250 • 426 • 2644

46-13th Ave. S Cranbrook, B.C. V1C 2V3

Have You Got Enough?, September 24, 2017

Have You Got Enough?

Have you got enough?

Think about that for a moment.

Have you got enough?

There are lots of voices all around us telling us we don’t have enough. Get more, they whisper. Buy more, they shout. You might need it, you never know. Keep what you’ve got. Hold on to all your stuff.

Get a new car every year. Upgrade your computer, even if it’s working just fine. Get the iPhone X—it only costs $1000 US, but look at all the features. Even if you never use those features, you can still say you’ve got them.

Have you got enough?

We live in a consumerist society which tells us we can never have enough. We need more stuff. The one with the most toys at the end wins. If you’re feeling down, do some retail therapy. Get down to the mall—after all, there are only 92 shopping days left until Christmas!

Buy that lottery ticket—this is the big one, I can feel it. If only …. If only I had a little more in my retirement account. If only … if only … if only. Words of regret for today. Words of fear for tomorrow.

Instead of reveling in the abundance of our lives, we begin to think that we are living with scarcity. We will never have enough. We need more. We can’t make it. We’ll never get to enjoy life.

And so you work harder. You try to get more. You do whatever you can to grab a larger piece of the pie.

Have you got enough?

And as if the siren voices in our society aren’t enough, there are a bunch of sleazy religious hucksters telling us that God wants us to be rich. They try to tell us that the gospel is that God wants us to be successful, to have lots of money, to be rich. If you’re not, it’s because your attitude needs adjusting. Just think right, and the cash will roll right in! God wants it for you, so reach out and grab it!

Folks like Joel Osteen, Paula White, TD Jakes and the oh–so–appropriately named Creflo Dollar (I couldn’t make this up!) preach a gospel of greed and money–grubbing, and claim that this is God’s purpose for us.

And people lap it up. Of course! Why not? Greed is so much more attractive than service and giving. It wins hands down every day.

By their standards, Jesus was a complete and utter failure.

They need to have Exodus 16 tattooed on their foreheads.

Israel has finally escaped slavery in Egypt. Now they have to learn how to live as a community of God’s people.

They’re in the wilderness. They’ve been set free, but they haven’t yet reached the promised land. The wilderness is that place of already–but–not–quite–yet. It’s an in–between time and place, a threshold. You’re on the verge of something new. Everything is up in the air. You’ve left what is past, but you haven’t quite reached the new you which awaits you in the future. Scholars call this a “liminal moment”.

We all have such moments. I had that kind of threshold experience 31 years ago. I hadn’t been feeling well for a few months, so I finally went to the doctor. He checked me out and did some bloodwork. Two hours later, he called me and told me to check into the hospital immediately. I was seriously ill with diabetes.

In a flash, my life changed and I was afraid. I didn’t know what the future would bring. Everything was up in the air. I entered the wilderness, and I began a journey towards a new future.

It doesn’t need to be a bad experience. Pregnancy is also such a liminal moment. Your world is about to change in all kinds of wonderful ways, and you’re not quite sure how. Everything is up in the air.

Israel is in the wilderness. They are afraid, and they begin to complain. “Why did you bring us out here to die of hunger? We should have stayed in Egypt, where we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread.”

The complaint is ludicrous. They never sat by the fleshpots. They never ate their fill of bread. They were slaves! They were in danger of being killed by the king of Egypt. Nothing about their life in Egypt should have made them look back with regret …

… but freedom is hard.

God hears their complaint. “I am going to rain bread from the sky for you; each day the people will go out and gather enough for that day.”

There’s the rub. For greedy people, “enough for that day” is never enough. “No,” shout the preachers of the prosperity gospel, “God wants you to be rich. God doesn’t want you only to have enough for the day. If you really trust God, God will rain down enough for many days, for many years, enough for you to satisfy your every greedy whim.”

These sleazy hucksters are wrong. True, the gospel promises that God will provide. But the promise is that God provides enough for our needs. God won’t provide for our wants. God invites us to share with each other so that each of us has enough for the day.

In the wilderness, a fine flaky substance falls to the ground. The people ask, “What is it?” This is the only joke in the story. They call the stuff “manna,” which in Hebrew means, “What is it?”

Of course, some didn’t listen. They went out and gathered more, hoping to hoard it. It turned wormy and foul.

On the sixth day, the people were told to gather two days’ worth of manna. That’s because the seventh day is the sabbath, a day to stop. Stop working. Stop producing. Stop consuming. Sabbath is a day to stop our endless rush towards always getting more.

And again, some of the people just didn’t listen. The greedy among them rush out on the seventh day to gather manna … but there wasn’t any.

And God is furious. “How long will you refuse to keep my commandments and instructions?” How long will you keep trying to do things your way? How long will it take you to learn to trust? How long will it take before you understand that my purposes for you are for your good? How long?”

On the surface, this story is about God feeding the grumbling Israelites. At its depth, it’s a mythic story about greed, about wanting more, about thinking we never have enough.

In God’s economy, we all have what we need. That’s what that strange parable in Matthew 20 is about as well. Every worker in the vineyard received a day’s pay. Each one of them received what they needed to live that day, no matter how long they had worked.

Capitalism would fall apart with that understanding. But capitalism is not God’s economy, despite what all those preachers of the prosperity gospel say. In God’s reign, each of us has enough. Each of us receives what we need. Each of us receives what Jesus calls “our daily bread”.

We pray it every week. Give us our daily bread. It’s a prayer of trust in God.

I know, I know. I also have my RRSP, and some funds in the stock market. I have extra food in my cupboards and fridge, more than I need.

But I have also learned to share. Greed is marked not so much by what we have, but by whether we refuse to share with others. Greed is marked by how tightly we hold our stuff. Greed is marked by never being satisfied with all the rich blessings in our lives, and always wanting more.

Here’s a horrifying fact: in Canada, 2% of Canadians have more money, more housing, more food, more cars, more planes, more wealth than 90% of the poorest Canadians. And that gap is growing larger every year. And they won’t share.

Greed has become part of the North American economy. We need to learn a new story. We need the story of “our daily bread” so that we might live in God’s world as generous and giving people.

This is God’s world.

Have you got enough?

Thanks be to God.

Rev. Dr. Yme Woensdregt

September 24, 2017 (16th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 25)

Exodus 16: 2–15

Matthew 20: 1–16

Philippians 1:21–30