There was a farmer with a problem. A problem you may have too – his barn was full. It wasn’t rubbish and trash, it was things he needed. Like… there was the tall ladder. He needed it five or six times a year to clean out the house gutters, replace some light bulbs, and do minor repairs. And there was the post hole digger. Every time the septic got funky, he needed that to dig down to the cap. And what if he ever needed to replace one of the fence posts? The leaf rake. Needed every fall. And another leaf rake – it was a good deal on clearance last spring. The first rake might break. And a good lot of other little things you and I both know are just needed to keep a farm going. But all together, it filled up his barn.
And he had a neighbor who had a problem. His neighbor’s barn was full. And it, too, wasn’t rubbish! No, there was a tall ladder, a post hole digger, two leaf rakes, and lots of useful little things.
And the neighbor’s neighbor had a problem… you guessed it! Their barn was full…. with a ladder, and a post hole digger and…
I have a problem. My barn is full.
You know, if any one of us lived all alone, on a homestead, in the middle of no where… with no neighbors… I’d suggest building a second barn. Useful things should be kept!
But… that farmer had neighbors… I have neighbors… you have neighbors… and there’s really little reason for four houses side-by-side to have eight leaf rakes unless someone is starting a lawn care business; or four large ladders that are only used a few hours each year.
It makes a lot more sense for them to share. Maybe they only need one ladder, or two. It’s thinking in terms of scarcity, rather than generosity, that has made their barns full.
See, I super empathize with the man in the Bible Jesus speaks about who finds his bumper crops fully fill up his barn, and so he has to build a second. I mean, that’s what I think when I look at my full barn and know each thing is useful. I know I am going to need that ladder and that rake. I think in terms of rarity, scarcity, not having enough. I think like I am on a homestead where my nearest neighbor is a ten hour drive away.
I empathize with the disciples today who see they have five loaves and two fish among the twelve of them, and are looking at a crowd of 5000 hungry men, and their wives, and all their kids.
I empathize with people who say it is hopeless to start conserving water or resources now, when they look at how little they use versus a McMansion or heavy industry.
I empathize with people who ask ‘what will my two dollars do if donated to world hunger?’ when two bucks barely covers a loaf of bread, and it sure isn’t getting you milk and bread.
Scarcity is real. Needing things is real.
But it is also in our heads. How scarce, how needed, is all up here in our minds.
The Isaiah prophet and messiah prophet Jesus challenge us to change our minds.
Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters! Everyone thirsts. That is a real need!
Jesus saw the crowd and had compassion on them. He cured their sick. They have real needs!
But everyone is invited. To both of these events.
You who have no money, come.
You who are weary, come.
You who are rich, come.
You who are healthy, come.
Not just the basics Jesus offers – but RICH food. And SOUL food. And extravagant abundance. Thinking in terms of abundance, rather than scarcity, the Isaiah writer proclaims money is useless. Worthless. God has so much to give to people and money can’t buy any of it. Thinking in terms of abundance, rather than scarcity, Jesus says and then demonstrates God’s way of working miracles in the world: where the smallest things become the largest, and enough for everyone.
Like the mustard seed.
Like the least of these.
Like the widow’s two pennies.
Like five loaves and two fishes.
Thinking in abundance means there is enough for everyone.
The four neighbors, if they think in abundance, they will realize they can share their tools and everyone will have the tools they need, and have space in their barns.
If I and my neighbors thought in abundance rather than scarcity, could we even reach the point where we share gardens? Homes? Lives?
What a challenge God sets before us. God demonstrates it again and again. But it is against our culture. Against our survival instincts. We are greedy because greed tends to get us ahead in life… but we don’t live on bread alone. We need more than food and water, shelter and space. We need these things, yes… but they alone do not satisfy.
Satisfaction comes from meeting our basic needs for health, security, nourishment… and then meeting our spiritual needs of steadfast love, rich soul food, mercy, hope, forgiveness, COMMUNITY.
When I think in scarcity, I think ‘I only have enough canned up for a month or two,’ ‘I only have a single paycheck in the bank’ ‘I only have 24 hours in a day.’
When I think in abundance, I think, ‘I have more food than I can eat in a meal. Join me.’ ‘I have more money than I need. I can share.’ ‘I have 24 hours in a day. I have plenty of time for you.’
The first places me in worry and fret, fear and anger. The second places me in joy and gratefulness, generosity and love.
The first is seeing the cup half empty, and fearing God will not provide.
The second is seeing the cup half full, and knowing God will provide. Overflow the cup, even.
Come. Buy. Eat. Listen. Delight. See. This is Life.
Thinking in scarcity isn’t living. Isn’t satisfying. It is existing, but it isn’t living.
Living is delighting in God. Seeing God in action. Listening to God. Coming to God, buying without money all that God offers, and eating the Bread of Life. Taking God’s wisdom and ways and forgiveness and love into our bodies, and living The Way of Jesus.
Extravagant welcome, outrageous abundance, ever-renewing life — these are the signs of the New Creation. These are the signs Heaven is near.
Come this morning, taste and see, listen and live!
We are given in abundance.