. . . . Denies Abundance from God1
Homily by The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA
3 Jan. 2016, Christmas 2Year C:
Jeremiah 31:7-14; Psalm 84 or 84:1-8; Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-19a; Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23
Happy, Abundant New Year!
Happy confident living in God's abundant Grace that contradicts
the secular world that tells us to be scared.
The secular world tells us to fear, to hold tightly to what we have. “Don't risk sharing: you might not have enough.” This fear-filled mindset grips Pharaoh & Herod. Fear of losing something is to fear scarcity. Fear of scarcity keeps people captive in a place I call “Scare City”. [Scarcity/Scare City]
All around us, around the world, whatever the ZIP Code, people live in “Scare City”. “Scare City” denies abundance from God. What kind of joyful living can happen in “Scare City”?
What a contrast we know in this Body of Christ, this happening community where we live God's love! What abundance of food, fun, fellowship we shared on New Year's Day & share regularly here!
Our scriptures today overflow with reasons for joyful living, for rejoicing, with good news for refugees finding safety & returning home. This abundance in our scriptures challenges the idea of scarcity that the powers-that-be in any age rely on to keep people in check, to rein in the freedom & the joy God intends for the human family, the joy that breathes new life into captive peoples, captive spirits/captive hearts, captive residents of “Scare City”.
The fear that captures our news headlines relies on the threat of scarcity to retain its power. As in the days of Pharaoh & Herod so it is in our times. Yet, you & I know that Jesus shows us how to live in any city, how to see & reflect what is Holy in God's world, the wholeness & holiness of our God-given human dignity.
Our Collect says God wonderfully created & more, wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature & it asks God grant that we share the divine life of God's Son, Jesus... When we hear headline news, we may think that what we hear in our Collect is a contradiction, a beautiful word picture of human nature that is not reality, like the word picture in our Psalm speaking of birds nesting at God's house.
I always liked our Psalm's pretty metaphor until I saw its reality at a temple in Egypt that had also been used as a Christian house of worship. Now I hear this Psalm differently. I see it with a different reality. What caught my eye at the entrance was a bird in a nest. Birds literally find a home in God's house. [I took this photo.]
After touring the site, I bought this timbrel, perhaps like the one we read about in Exodus that Miriam uses to lead women in celebration after escaping from Pharaoh. Our reading from Jeremiah uses imagery from that Exodus experience, as The Jewish Study Bible notes.2
Notice: reality for Joseph, Mary & Jesus includes fleeing danger, being refugees & having the joy to return to their home country, yet not without new danger4 before settling into their new home in Nazareth. [I like the depiction in this icon of Jesus as a little boy playing at building as
Joseph & Mary work.]
Our scriptures point us to our work as God's people: the work of giving thanks, praising God, intercession, including praying, nurturing hope within ourselves & among our brothers & sisters in the human family, being the Body of Christ together & offering hope & joy beyond our red doors.
You, Beloved Brothers & Sisters, are so generous in your stewardship of time, gifts & love beyond our red doors. You do walk with integrity as you embrace the Mystery of God's love & gifts to us.
God's people have always embraced Mystery, embraced God's “otherness”, which Powers-That-Be deny. Renowned theologian, & contemporary prophet, Walter Brueggemann speaks to this in his book Journey to the Common Good. He helps us see that our culture, our world, often tell us we've got it wrong, we do not live with reality, we should be scared & cling to what we have.
Brueggemann speaks of the journey from scarcity to abundance to neighborhood, comparing the days of Pharaoh to contemporary situations, & giving insights into the depths the 10 Commandments offer: a whole, wholesome perspective from which we live into God's gift of abundance so that we can broaden our concept of neighbor, & thus broaden our neighborhood.5
Brueggemann notes that, rather than focusing on worship, Sabbath rest provides time for community building, sharing, enhancing relationships, a way to live outside the rat race.6
What we do together in liturgy here on Sundays [& Wednesdays & other occasions when we celebrate] “helps recall us to our journey from scarcity to abundance to neighborhood. It calls us again & again to our new life in Jesus.”7 It calls us from “Scare City” to God's Holy City.
Brueggemann says: “...[T]he Eucharist...is the great extravagant drama of the way in which the Gospel of abundance overrides the claim of scarcity & invites to the common good.”8 Holy Eucharist...“is a gesture of divine abundance that breaks the scarcity system.”9
God's dreams, your dreams subvert the nightmare of fear that holds sway in “Scare City”, which we see in many ways, including during our monthly Beans & Rice Ministry. Your ministry helps increase dreams & hopes for our neighbors. You help free lives held captive in “Scare City”, free our Brothers & Sisters to live into God's Love, into the Hope we know through the Love Jesus offers us so freely.
We come together regularly, as Brueggemann says, to challenge what the powers of fear tell us, so that we can combat fear-mongering & live as Jesus shows us: trusting God for the outcome.
We live the reality of God's Love – that Mystery that is beyond human understanding. Our work from God is to carry on the work Jesus started. Our work is to shine the Light of God's Love into the dark world of “Scare City”.
When you shine the Light of God's Love into the dark it's like saying to “Scare City”:
BOO shocks it into laughter,
shocks it into a new perspective.
The American College Dictionary. Ed. in Chief: C.L. Barnhart. New York: Random House, Inc. 1966.
Brueggemann, Walter. Journey to the Common Good. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press. 2010.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Lynch, The Rev. Dr. John. “Joined by Jesus, Christmas 2(C) – 2016”. Accessed: 31 Dec. 2015. http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2015/12/09/joined-by-jesus-christmas-2c-2016/.
1 Homily influenced by works of Walter Brueggemann and of The Rev. Dr. John Lynch listed in Bibliography.
2 Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. P. 988.
3 Lynch, The Rev. Dr. John. “Joined by Jesus, Christmas 2(C) – 2016”. Accessed: 31 Dec. 2015. http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/stw/2015/12/09/joined-by-jesus-christmas-2c-2016/.
5 Brueggemann, Walter. Journey to the Common Good. Pp. 1-35.
6 Ibid. P. 27.
7 Ibid. P. 31.
8 Ibid. P. 32.