Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sermon for April 29, 2012; John 10:1-21

Rev. George Miller John 10:10-21: “Shepherd of Abundant Life” April 29, 2012 A few weeks ago I had the chance to visit family and friends. When leaving Florida, packing is always a tricky task, especially during the change of seasons. Since I was driving, there was ample space in my car to pack as much as I wanted, but I tried my best to keep it light: sandals, shorts, polo shirts, one pair of shoes, and one pair of pants. Turns out it was cold and rainy most of the time so while the shorts remained unpacked, that one pair of pants was worn every single day. Thank God it was enough. One thing I was glad to have packed was a toy I had when I was a child, a castle made by Fisher Price that came complete with a king and queen, prince and princess, horses and dragons, guards, and even Robin Hood. This castle was perfect for my nephews to play with: it’s three levels high with a moat and drawbridge, a secret passage behind the stairs, a dungeon and trap door in which the toy figures could fall through. My nephews loved it. And why not? It was a kingdom for their imagination to run free. There was a moment during my trip when we were sitting in the living room and my nephews, ages 5, 3 and 2, were playing with the castle, each doing their own thing…and it was that moment. You know the kind I am talking about? That moment where you feel as if everything is fine with the world and you are just were you need to be, and there is nothing to be done, nothing to be said, but to just be…present. A moment in the kingdom… The Bible is filled with references to another kind of kingdom: the Kingdom of God. Jesus talked about it; he taught us how to pray about it. And within the Kingdom comes the promise of Eternal Life. And there’s a lot of conversation about what these words mean: Kingdom of God; eternal life; abundant life. Is Jesus talking about heaven, the place some say we will go after we die, where we get to see all of our loved ones again and pain is no more? Or is Jesus talking about a time in the future, a reality that is obtainable if we try really, really hard to do the right things and follow the right path? Or is Jesus talking about the present moment, this time, our time, the time in which we are living and breathing, now? Scholars debate just what Kingdom of God means. Theologians debate just what Kingdom of God means. Pastors debate just what Kingdom of God means. In my opinion, and this is mine, is that I don’t think that Jesus was so preoccupied about what happens after we die, or in the future far, far away. I think that what happens after we die is a mystery; a mystery that will surprise each and every one of us all. I opt to believe that what Jesus is most concerned about is how we live right here, right now, today. How we live as individuals, how we live as part of the community, how we live as part of the world. In today’s reading, Jesus says that his desire for us is that we may have life, and that we have it abundantly. Not when we die. Not in the far of future. But now. Abundant life. But what is abundant life? What does abundance look like? Personally, I hear the word abundance and I think of “too much.” I think about illusions of grandeur; I think of excess. All you can eat buffets, a closet filled with 30 pairs of shoes, 500 so-called Friends on Facebook. Is that the kind of abundance Jesus means? Is that the kind of abundance Jesus wants for us? I seriously doubt it. So what does abundance mean? I racked my brain all week about this, until I did the one thing a good preacher is not supposed to do: I turned to a Thesaurus to find synonyms to share. And there they were: plenty, piles, plethora. Then I came across this one word for abundance, and it surprised me: enough. According to Roget’s Super Thesaurus, another word for abundance is “enough”… What is enough? Honestly, I can’t even begin to tell you what enough looks like. But I do know what enough feels like. Enough feels like the time I spent with my nephews, watching as they played with the Fischer Price castle. Enough feels like the time I hang out with my neighbors by the lake, in the sun, sipping cocktails and sharing stories. Enough feels like the hour we spend here, each Sunday, in worship, in this holy time, in this holy space. Those things to me feel like “enough.” What would yours be??? I personally like to believe that Jesus’ talk about the Kingdom of God is about something we are capable of experiencing today. And we experience God’s Kingdom when we act upon the realization that we have life in abundance; when we realize we do have enough. Like Blind Bartimaeus, have you had an encounter with Jesus in which your eyes have been opened? Then you have enough. Has the Good News of the Resurrection poured into your life the spices of compassion and kindness, humility and gentleness, patience, forgiveness and love? Then you have enough. Have your senses become alive through Christ, making you more aware of mind, body and soul and the wonderful sensuality of life? Then you have enough. Were you able to find way, anyway, to donate food, put some kind of money into the offering plate or give to the Agape fund? Then you have enough. If any of these things I’ve just said ring true, then you are further inside the Kingdom of God then you probably already realize. Enough… In conclusion, I do not believe the Kingdom of God is far, far away. Nor do I believe that God is like three boys hunched over a castle and we are Fisher Price pieces waiting to be let in or tossed into the dungeon. I believe that Christ is the Good Shepherd. He knows us intimately by name, he leads us to pleasant pastures, and when we wander away, as sheep often will, he searches high and low for us, and he brings us back in. And because of this, we each have the chance to experience life, abundant life, life in which we have enough. This week, may we each feel, live and love like we do indeed have enough and that we are already beloved residents of the Kingdom of God. If you feel like you have enough, offer God a “Hallelujah”, offer God an “Amen.”

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