Luke 17: 11-19 Rev. Dr. Galen E. Russell III
Deuteronomy 8: 7-10 October 6, 2015
For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land… a land where you may eat bread without scarcity.”
Prayer: May we be aware of your divine presence once again as we worship you, O God. May we have an active part in making real the wonderful possibilities you have in store for us. Amen.
How many of you have ever been on an All-Inclusive vacation somewhere? Those are pretty neat, aren’t they? You pay up front, once and done, for your travel, your accommodations, your meals, and your drinks… well, sometimes your drinks all the non-alcoholic one for sure. Basically all-inclusive means that everything that’s a necessity is covered, and sometimes things that aren’t are also covered. Barb and I’ve been on a couple of cruises together, and those for the most part were “all-inclusive.” We went to Mexico once, all inclusive. And, I know there’s at least one coupleheading out in the near future to an all-inclusive resort, as early as next weekend. Bon voyage!
But! I think if anyone has a corner on the market of all-inclusive anything, it would have to be God, don’t you think? When Moses is preparing the people to enter into the land promised to them by God, his description kind of has this ‘all-inclusive’ feel to it, don’t you think? “This is a good land”, Moses says. God is bringing them to the place filled with everything that they will need to over flowing. All inclusive. Endless supplies of water come from the flowing springs and underground rivers. All kinds of food grows abundantly in this land: fruits, vegetables, and grains. The bees make their honey in this land, too, and bread may be made using the grains and the honey. And, there will be plenty of bread to go around because lots of resources exist. They will live a ‘lack for nothing’ life—even the land itself will provide some of the metals they will need to make tools and farm implements so that they can work the ground. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
Of course, for us, the good land Moses describes and the abundance of God’s bread are metaphorical stand-ins for God’s all-inclusive gifts and blessings, God’s ever-present love and grace which are offered in our lives without scarcity. Just as God had plans to bring the Hebrew people to a place where all their physical needs would be met without scarcity, likewise the metaphorical meaning is that God is bringing each of us to a place where all our spiritual needs would be met without scarcity. We have new life in Christ, no matter who you are or where you are on life’s journey. God’s love, grace, and power are all-inclusive—for you and me!
The problem is that there are many in our society, including some churches, who don’t believe this, nor have they seen fit to live in ways that reflect these beliefs. There are many in our culture who have not let the fact that we are all redeemed by Christ impact the very heart of who they are. Instead they cling to the old ways of life where God’s love seem to be scarce, and barbarism and violence show up again and again... in school shootings, in gun violence everywhere in police and civilian violence, in domestic abuse. Instead of recognizing that each person is made in the image of God, instead of believing that each person is a child of God and that God loves each one, many have chosen not only to highlight the differences and the divisions, but to keep them at all costs, even if it means becoming violent, or worse… deadly.
I have to wonder if God is exasperated with us as a human race sometimes. Don’t you think that sometimes God might be saying, “Just stop it. Stop the violence. Stop the fighting. Stop hurting each other. This isn’t the way I made you. Life isn’t about making things difficult for others. It isn’t about trying to tear them down only to think that you will feel better about yourself. It’s about knowing me,” says God. “It’s about having me and love and grace and faith alive in your life. It’s about treating others with the same respect that you desire to be treated with yourself. I have generously given you all the things in life that matter without scarcity, in full abundance. So stop it. Stop the violence. And be thankful that there’s a full abundance of my love.” That’s what I think God is saying to us today, and to the world.
It’s not difficult to see that this is the meaning of Jesus’ story with the ten lepers. Jew and non-Jew, all people are invited to have faith. When Jesus tells the lepers to go show themselves to the priest, on the way ALL of them were made clean. Not just one, but all. And, God didn’t heal them because they successfully arrived at the priest’s door. It’s not accomplishing Jesus’ instruction that causes God to cleanse their bodies. No one earns God’s healing power, love, grace and acceptance. No, God makes all of them clean because God intends for the human race to lack nothing of necessity. God, I believe, intends for all of us to live with these gifts, these qualities of life, to lie in the sea of God’s love.
No matter what religion or church you affiliate with, no matter what nationality you may be, no matter what race, or gender or sexual orientation you may happen to be born with… God’s gifts are without scarcity. Eternal life, grace and peace, the transforming, saving love of Christ—life’s ultimate riches are ours now. Remember that God has brought us to this good land. Nothing you do or don’t do can secure a different truth. So remember what God is doing, and give thanks to God, my dear friends.
Thanking and remembering God for these all-inclusive gifts are critical elements, I think. Jesus praises the one Samaritan leper for returning and giving praise to God. Jesus also wonders wondering where the other nine got to.
In Deuteronomy, the verses before our lesson today has Moses instructing the people to remember that it was God who brought them out of Egypt to the land flowing milk and honey. It was God who provided for all their needs. No scarcity. Thank God.
Last Sunday and the Sunday before, during the Moments for Stewardship, we heard a similar message. We praised God for the generosity of those who have gone on before us. We heard that as we remember their gifts to Christ Church’s endowment, we’re remembering their voice, too, which continues to speak to us today when we use those monies for several possible outreach efforts. No scarcity. Thank God.
We heard of the deep gratitude of two young women of our church who are blessed by the scholarship money they received from Christ Church. Their scholarship was made possible from a generous gift-giver to our church. We thank God for such generosity, because the possibilities for the future of those two young women now are taking off. No scarcity here. Thank God.
Think about what God has done in our church that has touched your heart and soul? In this past year, even! Remember the joy of the Spirit that we felt as our youth took us on a “Game of Life?” Remember the day our Confirmation youth got confirmed? Remember how God’s Spirit had us rise up and respond with love to the Cowen family and we provided for their needs? Remember how God spoke to all of us as our choirs led us in worship as we prepared for Christmas?
Even personally, remember how God got you through your tough time in your life? Through your adversity? Through your spiritual crisis? The time you needed healing? We can remember and thank God for the many, many ways God’s Spirit has touched our lives. No scarcity, Thank God!
God continues to be generous with us. The power of the Holy Spirit is with us. Do you feel it? The power is on here! No scarcity. Thank God!
The wonderful possibilities for our ministry take off with the Spirit’s power. It’s like walking into a dark room, and you go to turn on the lights, and everything lights up—then the possibilities for what comes next take off. If you flip the switch and there’s no power, you can’t do much, right? You have to scale back. Get out a flash light. That’s rather annoying. You can’t do much with one flashlight.
But, here at Christ Church, there is no scarcity of the Holy Spirit’s power! God is generously providing! The joy of the Spirit, is God’s power, love, and grace made ours. The light of the Spirit is turned on!
And generosity is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. It’s one of the ways the Holy Spirit is known (see Galatians 5: 22-23). A fruit, of course, is where the reproductive seeds are located. Generosity is a reproductive seed that grows in us. When we remember God’s activity in our lives, when we give thanks for God’s power and love in our church, these are the water and light that makes the seeds of generosity grow more generosity.
Generosity grows more possibilities in ministry. God is doing a new thing here! God’s Spirit is powered up here! So, I invite you, encourage your, urge you to please respond to God’s generosity by generously giving to meet the operatingneeds of our church today. But, don’t give to help the church stay alive. That’s thinking that God’s power is scarce here. As a church, we are alive, and we give because God is alive here! God’s power and love are not scarce here. Don’t give hoping that your gift will help us survive as a church. That’s giving with scarcity in mind. Rather, we survive as a church because our gifts spread the love and grace of God. That’s giving with abundance in mind.
There’s no scarcity of God in this land God is bringing us to and God give us life! We have an all-inclusive, generous God. Amen.