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
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…
And for the most part…
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—
In our own country,
public violence continues to desecrate places
that should be sanctuaries of safety.
It is a time of rupturing—
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
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.
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,
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.
you will be blessed in Heaven,
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 the life of community,
we find a very different dynamic.
We discover abundance.
Not scarcity or rationing or pie charts.
”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,
even in landscapes that appear barren and stark.
The Eucharist is the heart of this abundance,
when Christ himself is broken,
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.
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,
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
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,
It will open our ears to the cries of the poor
and those held captive by illness, addiction, racism.
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,
it is also ours to de-construct
and build anew from a different blueprint.
It will be hard work
and we will often fail.
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,
spread out in the green pasture
like a banquet for the hungry.