Sermon preached on the Fourth Sunday after Trinity (13 July 2014) by The Reverend Canon Tricia Hillas, Pastor
The Reverend Canon Tricia Hillas discusses 'Scarcity and Sufficiency'
Matthew 13:1-9 and 18-23
Between you and me, I have a problem with God…sometimes it seems to me that God just doesn’t get it.
Take the story of the sower we’ve just heard.
It’s clear from this parable that Jesus told that some people who won’t respond to the good news of God the way that we might think they should. Jesus uses the illustration of different types of soil to describe different responses. Some – the dry ground people – don’t respond at all, others – the rocky and thorny ground people- start well but are pretty much no hopers. Only a few – the good soil people - are fruitful.
Now it sounds at first like Jesus has got it after all – some just won’t make the grade – why waste time or effort on them?
But that’s not how Jesus’ telling goes.
Think again about the sower. What kind of sower casts his or her seed –precious resources – the basis for the harvest that will be the difference between life and death for them and their family in the year ahead - throwing it so wildly, with such abandon? As if it doesn’t much matter that three-quarters of it won’t show a return, so long as everyone who will respond can, and even those who won’t are given a chance.
What kind of God does this?
And so you see my problem: whilst I often operate from a viewpoint on life which we could define as ‘scarcity’, God, God seems to operate from a point of view we could define as ‘wild generosity’.
If I sometimes find myself operating from a standpoint of ‘scarcity’ I’m not alone. In a book called ‘The Soul of Money’ Lynne Twist writes about how the mantra of ‘not enough’ has become a kind of default setting for our thinking about much of life; from the cash in our pocket, to the people we love and even how we view our own worth.
This is what she says about what she calls the ‘myth of scarcity’:
"For many of us, our first waking thought of the day is ‘I didn’t get enough sleep’. The next one is ‘I don’t have enough time’. Whether true or not, that thought of not enough occurs to us automatically before we even think to question or examine it. We spend most of our lives hearing, complaining or worrying about what we don’t have enough of…we don’t have enough work. We don’t have enough profits. We don’t have enough power. We don’t have enough weekends. We are not thin enough, we are not smart enough, we’re not successful enough.
Before we even sit up in bed, before our feet touch the floor we are already inadequate, already behind, already lacking something. And by the time we go to bed at night, our minds race with a litany of what we didn’t get or didn’t get done that day. We go to sleep burdened by those thoughts and wake up to the reverie of lack.”
That sense of lack, of ‘not enough’ – what might it do to us?
To how we view others? For if we fear there is ‘not enough’, might others, their needs and desires come to seem a burden or worse, a threat? Might this shape not only our personal but our political responses too?
This sense of scarcity, of lack- what might it do to how we view ourselves?
It’s capable of distorting our sense of what we need to be happy, to be successful. Of who we are.
It can steal from us joy and contentment – and the experience of what Lynne Twists describes as ‘sufficiency’ – not an amount, but a ‘knowing’ that there is enough and that we are enough.
Meanwhile the prodigal sower-God continues to scatter with abandon.
It’s as if everything on heaven and earth is at his disposal; to be given freely, not horded.
One of my favourite lines, in a recipe for choc chip cookies I think – invites home bakers to generously scatter choc chips, ‘letting them fall where they will’. I rejoice at the abandon hinted at there. And turning to the Gospels I see generous abandon in the life of Jesus time and time again:
At a wedding feast, when the wine provided runs out, 6 jars, each containing 20-30 gallons of water are transformed into wine of the highest quality. That’s 120-180 gallons – a lot of wine! Far more than was needed, surely?
And when a crowd was hungry – he fed them with apparently meagre resources, a few fish and some small loaves. And, as if it wasn’t enough that 5,000 men, plus women and children, were fed, there were 12 baskets of leftovers. Even for the most generous of hosts – that’s a lot of leftovers!
And in the gathering dawn on the Sea of Galilee, after a night seemingly wasted, without a single catch, the disciples, following Jesus’ direction to cast the net again, now found it full to bursting – and coming to shore they found he’d already got breakfast cooking!
Divine abundance, generosity and grace are revealed in these miracles of Jesus, but these divine attributes are never more evident than in his dealing with people: pardon for a woman dragged before him for condemnation by men in whom grace is particularly lacking; recognition for a woman beside a well in the heat of the day, whose complex relationships likely made her the target of village gossip-mongers; the touch, bringing healing to a man whose skin disease had robbed him of human contact, family life and the future.
Such a reckless, prodigal God challenges my default attitude of scarcity – and here is the crux of my problem with God. What am I to do? Dare I join with this God and open my own hand a little more freely?
And where to begin? Perhaps by recognising the abundance of what I have already been given. In the world of Social media right now a challenge is circulating – you may have seen it. People are nominating one another to spend 5 days posting 3 things for which they are thankful each day. Grateful that we have and are ‘enough’. What would your 3 things be today?