Do any of y’all subscribe to the feed The Episcopal Café on Facebook or Twitter? Or even just drop in on the site occasionally to see what they’re writing about? It’s a great site – they run stories about the Anglican Communion worldwide and stories about Christianity in general. They had a story yesterday that I think goes with our readings today. It’s the story about three homeless people: a chronically homeless man, a mom and her 10 yr old son who have been homeless for the last year after she lost her job at a bank. When the mom and the son became homeless, the older man began using his panhandling money everyday to pay for a hotel for the woman and her son so they could stay off the streets. He could be paying for a room for himself, but he doesn’t – he only takes what he needs from his money and donates the rest to the woman and her boy. He was quoted in the article saying that he has everything he needs – he has his faith in God – and he wanted to help this small family stay together and stay safe. That is a story of abundance.
There is an over-riding theme of abundance in today’s readings, did you notice? Maybe not in the reading from 1 Peter – I’m very troubled by that one – it could be dangerously misconstrued, in my humble opinion, so I’m going to set it aside for another day.
The Acts 2 reading shows one idea of abundance – describing the people who had sold all their possessions as having “glad and generous hearts” – and they were an attractive community – others saw their joy and joined the group!! This could not have been easy – it would have been no easier for them then than it would be for us today to sell everything and live in Intentional Community, sharing resources. No matter what century it is, this is never easy. But they saw the abundance of God’s grace and blessing even in the midst of what we know historically was a time of martyrdom and persecution for the Christians.
Psalm 23 is always the classic of the Psalms – even people who may nothing else of the Bible recognize these words. These words speak to us of the abundance of God’s love and comfort and justice and blessing and goodness and mercy. There is such an abundance of feeling cared for and cared about in this Psalm – The Lord is my Shepherd…truly beautiful words.
John carries through on the image of the Lord is my Shepherd. Jesus explains how He is the true shepherd and the one true gate to an abundant life. You know what that makes us? The smelly, wooly, sheep who are likely to bolt away at any moment – the ones who may not be the brightest on the food chain. We’re the sheep – He’s the shepherd.
There’s another way the image of shepherd is used – anyone know another person who carries around the big shepherd’s stick? I doubt if he’s ever used it to beat off a wolf or in this neck of the woods, a coyote. The bishop carries a crosier – he’ll be here later today for the picnic - he is a shepherd of sorts for us also. He has called for the entire diocese to live into the idea of abundance. Do you remember the video from convention – we also saw it at the annual meeting. It talked about living into the life of abundance – the same one Christ calls us to. How do we do that?
I suspect the idea may be easier to understand now than it was a few years ago. There may be things we would’ve taken for granted a few years ago, that we now feel thankful for. A few years ago, it seemed like everyone had a house and a job… a few years ago, it seemed like every Episcopal parish in the diocese had a building to call home… a few years ago… you can fill-in the blanks for your life. We will play hosts to the entire diocese here later today and I hope you’ll come to join the community in the breaking of the bread, in prayers and in fellowship. These events are not just for fun – the are all about helping us to realize the abundant life we already have in Community with each other.
Jesus doesn’t ever say that we’ll be given everything on a silver platter, that life will be hunky-dory. If a preacher tells you otherwise, he’s a thief or a bandit. Jesus calls us to a life rich with a sense of community – a life of thanksgiving for what we have – a life of generosity and compassion. If we listen, we can hear His voice and know that we are called into that life of abundance… we can pass through the gate without want, without fear and dwell in the house of the Lord forever. The Lord is our Shepherd. Amen.