Monthly Archives: May 2013

Consider the Lilies…

What’s your image of abundance? abundance 1What comes to mind when you think of abundant life? For some people it is money and we’re told on a regular basis that money satisfies all needs… but is money life? abundance 2Is it really the thing that makes the “world go around?”

I think it is interesting to think through “abundance” from the point of view of “enough.” Take “enough” as an image to hold in your mind for a little bit. What would enough feel like to you? If you had enough clothes to get through a year of weather changes – something light to wear in the summer, something warm to wear in the winter, something that made you feel cool to wear… whatever… what if you had enough so that you were covered, comfortable and capable of moving through the days. And suppose you had enough food. You have a choice of vegetables, main dishes, special sides, desserts with which to have little simple celebrations of days or a week, but you were fed. And add on enough space in which to live – clean, dry, warm, cool, safe. And then there are people to know – friends, relations, new and interesting people who have ideas or frank advice. And suppose you also had work – a job that assisted people to get through life, to get things clear up, or in place or just feeling better about themselves – and by your work you fed others, cheered up others, made others feel significant.

What if your food, your clothes, your habitat, your relationships and your labor were filling up your days in a reasonable, steady manner? What if your life had enough? Would that be a picture of abundance? Is “enough” the same as “abundance?”

I was watching a report on wealth and a woman was presented who had somehow – by selling a company or creating an idea someone bought – made $23million. She was wealthy she said. That’s how she described herself until someone asked, “Well, do you own your own plane?” She checked into it and discovered that even with $23 million she still wasn’t really in a position to own her own plane. And she said she was “suddenly impoverished.” She didn’t have enough in life… even with $23million.

What’s your picture of “abundance?” What do you see in your mind’s eye? I’m going to spend the rest of this week taking pictures of abundance, just things that capture my attention and make me think of life being abundant. We’re looking at abundant Life at First Presbyterian in Lancaster, PA. If you’re around and want to bring your pictures of abundance, do that. Bring pictures of abundance with you on Sunday or send them to me here and I’ll see what I can do to get them printed out.

For me this is just an exercise in crediting marvels, in observing what I’m seeing. I want to take some time to see how much of enough it takes to make abundant? How much enough is there in abundant? I’m hoping I’ll see and understand abundant better.


Returning to the Presence of God…

Annual festivals in Scripture (the Old Testament is where we find them described) are times when the people were called to return to the presence of God. At least it was a time to come back to the realization of the presence of God being part of life. And to do it one actually or usually walked. In the New Testament we find Jesus celebrating the festivals of God. We read that Jesus’ parents had a habit of coming to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Jesus, as an adult, is found walking in Solomon’s portico, a portion of the Temple, during the celebration of what we now call Hanukkah. Whatever you were doing, wherever you were, whatever had gone on in your life, there were these particular days given to the calendar when you would turn toward the Temple, Jerusalem and walk back to God’s presence.
Man, I find it interesting that the main message of Jesus was “turn around”… repent… turn around… It sounds to me like, you’re forgetting to walk back to God, and that just makes sense to me.

What would that experience be like? In Psalm 126 we read the words that probably accompanied a journey like this…

When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
“The LORD has done great things for them.”
The LORD has done great things for us,
and we are filled with joy.

Imagine those words being sung as you walk up toward the city of Jerusalem. Can you feel the perspective shift “…the Lord has done great things for them. The Lord has done great things for US.”

At First Presbyterian in Lancaster we’re going to give ourselves a chance to “walk back into the presence of God.” This isn’t throwing dispersions on anyone’s spiritual state. Remember this is what Jesus’ family did each year. It’s what we’re each called to in the heart of the Good News – turn around, remember and come join in. It’s not about being bad. It’s more like an experience I had growing up. It’s like my Mom sticking her head out the back door and yelling into the air, “Geoffrey! Dinner!” It didn’t really matter what I was doing or who I was with, I turned around and headed back to the one who knew me, loved me and provided for me. I went back to be filled up with the reality and truth of all that.

People who have never had a “coming home” experience can taste in their souls what a great feeling that might be. Jesus came to preach that there was a home and a parent aching for the children to turn around and come home.

Like an older brother, he came to us and said, “Go, round up the rest of the kids. Tell ‘em it’s dinner time.” That’s what people normally call “The Great Commission.” They just say it a little differently.

This Sunday we start a 3 week series on “Living in Abundance,” the life Jesus promised and the Spirit created. Then we start a summertime series on “God’s New Society.” We’ll look at the community life God established through Jesus and the Holy Spirit.


Spring is against walls…

“Something there is that doesn’t love a wall…”

In the famous poem by Robert Frost, “Mending Wall,” we find this description of God. I say that rather boldly, probably too boldly for Beulah Jodrie, my college English professor, but I won’t qualify it. I claim that it is a description of God, whether someone finds it to describe something else, even spring as Frost himself intimates. There is something within life that doesn’t like walls and so life works against them. I believe that’s God.

Spring is laying claim to Lancaster County. The thawing mud of March, gave way to breezy, rainy, drying, cooling and warming alternatives of April, which have now settled into a fertile May. A daily and gentle reveal of life’s ferocity weaves unrelenting change into the landscape’s tightly knitted tapestry. It plays visual harmonies until life expresses a different tune. Like multi-media jazz it infiltrates and invites the senses to follow, to explore and to diverge from wintering routine. Life is laying claim to Lancaster County.

And that’s the revealing glory of God.

It is this abundant reminder that life wins and will not be conquered. It will not be kept out by walls or fences. That image always makes me think of Jesus clearing the Temple. He broke down walls. He became our peace or “wholeness.” There are a lot of images of and suggestions about where and how he did that. My personal leaning is that it was toward the back, in the area called the “Court of the Gentiles.”
I am moved to that by the words he uses and by the layout of the space. Everyone moved through this court or section where those who came to love the God of the Jews, but who were not Jews, could gather for worship. There was a sign, warning_inscriptionwhich archaeologists found and we have today, which warned any non-Jewish person who walked into other portions of the Temple that they were responsible for their own death.
It was in this area that, I believe, money changers, pigeon and sheep sellers had set up their booths and were doing business. Imagine how people who were made to worship in that area would understand their worth, their value in the eyes of God or in sharing the promises of the community of God’s people. The animals’ noises, the haggling, the pushing past and the variety of insensitive voices of different languages doesn’t sound conducive to worship, does it?
Jesus overturned the tables, grabbed some ropes and drove out the marketers, shouting at them, “My house will be called a house of prayer for ALL peoples, but you have made it a den of thieves.” He broke the dividing wall, pushed a hole into the fence of prejudice. And later, when Greeks came seeking to see him, Jesus said, “Now is my glory revealed.” Life wins.
Some people say “Love wins,” but that’s too big a claim for me to make because all sorts of claims are made along with that as to what love looks like. But I can tell that life wins. I can tell it in Jesus. And I can tell it in the Lancaster County. I believe that’s God’s reveal in both cases. And for today, that’s plenty big enough for me to take in.