Hope & Abundance
The Rev. Sara Cosca-Warfield
The Feast Day of St. Luke the Physician
Scripture: Luke 4:14–21
We live in a transactional world. Tit for tat, eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. Paying for services rendered. An extra dollar for that sour cream, five dollars to cut the commercials out of your Hulu experience.
Everything has a price. Your time and skills determine your salary. Our culture has determined that some skills are worth more than others. A doctor deserves more than a janitor. A CEO of a tech company deserves to make more money in a week than a teacher makes in a year. A male professional soccer player deserves more than a female professional soccer player.
The classic idea of heaven and hell is transactional. Good deeds in life buy you a place in never-ending light and joy, while a life of sin purchases an eternity of fire and pain.
These transactions tell us something about ourselves. They reflect who we are. They reflect our vices and our biases. Often, what we consider “fair” compensation is more about whose skills we value more, what products we value more, whose lives we value more.
Jesus wasn’t concerned about what people deserved. He wasn’t interested in cataloging whose skills should be valued at a higher rate, whose lives were worth more. And he certainly wasn’t interested in figuring out whose sins were greater.
It got him into trouble sometimes. The Pharisees thought that being a tax collector for the Roman Empire made you worthless. So they were appalled when Jesus invited Zaccheus the tax collector to dinner. The religious authorities wouldn’t let a woman who had committed certain sins near them. Jesus let her wash his feet.
And remember that parable where the landowner paid the people who started working late in the afternoon the same as those who had started work early in the morning. Those who had come early got mad. “It’s not fair!” they said. But the landowner said to them, I have paid you a living wage, an abundant wage. And I have paid the others the same. You all now have more than enough.
Jesus was only concerned with one thing: I have come that you may have life, and have it abundantly. What he most wanted was every single person to have an abundant life. A life full of joy. A life where there is more than enough for everyone. No matter how this culture values who you are and what you can give.
Everything about his life and ministry undercut the transactional way of being. Oh, and it really bothered people. It made them uncomfortable. It bothered them so much that they shut it down. They arrested Jesus and executed him.
The transactional approach is based in a scarcity mentality. There’s not enough, there’s never enough, so we have to be very careful about who gets what. We have to figure out who’s more valuable and make sure they get more. We have to make sure it’s “fair.” We have to protect what we have, hoard it away, always get as much of the pie as possible, because even though there’s plenty now, what if there’s a time when there’s not enough?
Here is an adaptation of our Gospel today through the lens of scarcity:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, Jesus said.
because he has anointed me to wonder, do we really have enough in our budget to help out the poor this month?
He has sent me to proclaim that we don’t know what those captives are going to do when they get out. There was probably a good reason they were behind bars.
And what business is it of mine if the blind can see? I have my own problems.
And these “oppressed” people—I wish they’d stop being so sensitive. If they stopped complaining and worked harder, maybe they wouldn’t be so oppressed.
The Spirit sent me to proclaim the year of the Lord sorting out what little we have and who should get it.
At the end of the day, scarcity mentality is a lack of trust in God’s abundance. There is in actuality abundance, there is enough for all of us, but we don’t live that way. Some of us have enough—maybe more than enough—but live with this simmering fear on the back burner of our mind that we could lose it at any moment. Others of us truly don’t have enough—because of how this culture has valued our skills, our gender, our age. The abundance has passed us by.
With scarcity mentality, the default is fear. For everyone. And it hurts all of us.
We are all caught in our society’s scarcity mentality.
But scarcity is not what I’ve experienced at St. Luke’s. There’s something different going on here. I don’t know about you, but I feel a boundlessness when we come together. Boundless joy in worship. Boundless trust in each other when we share our joys and sorrows. Boundless hope for what is to come.
I’ve seen it in the resurgence of energy for our Children’s Ministry.
I’ve seen it in the different people who have stepped up to share their musical gifts.
I’ve seen it in our fall programs. There were so many people interested in growing into our shared faith we had to split both our Universal Christ & Sacred Ground programs into two groups.
There is abundance in this community.
Today is a big day. First, it is the Feast Day of our dear namesake, St. Luke. The Gospel you heard today is the very center, the anchor of Luke’s account of Jesus. It is the proclamation of abundance. There is more than enough resources, more than enough forgiveness, more than enough healing, more than enough freedom for all of us.
Today is also the first of four Sundays that will focus on Stewardship. The theme for this year’s Stewardship campaign are words you’ve already heard a few times today: Hope & Abundance. Because our Stewardship campaign is not about scarcity. It’s not about not having enough. It’s not about our fear of losing or fading.
Our Stewardship campaign is a celebration of the gifts God has given us. It is a time for each of us to intentionally discern how we will share those gifts for the benefit of this community. It is a call to live our gospel values which always point us towards life and life abundantly.
Our campaign is a way for this community to continue to cultivate hope. Hope is about us trusting God, trusting how God made each of us, trusting what God gave each of us. It’s also about trusting our limitations. I think we’re starting to understand that when one of us needs to take a break, someone else will step up. That’s the Body of Christ.
But if hope is about us trusting God, stewardship is about God trusting us—to use all God has given us to build up God’s kingdom right now, in this place. To model a different way of being, right here at St. Luke’s.
Hope and abundance change the way we use our resources. It’s not about giving our skills or money expecting to receive something in return. It’s about giving so that we may all have enough, so that this community can continue to thrive and live our faith loudly outside these falls.
It starts here. At St. Luke’s.
How will you step into Hope & Abundance this stewardship season?