I’ve been amazed watching car load after car load and arm load after arm load of stuff be taken downstairs for the ladies church basement sale. I walked through the tables the other night after they started setting up and long after the confirmation students had left just looking at all the goodies. It was just me and all that stuff. And for me, that’s what it is–just stuff. But every piece of clothing down there tells a story. Every dish was a vessel for a meal. Every toy was handled by small hands that now have moved on to carrying heavy books. Every book whisked the reader away to lands far away to adventures unknown or untold. Everything downstairs with a pricetag on it tells a story if you listen closely enough.
What really took me back was that everything downstairs meant something to someone at some point in time in their lives. And to me, it’s just stuff. I have no attachment to things downstairs. Nothing downstairs could bring me abundant life. But, at one point in time, the items downstairs did bring joy, happiness, satisfaction, relaxation, a meal, or even yes, abundant life to its owner. Then I go through my own home, looking at the stuff we’ve accumulated in the almost 10 years of marriage. There seems to be an interesting method to our madness of what gets put on display versus what gets relegated to the attic or basement. Having a small child also really puts things into perspective as to what is important versus what isn’t so important any more.
What used to bring me abundant life is now but a hobby or long forgotten about. My definition of what I thought could bring me abundant life has changed with age and responsibilities. I like to play a game and I am sure many of you have played before called “what if we win the lottery.” Now I will tell you that playing this game is best done when you’ve actually purchased a ticket and the odds of getting struck by lightning 5 times in a row is greater than actually winning. But there’s always a chance, I’m sure. So, Chris and I venture into our little dreamland of what it might be like to be bazillionaires.
We’d pay off student loans, we’d make significant donations to the charities and causes we’re passionate about, we’d save for Ellen’s college education, we’d make sure our parents and families all get a little something, and maybe, just maybe, I’d let Chris finally get that boat that he pesters me about all the time. But even if we did win the lottery, even if we’d finally be able to do all the stuff we only dream about, would we really then have abundant life? I’m sure you’ve all heard those stories of people who win the lottery and as it turns out, they’re more miserable than before they won the lottery. So what is it, then, that would allow us to live a life and live it abundantly?
Perhaps it’s good if we talk about defining living life abundantly. By living life abundantly I mean more than surviving; it’s thriving. By living life abundantly we aren’t just the status quo; we’re living in joy. It’s flourishing, cup overflowing, song in our hearts, a spring in our steps, unexplainable happiness that weaves itself in and out of our daily lives. Is that kind of life even possible? It is possible–but probably not in the way we think it’s possible and probably not in the way we keep trying to make it happen.
In the never ending attempt to make ourselves happy and to live an abundant life we may work jobs we don’t even like, work during hours that are inhumane, we may surround ourselves with people that are a strain on our time and other relationships, we may just be living life like hamsters constantly spinning on wheels going nowhere. We are so hungry to have the next best thing, to be the next best thing, to eat the next best thing, to drink the next best thing, that we are living lives that constantly have us chasing dreams that turn into nothing. We live lives that seem empty unless we have this thing, that thing, or even worse–if we have that thing that our neighbor or friends have that we must have. We get swept up in the envy cycle, friends, and it is vicious.
What might it look like to have life and have it abundantly when we don’t talk in terms of stuff? To have an abundant life to the bullied middle schooler means no longer having to face their bully. To have an abundant life to the battered woman means that she now has safe shelter for herself and her children far away from her abuser. To have an abundant life for the addict means being clean, having a sponsor, attending meetings, and knowing that the demons that once had power over him no longer exist. What would it mean for you to have life and to have it abundantly if you suddenly no longer had your stuff?
Life in Christ is abundant life. Jesus’ definition of abundance has nothing to do with stuff, or keeping up with the Jones’. Life abundant in Christ means being in the darkness and still having light. Life abundant in Christ means a soul stained with sin gets washed clean with baptismal waters. Life abundant in Christ means a humble meal of bread and wine leaves you fuller than any feast you can imagine. Life abundant in Christ means dying to our old sinful selves and being raised new every day. It means that the death on the cross was by us AND for us. Life abundant in Christ means an empty tomb.
There are so many things in this world that want to rob us of life and Christ not only offers us life but offers it to us in abundance. The crazy thing is, there is no catch. It’s not a limited time offer. There are not limited quantities. Who ever desires this abundant life may have it in Christ. The life that Christ offers us is a response to everything around us that is life sucking. The promise of salvation brings us forgiveness and abundant life. This news is so good for you and for me that why would we want to keep it for ourselves?
You must know people around you that are not living abundant lives. Some people are not living their lives in Christ by choice, but others are imprisoned to their circumstances. When we are promised this abundant life in Christ, it is on us to demand and fight so that all of God’s people can have a fair chance at whatever will give them abundant life. This means that we end bullying. This means that we make sure children are no longer sold for their bodies. This means that we make sure that clean water is not a privilege. This means that we help to break down borders, walls, and checkpoints wherever they are placed in the way of justice. This list could go on and on and on.
Claiming and living into life abundantly in Christ is yours to have. You can’t buy it. You can’t earn it. None of us certainly deserve it. But it’s ours to have. It starts with the promises made in water and in word and continues until our final day when God calls us to complete our baptismal journeys. Jesus didn’t come so we could have stuff. Jesus came so that we may have life and have it abundantly.