The Ultimate Word

"The ultimate Word is not a paragraph but a person. If Jesus is the Word of God incarnate, then the heart of proclamation is personal and relational, not propositional."

Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki * God, Christ, Church, page 135

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Making more

Proper 12, Pentecost 6A
Romans 8:26-39
Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52


In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Too much is never enough.

It’s a strange message to be hearing in the church. Very often you hear us talking about conservation, asceticism, making do with less. Jesus is forever telling people to give more away and make do with less.

That’s the way it often is with material possessions. We focus ourselves on material needs or desires, but they never sustain us. We consume them, we draw them down, we run out. But, today, Jesus tells us about true sustenance - Kingdom of Heaven sustenance.

And the essence of that Kingdom of Heaven sustenance is that it’s about making more. It isn’t consumed or depleted, but it always makes more.

God is the ultimate renewable resource. Not just plentiful, but always renewing.

In the Anglican tradition, we endeavor to approach faith, and spirituality, and even religion through the lenses of scripture, tradition, and reason. Remember that from confirmation classes? We have the scriptures. We live in and are a part of the traditions of the church. But what of reason? That’s the creative part. That’s the Holy Spirit part. That’s where God continues to speak. There are churches and religious traditions that would like to present the world as if God’s work was done - as if the scriptures are not more than a simple book of instructions. But as Anglicans we believe that we have more: reason. We have a part to play in how God continues God’s work, and how God’s continuing work is understood.

One way we might employ that gift - reason - is through remembering the more-making nature of God. When faced with a task or a decision or a dilemma, we might ask ourselves: What will make more? What will be renewable and renewing? Where does the cup inexplicably run over? All of that is simply another way of saying: What reflects the nature of God?

Our job as a parish is to seek out what makes more. What makes more of us? What makes more for the community in which we’ve been planted for God’s service? What makes more for those who need more the most?

Sometimes it’s work: feeding the hungry, providing shelter to those most vulnerable, providing companionship to the lonely, providing education to those who are forgotten. The list of possibilities could go on and on.

But whatever kind of work it is - or even if it turns out not to be “work” at all - God’s more-making is always about relationships. God is in the business of more-making, and the way God does this is through the currency of relationship. Always.

Some churches will tell you that to be a good Christian you must love or not love certain people, that you must consume or not consume certain things, that you must associate or not associate with certain kinds of people, that you must perform or not perform certain rituals… But I tell you, what I’ve discovered about God and Christianity and what it means to live a life in union with the teachings of Jesus is on one hand simpler and on the other hand endlessly more complicated.

It’s simpler because I’ll never recite for you a list of rules that you must follow to be a part of this faith or even this community. There’s only one rule: be like God by being about making more. Resist the temptations of scarcity and focus instead on abundance. BE abundance. MAKE abundance. SHARE abundance. Be a tiny seed that grows to feed a village and shelter a flock. Be a treasure more valuable than all other possessions. Be small, but make more.

But it’s also more complicated than any list of rules might be: say these magic words… hate these other people… eat like us, walk like us, dress like us, worship like us… Those ways of living are simple - you just follow the rules. Our way takes a little more thought. Our way takes a lot more courage. It takes love and it takes faith.

Prohibitions and rules can sometimes serve a purpose. They can help us to stay safe. Sometimes they can keep us from harm. Sometimes they can help keep order. None of us would allow a child to touch a hot stove, nor would any of us want to live in a society without any laws.

But sometimes these rules and prohibitions turn out to be a little more selfish than just that. Often, when religious communities start talking about rules, they’re not looking out for you, but for themselves. Often, those rules are more about drawing lines around communities than they are about lifting up those communities - as if you could achieve security by segregation. But, of course, we all know that that never works.

But even beyond the fact that segregation never works, it’s not even relevant in God’s economy! We can try to segregate ourselves all we want, but God has already drawn all the lines that matter - God has drawn us all in. Others can shout “you’re out!” at us until they’re blue in the face, but God has already made sure we are in.

“Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? … No… Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor ANYTHING ELSE IN ALL CREATION will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

FULL STOP.

Not because we’ve done the right things, or followed the right rules, or run with the right crowd of people. We will never be separated simply because we are God’s. We are the people of God and that is all that matters. It’s all we need. That’s all it took, and that’s all it ever will take.

We have the Holy Spirit as our advocate and intercessor, not because we’re so great, but because we’re so God’s.

Nothing in ALL of creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. So like the mustard seed, or the pearl, or the treasure, go make more of yourselves. That’s all God needs. Amen.

2 comments:

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Ah, I can hear John Vincent's influence on your theology. And, I'm not just talking about the "full stop" thing. This is the best of urban theology: the abundance of God.

Well done.

Jon M. Richardson said...

Well, I have always been pretty abundance driven :) But it was pretty out front on my mind when I wrote it on the plane Friday :)