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Developing a Theology of Enough

Making Room for God: Developing a Theology of Enough - Advent 2017 Sermon #4
a2vc.org • December 24, 2017 • Rev. Donnell T. Wyche, Senior Pastor

Preamble

We’re so glad you are here with us this morning.

We’re grateful for you and the gifts of God that you bring with you into this space this morning. As we gather together as a church we do so in the active presence of God through our worship, community, and engagement with scripture, which we hope will lead to transformational growth in our everyday life. As a congregation we want to experience belonging, cultivate tangible joy, activate hope, and know comfort as we learn to trust Jesus more and more, enabling us to reflect the welcome and peace of Jesus to those closest to us. We pray that whether this is your first time with us this morning, or you've been a part of our community for a while, that you will feel the invitation of the Holy Spirit to join in with our vision. If you are looking for a church home, we would love to be your church home, and I, in particular would love to become your pastor.

Interlude

We are also in the midst of our 12-month “You Belong” campaign; we have campaign booklets available on the sermon & Bible cart. Please take a moment to grab one today before leaving the celebration.

Introduction

Today is the fourth and final Sunday in Advent. We opened our Advent series by hearing from John the baptist, a prophet who came to encourage the people of God to “Prepare the way of the Lord.” John’s invitation was clear, live a life in keeping with your repentance.

Turn your back on everything that prevents you from experiencing and inviting new hope, peace, joy, and love into your life. Surrender everything that would prevent you from seeing the King of Glory bring into your life everything you need. At the same time, there was a clear warning, if your life doesn’t produce fruit in keeping with your repentance then expect to experience a death.

Developing a Theology of Enough

As we wrap up this sermon series on Making Room for God, let’s consider again what John says to the last two groups of folks who respond to his call to repentance.

10“What should we do then?” the crowd asked. 11John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.” 12Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?” 13“Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them. 14Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.” (Luke 3:10-14)

John’s instruction seems straight-forward enough, “Collect only what you are required to, rather than padding the bill and pocketing the difference.” “Don’t use your power and position to your own benefit.”

If we take one step in, we might discover that John was inviting an internal reflection, “How did collectors and soldiers think and feel about those they were exploiting?” Put another way, John is asking, “Are you aware of the ways that sin causes you to dehumanize others? This is why John is calling us to repentance.

Who are we thinking about as we go about our work, shopping, driving, politics? Are we making space to see others as our neighbors? Are we considering what it might mean to love them as we love ourselves? Do we see the other as sharing in our humanity? If that’s too deep or abstract, “What desires or fears do we have, for ourselves or for them?”

Are we willing to step into this tension with John?

Are we willing to consider how the world works and who receives the benefits? Are we willing to consider what changes are required for our hearts, our minds, our way of living? Are we willing to take any of this to God? Or have we just accepted that this just how the world is? Or are we invoking the prayer that the Lord gave us, “Your kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven?

At the heart of these instructions from John is the principle of enough, rooted in the Hebrew hope of shalom, the peace of God that permeates all things.

Many of us, we hear this call from John, and we overreact. We allow fear, uncertainty, and doubt to be the loudest voices we hear. We immediately forget what Jesus has said to us about himself and his father:

9“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:9-11)

But we all have reasons for our fear, uncertainty, and doubt when it comes to trusting. Maybe you experienced a lifetime of broken promises; maybe you experienced a series of painful relationships; maybe you’ve been abandoned and have had to chart a course on your own. We all have our reservations when comes to trusting others and even trusting God.

This brokenness in our lives may be the result of years of disappointment. It may be born out of experiences in community as we have watched and experience person after person fail us. It may be born out of our pride, our willingness to go it alone no matter the outcome.

Responding to John’s call, his call to dependence on God doesn’t have to bankrupt or ruin us, it’s an invitation to make room for God to come to us. Gross prosperity and extreme poverty are not the only choices we have as we make our way towards a dependent life. We need to create another way, what I like to call, a theology of enough. The God we serve is a God of abundance, and we belong to a kingdom that is overflowing. God is willing to give us just what we need, if we are willing to believe that in God’s kingdom, there is enough.

