrace of abundance

will lead us out in mission

to transform the world of winners and losers,

lucky and unlucky,

have and have not,

predator and prey.


Since that world of

"have and have not"

is our construction,

not God's--

it is also ours to de-construct

and build anew from a different blueprint.


It will be hard work

and we will often fail.

Even Jesus

didn’t heal each and every time

and his message

often fell on ears that refused to hear

and hearts that remained stubbornly closed.


But living in abundance

in a world that preaches scarcity

is ultimately subversive.

It challenges structures of power

and inverts systems of honor and glory.

It lifts up the lowly

and scatters the proud.

Living in abundance transforms our vision

and opens our eyes

to the signs of the Kingdom surrounding us,

anointing,

overflowing,

spread out in the green pasture

like a banquet for the hungry.

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