More Than Enough

These notes are intended for distribution to members and friends of the Kirk of Kildaire Presbyterian Church family. While effort is made to give credit for work done by others, the notes may use material for which appropriate credit is not given. Also, the notes may differ from the actual sermon as it was delivered. Remember, sermons are meant to be preached and are therefore prepared with the emphasis on verbal presentation; the written accounts occasionally stray from proper grammar and punctuation.

2 Corinthians 9:1-15

If you were here last week, you may remember that what we are reading from Paul is in part a fundraising letter. He is trying to collect an offering from the Corinthians to give to the poor saints in Jerusalem. It seems it was going a little slow.

So he motivates them by talking about how much the Macedonians had given and how he had bragged about the Christians in Corinth to them. He was hoping that their giving would not be an embarrassment to him or them.

How do you like that for a way to raise money? Sort of reminds me how I shamed you into giving canned goods during March madness! All for a good cause you know!

In the part of the letter today, Paul wants them to know that they have more than enough to participate… God will provide! So don’t hold back!

“Each of you must give as you have made up your mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work.”

Paul’s pleading makes you wonder if these Christians are worried that they won’t have enough left over if they give to this offering. There must have been some reluctance or Paul would not have had to say “do not give reluctantly”… And perhaps the reluctance is born out of fear… that there is not enough to go around.

I know that fear. Do you?

When stewardship season comes around or opportunities are offered to give to very good causes, do you not have that inner voice that says, “I would like to give, but…” and we finish the sentence with fears that there will not be enough.

Voices like, “I’d like to give but I’ve got to save for college or I have kids in college… I’d like to give but I need to save for retirement… I want to add on to my house… I have to pay my bills…” I’ve heard those voices, have you?!

This fear of scarcity (as it is called) is one of the great barriers to generous living or giving.

Walter Brueggemann Biblical Scholar and retired professor from Columbia Theological Seminary talks about this… when he talks about the myth of scarcity and the liturgy of abundance. The myth of scarcity is the myth that we do not have enough to share or it is our fear that IF we share, there will not be enough leftover.He noted that majority of the world’s resources pour into the United States. And as we American grow more and more wealthy, money is becoming a kind of narcotic for us. We hardly notice our own prosperity or the poverty of so many others. The great contradiction is that we have more and more money and less and less generosity—less and less money for the needy and less charity for the neighbor.He says, the Bible challenges this way of thinking. Genesis 1 is a song of praise for God’s generosity…In an abundance of fruitfulness God keeps on creating… and providing more than enough for us to enjoy…

Jesus was not afflicted by the myth of scarcity that affects so many of us. He grounded his life on the theology of abundance. “Do not worry about your life”, he said, “the God who clothes the lilies of the field will clothe us.” He saw the world as wonderfully made by God who has promised to provide every need. There is enough to go around.

Isn’t that one of the points of the story of the feeding of the 5000?  Jesus doesn’t look like he has much to work with given the need. But as Barbara Brown Taylor pointed out: “Jesus looked at the same things the disciples looked at, but where they saw not enough, he saw plenty: Plenty of time, plenty of food, plenty of possibilities with the resources at hand. Wherever there was plenty of God there would be plenty of everything else.” [1]

So Jesus takes what little the disciples had… blesses it, gives it back to the disciples and the disciples give it to the crowds. And, lo and behold, it is more than enough. Everyone ate and was filled; they ate their fill and needed no more. And there were leftovers! Take that myth of scarcity!

God will provide. That’s what Jesus taught and that’s the message we’re asked to believe. Which is hard.

As Brueggemann says, “If you are like me, while you read the Bible you keep looking over at the screen to see how the market is doing. If you are like me, you read the Bible on a good day, but you watch Nike ads every other day. And the Nike story says whoever has the most shoes when he dies wins. And the other stories say the same. Basically the message is, “the one who dies with the most stuff wins…”

And before you know it, your wants become your needs and your insatiable wants create within you a fear that you will not have enough to live on. We measure our “enough” based not on our needs, but our wants. And it is those insatiable wants that create the feeling that there is not enough.