Paul puts it this way:

Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.” (2 Corinthians 8:13-15)

God’s Economy: There’s Enough!

The scriptures start with God’s generosity; it’s what Walter Brueggemann calls a “liturgy of abundance.” In Genesis 1, we learn how God orders the world, we learn that “it is good, it is good, it is good, it is very good.” The sky, the plants, the animals, the fish, the birds, and the humanity–all that God creates is good and God blessed. God looks and in joy says join me in abundance, “Be fruitful and multiply.” At the end of of it all, God God rests. Sabbath. We will talk more about Sabbath in the New Year, I hope you will join us!

Imagine with me Kingdom economics: the idea that God is our provider and God made a space for us where there is enough for everyone. In God’s kingdom, the only thing there’s not enough of is everyone’s greed.

The theology of enough is woven into the story of God and humanity. It first appears in the desert as the Children of Israel leave their captivity in Egypt and make their way towards the Promised Land.

In response to their complaints, God tells Moses that he will provide for their daily needs. Each day bread will “rain down” and they are to collect only what they need for that day.

God’s ability and willingness to provide was evident everyday when they woke and were able to collect what they needed for that day. God had one rule, take only what you need and no more. If they decided to ignore God’s instructions and store it for the next day, it rotted, thus teaching them to rely on God’s provision each day.

When Kingdoms Clash

Did you know that the Pharaoh in Egypt was the first speaker in the scriptures who declares that, “There’s not enough.” This was a lie. There was always enough even through the famines, but the Pharaoh wanted everything. He wanted a monopoly on life. The Pharaoh takes God’s abundance, hoards it for himself, and turns the people of God into slaves. But our God is the creator of abundance and generosity. God invites us to see the world the way it is, full, abundant, overflowing.

We must be aware of and open to the reality that kingdoms will clash. God’s kingdom will often and quite powerfully collide with the systems of this world. In particular, this happens when people of faith, declare, “Enough is enough” and refuse to be in league with a system that undermines, distorts, and destroys the Kingdom of God values.

The goal of the Empire is to break intimacy, to break our connection and bonds between each other, to get us to stop caring for, loving, supporting, and looking out for each other. The Empire wants to convince us that there isn’t enough, “Hoard, so you have enough,” because when there’s not enough, we won’t see each other as participating in the shared humanity. Instead, we will see each other as competitors fighting over scarce resources, the idea that my gains come at the expense of your losses. The Empire wants to destroy our love and empathy for each other turning us in modern-day gladiators fighting each other to the death.

But that dehumanizes us, it pits us against each other. John says to this, “Repent and Prepare the Way for the Lord.”

Friends, as the people of God, we have to resist the Empire’s hold on us. The Empire is pervasive and perverted. The Empire says, “You hoard, so you have enough,” and God says, “Give, so that you have enough.” This way of living requires us to reorient our lives, ourselves, and our priorities to welcome what we need: new hope, new peace, new joy, and new love.

Jesus is the best embodiment of this reality as he came and turned our understanding of the world upside-down, when 5000 needed food, he took what looked like too little and revealed the truth that when we bless, break, and share the bread there is enough. More than enough. If you know the story, you know that everyone was fed and there left overs. Jesus invites us to participate in this activity of signs and wonders. Jesus was demonstrating that the world is filled with abundance and generosity. Only, if we are willing to bless, break, and share the bread that we have will we discover there is enough for everyone.

Let’s continue to do what John said by

 

  • Donating your extra clothes.
  • Donating your extra food.
  • Sign up to serve at the Rotating Shelter.
  • I have a handout for decluttering a room; and what food to donate in the lobby.

 

We become better students of Jesus when we trust Jesus and loosen our grip on our fears and our stuff and our money. This allows us to follow Jesus into the unknown and discover the life that he has for us.

Together, let’s make some space for love to come to us, let’s close in prayer together:

Jesus of Nazareth, I acknowledge my thirst for what you have to give. I surrender myself to you, whole and entire - what was, and is, and is to come. Plunge the wrongs I have done and the wrongs done to me into your fathomless mercy. Receive me as I am today. Make me what I am meant to be, and let me walk in the path of your new creation.
Amen.

 
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