John 10:1-10, ". . . to have life more abundantly.”
Psalm 23, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want."
“I have come to give life; to give life abundant” to give “lots of life,” Jesus could have said.
Because when we talk about abundance, that’s what we are talking about: a lot of something, but not just a lot of something, as if mere numbers would do it. Jesus is describing life that is richer, life that is more real, life that is truer, more filled than we could have had otherwise. Jesus said that he came that “they might have life, and have it abundantly!”
Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it.
But the truth of our lives is that we worry, and we fret. We don’t always feel that abundance that Jesus talks about, that this Good Shepherd has for us. It is not always so easy to really feel in our hearts, to really know in our guts.
And I’m not quite sure why that is . . . except that we all tend to be people who have a lot of stuff. Except that maybe sometimes the reason we don’t understand fullness and abundance is because we tend to think that more, more in numbers is what equals being full, having abundance. And not having much, means being in poverty, having little, not having life. But Jesus said that he came to give life, and to give life abundantly!
I received an email a few years ago now from a woman who was talking about her grandmother . . . and her daughter. This is a Caucasian woman who had adopted her daughter from China. She was talking about how their family had started to recognize traits in their genetically-different daughter that were just like things that other members of their biologically-related family did.
Sometimes we put a lot of stock in DNA, in our genes, determining who we are and sometimes how we act. And for sure that is a part of it. But if you talk with enough adoptive parents you will hear them tell stories about how their child does things just like their grandfather did. Or how when there’s a family picture taken, all the children, biological or adopted all seem to tilt their head the same way and have the same goofy smile.
Instead of focusing on how we’re different, sometimes it pays to look for the places where love has bound us all together.
Well, the woman was writing about how she and her family were on a cruise. And every time that they sat down to eat, and the basket of bread was placed near their daughter, she would eat just about the whole basket. The child just loved bread, and bread that she would slap a generous amount of butter on.
Well the woman wrote about how her grandmother had done the same thing. She said that her grandmother who had grown up during the Great Depression, a time that some of you remember, or at least you may have heard your parents or grandparents talk about. So many people had so little. You may have also heard that say that even though they only had a little, everyone was happy.
Well in her later years, this grandmother would always been seen at dinner, splitting open her bread and putting more butter than anyone should ever put on bread, all over that bread. And when she was asked why she put so much butter on her bread, she responded that she like to see her teeth in it, loved to see her teeth prints in the butter.
That was abundance for her, having bread with plenty of butter, that was life abundant. And for this new granddaughter, by the end of that cruise, the staff noticed her love of the bread . . . and started bring her her own basket of bread which they would sit right in front of her. And this little girl would put butter all over that bread . . . just like her grandmother.
And Jesus said that he came to give life, to give life abundantly.
We don’t always recognize all the goodness that we have received in our lives, goodness that has been given by others, goodness that comes to us from God. And in a world where everything has some sort of value, and we all think about selling this or that, or making sure we get a good price on this or that, sometimes we become tight-fisted; not remembering just how good God has been to us and how we are called to share that goodness, that abundance with others.
Because all that we have is a gift . . . in the end. It is hard to imagine doing that though, giving any and all of what we have . . . even though Christ gave everything . . . for us. What an amazing gift!
When we come again to our experiences of Lord's Supper, Holy Communion, Eucharist, we come this Sunday with Psalm 23 too! We know the words of that familiar psalm, about how the Lord is our shepherd, we shall not want. That we are led to green pastures and still waters, that our cups run over with all the abundance that God has for us.
And in the words we use for Holy Communion we generally hear language about these gifts, these gifts of bread and wine . . . because when we come for that meal we recognize that it is God who has given all of this to us, our daily bread, everything that we have.
God even sets a table before us in the presence of our enemies, when everything seems to be caving in on us and everyone seems to be against us; God still provides for us . . . at table.
And just like that grandmother, we may remember times when we didn’t have that bread, or that butter to slap on top of it. But we are told not to fear, that God has good things in store for us. God has given us this wonderful, full, sweet-tasting bread, a taste of God’s goodness.
God gives us more than we could ever eat. God makes our way easy at times when we are tempted to struggle. God gives us more than we could ever want or need.