I heard the story of a man who went to spend a few days on a retreat in a Benedictine monastery. Their founder, Benedict, had instructed his first monks in the sixth century to “Receive each guest as Christ himself.” For over 1500 years now, Benedictine monks have been doing this. Their reputation for hospitality grows by the century. The man who went there reported that on the first evening after supper the guest master gathered the guests together and said, “If you find that there is something that you need, come to one of the brothers and he will tell you how to get along without it.”[2]

That story reminds me that it is important to know the difference between needs and wants. Most of us have all we need and more. There are a few for whom this is not true, but by and large—most of us are living an abundant life. It can just feel like we do not have enough thanks to the culture we live in and the fact that we believe in the messages from Madison Avenue more than the message from Scripture.

Paul would remind us that we have enough… more than enough. Don’t let that get in the way of your sharing the blessings God has showered upon you… because there are more where those blessings came from.

Years ago, a couple, Fred and Cheryl went to Haiti to pick up a child they had adopted. Addie was five years old. Her parents had been killed in a traffic accident that left her without a family. As she walked across the tarmac to board the plane, the tiny orphan reached up and slipped her hands into the hands of her new parents whom she had just met.

This became their “birth” moment—when the innocent, fearless trust expressed in that physical act of grasping their hands seemed almost as miraculous as the birth of their sons 15 and 13 years earlier.

That evening, back in Arizona, they sat down to their first supper together with their new daughter. There was a platter of pork chops and a bowl of mashed potatoes on the table. After the first serving, the two teenage boys kept refilling their plates. Soon the pork chops had disappeared and the potatoes were gone.

Addie had never seen so much food on one table in her whole life. And she had never seen so much food disappear so fast. Her eyes were big as she watched her new brothers satisfy their ravenous teenage appetites.

Fred and Cheryl noticed that Addie had become very quiet and realized that something was wrong—agitation….bewilderment… insecurity?

Cheryl guessed that it was the disappearing food. She suspected that because Addie had grown up hungry, when food was gone from the table she might be thinking that it would be a day or more before there was more to eat.

Cheryl had guessed right.

She took Addie’s hand and led her to the bread drawer and pulled it out, showing her a back-up of three loaves. She took her to the refrigerator, opened the door and showed her the bottles of milk and orange juice, the fresh vegetables, jars of jelly and peanut butter, eggs and bacon. She took her to the pantry with its bins of potatoes, onions, squash and the shelves of canned goods. She opened the freezer and showed Addie chickens, a few packages of fish and two cartons of ice cream. All the time she was reassuring Addie that there was lots of food in the house, that no matter how much her brothers ate and how fast they ate it, there was a lot more where that came from. She would never go hungry again.

Cheryl didn’t just tell her that she would never go hungry again. She showed her what was in those drawers and behind those doors… Food was there, whether she could see it or not. Her brothers were no longer rivals at the table. There was more than enough to share. She was home. She would never go hungry again.”[3]

When I think of what Paul is saying, “God is able to provide you with every blessing in abundance, so that by always having enough of everything, you may share abundantly in every good work…” when I think of Paul saying that,

I think he is trying to take us by the hand as Cheryl gently took Addie by the hand, leading her through a tour of the kitchen and pantry, reassuring her that there was enough… more than enough to share. [4]

Paul is encouraging us to follow Jesus… who encouraged his followers to have a generosity of spirit… ready to share with others… Paul was trying to free us from the story of scarcity which Brueggemann says, is a tale of death.

The real issue confronting us is whether the news of God’s abundance can be trusted.

The people of God have said yes… after having worked through our fears… the people of God have said, “yes”—by saying that the God who provides daily bread, provides enough—more than enough… in fact we have all we need and more than enough to share.

Amen.

 


[1] P 50 Bread of Heaven

[2] Practice Resurrection, by Eugene Peterson p 180

[3] adapted story from Eugene Peterson, ibid p 159-160

 

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