|On Sunday night, as I was drifting off to sleep, I was struck by a horrible thought. Reflecting on all the rain we have had in the last few weeks, I remembered an old wives tale I heard the last time we lived in New Mexico. The kernel of folk wisdom (if, indeed, it is wisdom) embedded in that tale was, “Rainy summers=snowy winters.” That’s all it took to set my mind in planning gear. Remember, I’m from Minnesota. I know snow. I know blizzards. I know the disruption they can cause.Off I went into my planning (hoarding?) mode. Do we have enough blankets? What about food? We better start storing up food. Remember the tale of the industrious ant and the careless grasshopper. Wouldn’t want to be that careless grasshopper. I better get started getting food for the blizzard that is sure to come. What about wood? We only have three little logs left from last year. What if the furnace goes out? What if the power lines freeze? I better order a cord of wood. Maybe two would be better. That way we can really be sure.
How easy it is to slip into that fear-based way of thinking! The Gospel this Sunday includes a parable about a prosperous farmer whose crops have filled his barns. He thinks to himself that he should tear down those barns and build bigger ones. God says to him, “You fool. This very night your life is being demanded of you. And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ So it is with those who store up treasures for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
Many of us fall in the trap of building bigger barns, of storing up treasure, of making sure we have more than enough to get by. I have only to look at my stash of cloth, the clothes in my closet, the balance in my bank account to know where I fall on the hoard-release continuum. And yet scripture and sometimes life in our day points to another way.
In the teaching that follows the parable of the prosperous farmer, Jesus says, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing….Do not be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give alms….For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Recently, I’ve been struck by how the pernicious individualism that permeates our culture, shapes how we read scripture. We hear the words of Jesus and we think he’s talking to us. He is. But maybe not to us as individuals but to us as members of a community, members of the body of Christ.
Recently, I’ve been trying to hear the words of scripture through the ears of community. What would our life–as members of the Body of Christ–look like if we lived from the perspective of advancing the Reign of God? Would we make different decisions about how we allocate our shared treasure if we, as a community and/or as a congregation, focused on the words, “Sell your possessions, and give alms”? How far would we dare go?
How far do I dare go? How much security is enough? How much stuff is enough? I look at my stash of fabric and I think, “Not yet, Lord. Not yet.” I see the bottom line in my checking account slope downward and I wince. “Dare I write this check to the Ambassador Inn?” I wonder to myself. “Should I wait until some more comes in?”
Then I meet someone who pushes me a bit closer to the outer boundary of my comfort zone. Last Sunday, I met a priest who serves a small parish in Mexico. I suspect it’s a parish of ex-pats. He was talking about their budget and givens on which it rested. That small parish was committed to spending HALF of what they took in on outreach. HALF. Fifty per cent. Imagine that.
What would that look like translated into talk or time or energy–in our lives as the part of the Body of Christ that is Live at Five and in our lives as individuals. It’s hard for me to imagine devoting half my time and energy and resources to serving others. Family, friends and taking care of myself all make claims on my resources. But maybe in community that balance could shift just a little.