The Rev. Laurel Hart
Scripture: Joel 2:23–32
You crown the year with your goodness, and your paths overflow with plenty.
I was reflecting this past week on the words in our theme for this year’s stewardship time – the words hope and abundance. I was thinking about that word abundance. To have an abundance of something is to have more than you need. It's often used to describe positive qualities, such as "an abundance of love." Abundance is the opposite of scarcity. For example - an abundance of wealth is a ton of cash. As I look out on our community present today, I know that we are a range of ages with very different needs and perception of what abundance might mean for each of us. Abundance has a very different connotation at various stages and times in the lifetime of a person or in the life cycle of our families. It seems that early in adult life it’s more about gathering tangible objects, maybe starting a family, making a home. Then as we move to other stages in life and begin to prepare for our so called “golden years” - we might begin to experience a reduced desire for collecting stuff. I‘m developing an urge to let go of many material things which are beginning to feel heavy and seem to weigh me down. I want to build up a more abundant life in my heart. By that I’m referring to a life full of joy with strength of mind, body, and soul. The term "abundant life" comes from the Bible verse John 10:10b, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."
Today, we heard the prophet Joel addressing a message of hope to an Israelite people who had experienced devastation by locusts and drought. They’d lived through a very hard time and these hardships had had profound and lasting effects on their emotional well-being and religious imagination. The people viewed the end of these disasters as a sign that Yahweh had not abandoned his people. Joel relates the sense of solidarity the people felt from their God. No event in their lives, no experience of pain and hardship, nothing at all had escaped God’s compassionate love for the people. They were feeling new abundant life in contrast to their previous feelings of deficiencies, emptiness, and dissatisfaction through which they had lived for a period of time. Sometimes when I listen to the current news of the day, it feels as if I’m living in a period in the history of our country in which we have been devastated by large black cloud of hungry, angry, locust and a drought of loving compassion for all humanity. I want what the Israelites came to believe they had – I want abundant life and renewed knowledge of God’s healing presence. And that is what I find each Sunday when we worship together - I experience spiritual abundance when I join with all of you and share the meal offer from our table.
We all want to live a prosperous life where we can be happy and fulfilled. Abundant life is not about what we have in the way of material possessions. It’s not about what we get from this world. Ultimately, abundant life is about what we receive as gifts from God and continuing in the knowledge that we are stewards of the blessings of God. Stewardship is not measured by what we have received, but recorded by what we have freely given to others. Living an abundant life is everyone’s dream – it is about making each moment sacred and doing so through defining each instant in terms of its action rather than its assets. At the end of the day, perhaps that is how we know we have an abundant life - when we have shared our life with others. When we have enough of the blessings of God – blessings of mercy, of peace, of love, of grace, and wisdom, - enough to share with others, and then when we actually do it; that’s when we truly have abundant life. Amen.