Recycled

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Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 97; 147:12-20, Genesis 27:30-45, Romans 12:9-21, John 8:21-32


When Esau discovered his brother Jacob had tricked their father into giving him the blessing that rightfully belonged to Esau, he was overcome with rage. This “blessing” was not a religious one, but a method of passing on rights to the land and possessions of a patriarch to his heir. The lands, wealth, and armies that Esau was sure he would inherit instead would go to the younger brother who had plagued him all his life. Esau would get the leftovers and move to a foreign land. Jacob would continue the line that would lead from Abraham to Jesus.

History unfolds in unexpected, often unwelcome ways. We might expect Jesus would come from a long line of noble, respectable, gracious ancestors. While they included royalty and priests, his family tree was shaky from the roots up. Abraham lied and tried to do an end run around God’s plan for him, fathering the Ishmaelites in the process. Isaac, like his father Abraham, lied about his relationship to his wife in order to secure business arrangements. Jacob stole his brother’s inheritance and lived in hiding for years. His son Judah sold his own brother into slavery and impregnated a woman he thought was a prostitute. And on, and on, and on …

The history of Jesus’ ancestors isn’t just a little suspect – it’s out-and-out tawdry.  From one perspective it could undermine his authority and credibility; people are judged by their families all the time. But from another point of view, it could be considered encouraging or even liberating. If God could work through families like these, imagine the potential in boring old us? So many of us waste that potential because we are waiting to feel worthy. We talk about what we could or will do if and when we were better, more organized, more stable, healthier, or “holier” people. We look at others who do the things we wish we could do and assume they are smarter, better connected, and generally “have it together.” After considering where Jesus came from … still think so?

God meets us where we are, warts and all, and offers to lead us beyond where we hoped to be. When we spend more time trusting God and less time doubting that we could be useful to God, no part of us is wasted, no talent unused. Our creator pulls us from the trash heap and turns us into something beautiful. No one is ever “ready” for that.

Comfort: God doesn’t throw anyone away.

Challenge: For one week, up your recycling game. Is it something you can stick with?

Prayer: Thank you God for loving me beyond my comprehension. Amen.

Discussion: What’s something you’ve found a new use for that someone else might have thrown away?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!

Attitude of Abundance

GRASPFUTURE

Today’s readings (click below to open in a new tab/window):
Psalms 88; 148, Genesis 17:15-27, Hebrews 10:11-25, John 6:1-15


Our culture promotes irony and cynicism. These can be useful and enlightening, but many times they simply mask an underlying state of fear. When push comes to shove, we tend to hoard the resources we have rather than trust them to God’s abundance. Even in faith communities simple optimism is often characterized as simple-mindedness.

God told Abraham and Sarah, at 100 and 90 years old respectively, they would conceive a child. Abraham laughed in disbelief. When their son was born, they did as God had instructed and named him Isaac, meaning “he laughs.” With God in the mix, irony became hope.

When thousands gathered at the Sea of Galilee to hear Jesus preach, he asked his disciple Philip where they could buy bread to feed everyone. We don’t know if Phillip laughed, but it’s easy to imagine a dismissive chuckle when he told Jesus they would need more than six months’ wages to buy enough food. And it seems likely there might have been some eye rolling when Andrew mentioned a boy with five loaves of bread and two fish. Yet from this tiny bit, upon Christ’s instructions, they managed to feed everyone with twelve baskets left over.

At first glance the common theme between these stories seem to be that God is most visibly present in the impossible. Unfortunately this idea pushes God outside our normal expectations into a realm where we can only experience his blessings through reality-warping events.

An important lesson in these stories is that God has created us not be starved by fear and doubt, but to feast on possibilities and faith. The approach we take affects the quality of our lives, and the lives of others. More than a simple “can-do” attitude, faith that God’s world is abundant opens us up to true generosity. If we stop worrying that what we have is not enough, we grow comfortable with being generous even in uncertain times. Individuals with this faith can have a positive impact, and communities that cultivate this attitude will find endless doors opening. Behind them is revealed God’s presence in our everyday lives.

The world teaches fear. An abundant faith – focusing not on scarcity and stinginess, but on hope and generosity – is countercultural and revolutionary. Live on the edge.

Comfort: You need less than you think you do. You can give more than you think you have.

Challenge: Embrace hope.

Prayer: Loving God, please help me to remember there is far more to your gifts in the world – seen and unseen – than I could ever comprehend. I will trust you. Amen.

Discussion: In what areas of your life – money, time, affection, etc. – do you take an approach of scarcity? How can you become more generous?

Join the discussion! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to join an extended discussion as part of the C+C Facebook group. You’ll be notified of new posts through FB, and have the opportunity to share your thoughts with some lovely people. Or feel free to comment here on WordPress, or even re-blog – the more the merrier!