Remember last week we were talking about Joseph and how he ended up as a slave in Egypt? Later he became what amounts to be the prime minister of Egypt and then his brothers show up, escaping famine and hunger in Israel. Well, as it turned out the entire nation of Israel moved to Egypt to escape the famine. It worked out fine for a while but eventually they were living as slaves in Egypt. For 400 years they were slaves in Egypt, doing whatever it was the pharaoh wanted them to do. That’s not much of a life.
Moses with his sidekick Aaron arrive on scene at God’s request to help them escape from slavery. Well, it was more of a command that they go help them escape from slavery, God being God and all. Anyways, they show up, have a series of arguments with Pharaoh which end up in Pharaoh obstinately refusing and the Lord sending down plagues to get his, that is to say, Pharaoh’s attention. These plagues are the land being covered with locusts and the river turning to blood plagues with the final plague being the first born of every household being killed.
Doesn’t sound like much fun but there is a plan for the people of Israel and we call it the Passover. The rules and setup are kind of complicated but the upshot is that each household is to take a lamb and sacrifice it, taking the blood of the lamb and putting some of it on the doorposts of the house. When the angel of death comes later to do the work it is called to, the blood on the doorpost will be seen and the angel of death will pass over the house, thus saving everyone inside from what the angel of death has come to do.
Such a nice story about a loving God, isn’t it?
I think this story is has more to do with a people relatively new to their faith in God trying to sort out how they experience God. It is a 4,000 year old version of “my God can beat up your god” kind of thing. It has more to say about how the commentators experienced God’s amazing presence in their lives, surrounding them and holding them close in a very dangerous time in world history. It has more to say about God’s extravagant abundance in their lives than it does any kind of murderous streak.
We experience that extravagant abundance every Sunday here. Jewish people celebrate to remember the Passover to this very day and our celebration of communion is patterned on what happened at the Passover so many years ago. God’s extravagant abundance is the point behind the Passover story and celebration and that is to remember God’s saving love. God’s extravagant abundance is the point behind our celebration of communion every week as we are covered in the real presence of Christ and the forgiveness of God in Christ Jesus.
When it comes down to it we are surrounded by God’s extravagant abundance. Not abundance in the number of fancy things you order from Amazon but an extravagant abundance of love. Of presence. Of forgiveness.
With all the stories we hear about God, like today’s story in Exodus, it is safe to say that we were created by and serve a God of extravagant abundance. That being the case, why does cheap plastic silverware even exist? Never mind that abomination known as a spork.
When cheap plastic silverware arrives in a church today it is a symptom of what is known as a theology of scarcity. Scarcity theology suggests that there might not be enough of what we need so we act in ways to suggest that, well frankly, that we don’t trust God with what is going on in our lives. Cheap plastic silverware, and scarcity theology in general, are indicators in the belief that if we save $2 here and there then all will be well.
The trouble with cheap plastic silverware is the impression it makes and the message it sends. When you get take out from restaurant you know you’re getting plastic silverware. Fair enough, it’s what they use. But there’s decent plastic silverware that actually works reasonably well and there’s cheap plastic silverware that is an aggravation to use as the tines on the fork break off and the handle of the spoon bends. Now picture in your mind your impression of the place that gives you the cheap stuff. Is it positive or negative?
Churches can give off the same vibe, too. It can be a subtle thing and it’s always a delicate balance to be wise stewards but as a community of faith are we sending the message that we believe we live in God’s scarcity or God’s abundance? When someone new walks in the door do they get the impression we trust in God? When someone who’s been here from the beginning of Spirit of Hope, are they reassured of God’s loving presence? When YOU walk in the door are you experiencing a God of abundance or a God of scarcity?
To be clear, trusting God doesn’t mean we should test God. Testing God is against the rules and even if it was allowed it’s a very bad idea. As a community of faith we’d be testing God to go out and get a $10 million dollar mortgage to build a big church somewhere. That’s not being visionary, that’s being foolish.
A timely example of serving a God of extravagant abundance is Kicks for Kids shoes. I don’t really know the reason we can be in 11 schools purchasing so many shoes every year. Well, I do know the reason and that reason is the extravagant abundance of God through the power of the Holy Spirit. As a community of faith we’re not flinging ourselves into however many schools we feel like and hoping for the best. That would be testing God and as noted earlier, testing God is a bad idea. Instead, with wisdom and forethought we intentionally engage with more and more schools and it seems to work.
Why? Because we believe in a God of abundance. Our mission of Bringing Christ’s Love to Life is aligned with God’s desire to meet a need in the community that surrounds us. Will we always be adding more schools? I do not know. That’s up to God. But as God continues to move people to support Kicks of Kids, we’ll keep buying more shoes.
When you come to the communion table this morning give some to God’s extravagant abundance in sharing with you all that forgiveness and real presence that is in the wafers and the wine. At the same time, think about God’s extravagant abundance in using you to Bring Christ’s Love to Life.
We really do serve a God of extravagant abundance.