Sunday, July 18, 2010

Abundance

To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace and love be yours in abundance. (Jude 1.1-2)

Too Much

Walt and I were in Paris when Spider Man opened, and we thought it might be interesting to watch the French watch an American blockbuster. If you’ve been to the movies there, you know Parisians respect film as high art. They’ll talk through the previews without a glance at the screen. When the feature starts, however, they go silent and remain so to soak up every minute. Although we experienced this before, we couldn’t believe Spider Man was getting the kind of attention Americans reserve for “serious” films. Obviously, its sarcasm and wit didn’t translate. (I whispered to Walt, “The subtitles are fine. The jokes are too American.” On every side, I felt lasers of disapproving stares.) Then, about halfway along, four characters gathered for Thanksgiving. They brought out a golden-brown, colossal turkey, sitting it in the center of a table groaning with side dishes. The audience roared. It wasn’t an intentional joke, but the response turned it into one. Cooking enough for a small army looked ridiculous with only four skinny actors to feed.

A few days later we mentioned this to our friend, Ludivine, a movie actress we’d met a few years earlier. We said we got how it could be mistaken as a sight gag if the audience didn’t know about Thanksgiving. She said, “I don’t think they were laughing because there was so much food. It was a love-laugh at Americans. You have such a hard time distinguishing plenty from too much.” We had no clue what she meant. “We have feasts, too,” she went on. “We’re famous for them. We make sure there’s plenty, so everyone has his fill of all he wants. But too much is… too much. All of that work—the planning, shopping, and cooking—only to have most of it shoved into the refrigerator or thrown away. It’s too much.” “But, but, but,” we replied, stressing that Thanksgiving is a feast of abundance. “What good is abundance if it’s wasted?” she asked.

The Pleasures of Plenty

When the topic of abundance surfaces among believers, our thoughts focus on “abundant living,” based on Christ’s statement in John 10.10: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (NKJV) And we accept that at face value without considering there may be more to it than meets the eye. On its surface, it’s pretty simple. Jesus came to give us life, not only new life, but also plenty of life—more than we’ve ever known, more than was possible before He came. Yet misinterpreting abundance to mean "excess" ruins our response to this great promise. It’s too much for us to conceive, let alone digest. So many of us react to Christ’s abundance as though it were a table laden with overstocked offerings and oversized portions. Either we push back because we’re too concerned about overeating or we stuff ourselves into a stupor. Both reactions prevent us from enjoying the life Christ gives.

There’s no need to go hungry, nor is there any use in making ourselves sick from overindulgence. Christ gives abundant life so we can experience the pleasures of plenty. Unlike our feasts, which we slate for special occasions, His table is continuously spread for everyone to savor life to the full. Every day’s a feast day. Abundant living is a privilege we practice. Every day, we’re drawn to the feast to satisfy the needs and appetites of that day. Some days we go to the feast craving love. There’s plenty of love on the table. Some days we go in search of peace. There’s no shortage of peace. We may have forgot what joy tastes like. So we go that day wanting nothing more than a big helping of joy. Whatever craving draws us to Christ’s table of life we eat our fill without hesitation, because there’s always enough of everything for everyone. Thus, abundant life isn’t a mystery. It’s not a lofty goal. It’s not a higher spiritual plane or state of consciousness. It’s the daily discipline of getting to the feast, knowing what we require and desire for that day, and believing there’s plenty for us and everyone else. Our presence at Christ’s table day after day ensures none of His abundance is wasted.

Come and Dine

When I was young, we sang a hymn whose chorus said:

"Come and dine," the Master calleth, "Come and dine."

You may feast at Jesus' table all the time

He Who fed the multitudes, turned the water into wine

To the hungry calleth now, "Come and dine!"

That’s abundant living in a nutshell. Jude opens his epistle with a glorious salutation: “To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance.” We’ve been called to dine on Christ’s abundance, and each day brings a new call. God does love us. Christ does keep us by providing plenty of everything we need to remain in Him. There’s plenty of mercy and peace and love and everything else we will ever need or desire in order to live abundantly.

What do you need today? What do you hope to discover? What will drive your thoughts and behavior closer to God? Whatever that may be, it’s in ready supply. The table is spread. There’s plenty of room for you. Don’t worry about who is or isn’t there. You’re welcome to sit wherever you like. Abundance awaits you. It must not be wasted. Christ is calling you to new life, more life than you’ve ever known, more than was or will be possible without Him. Come and dine.

Whatever you need or desire in life, there’s plenty awaiting you at Christ’s table.

Postscript: Off to Celebrate

I’ll be away from my desk while I travel to Oakland, California to celebrate Bishop Walter Hawkins’ life and triumph over death. I don’t anticipate having time to post anything new mid-week, but I’ll make time to monitor comments. Please keep me in your prayers as I travel, and pray added strength for Bishop’s family and congregation as they go through the days and months ahead. God bless all of you. I look forward to getting back home and here soon.

6 comments:

claire said...

This post is an absolute treat, Tim. At a time when so many of us feel needy in our respective churches, you final paragraph is a blessing for all. I cannot thank you enough for it.

You know, I may even use it for a retreat in which I am to participate -- as an opening reflection. Thank you. (I will obviously give you credit for it :-)

Tim said...

Yes, Claire, it does seem of late Christ's feast is being mismanaged by too many backwards butlers, doesn't it? We might do well to reacquaint ourselves with the roles here. He's the host. We're the guests. And they're the hired help. Because they block our entrance at their portals--or waste their side of the table's abundance--doesn't mean the feast has been cancelled. Despite them, there's still plenty for all.

As the old spiritual says, The table is spread and the feast of the Lord is going on.

Thank you for pointing out how hungry so many of us are. It's time to eat... Bon appetit!

Blessings always,
Tim

PS: Of course, use anything here any time... No credit necessary. It's just one dinner guest whispering to another... ;-)

Sherry Peyton said...

What a joyful message! Thanks. It made me smile and that is always a good thing.

Tim said...

To paraphrase an old friend, "Sherry, if you're smiling, I'm grinning ear-to-ear!" Abundance is such a marvelous thing. Just knowing there's plenty of what we need and plenty of room at the table is enough to lift us.

Thanks for making me smile!

Blessings,
Tim

grant said...

Mmmm.. I love that analogy about finding whatever we are hungry for each day at Christ's table. And I enjoyed the chuckle inherent in the Spiderman Thanksgiving scene.

You reminded me of a story my mother tells of how she cooked a HUGE turkey to be cut up and prepared as cold cuts for a family wedding the next day. At supper time as the turkey came out of the oven, she placed it on the kitchen table intending to trim a little off for supper for just her and my dad, (the children had long since all moved out).

My dad sat for a minute observing the size of the beast then looking at her he dryly remarked: "You've never really learned to cook for just two, have you?"

Tim said...

Grant, I fully expected to hear one of those "the dog got to the turkey before it was sliced" stories! Your ending is much funnier. I'm glad Christ is like your mother; He prepares plenty in advance so there will be enough for all!

Peace,
Tim