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A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over

by davesandel on November 3rd, 2021

Wednesday, November 3, 2021                     (today’s lectionary)

A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over

Sunday morning in Mt. Pulaski, Illinois. Margaret and I will be married here in a few months, but now we sit in Sunday school, the southeast sun pouring through the basement windows, while Pat, the pastor’s wife, is speaking. She reads the words that sent Saint Anthony to the desert when he was a young man in the fourth century, just before Constantine dreamed about the cross.

“If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

My heart leaped into my throat. Matthew continued, “When the young man heard this, he went away sad, for he had many possessions.” And even though I’ve never been rich, I’ve also never given away my possessions. I hear stories of others, and their generosity, and generally I feel judged, by God, by others, but especially by what Eugene Peterson calls “debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it” (1 John 3:19).

I suppose this paralysis of guilty analysis prevents my generosity from increasing. Margaret often makes up for my closed-fistedness, and I am grateful. Peterson continues, “God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves. And friends, once that’s taken care of, we’re bold and free before God!”

Blessed is the man who is gracious and lends to those in need. Lavishly he gives to the poor, and his generosity shall endure forever.

I can give five dollars away. We have five dollar bills in the glove compartment to hand out sometimes to people who are asking for help. I leave five dollars for housekeeping at motels where we stay for a night. I am learning to let go. But … lavishly? Even this last Sunday, as some of the folks in our Empty Nesters class talked about stewardship vs. ownership, I harked back to Pat’s words 43 years ago. No doubt she was speaking of herself; she had the habit of confessional honesty. But her thoughts about herself certainly spilled over into mine about me.

I lost my credit card on Saturday, and I couldn’t think of anything else. Miles and Jasper were here, but I wasn’t with them, not in spirit. Then I found the card, and after rejoicing I indulged in “debilitating self-criticism” for an hour or so.

Thirty years ago we began to tithe, after edging up to it for awhile. Within two weeks our counseling income doubled. It really never went back down. What am I thinking? Stewardship is all that makes sense. Abundance of resource far beyond what I can either use, or even imagine, is right there for us. Pressed down, shaken together, poured into our laps.

We’re privileged, we’re first world folks, white, college-educated, healthy (ish). Kids, grandkids, a Prius, savings account. The generosity of certain former presidents (see FDR and LBJ, among others) insures that our Social Security increases this year by 5.9% and Medicare pays for Margaret’s heart valve replacements. Shut up about being selfish, David! Open up your scarcity-stained fists and rejoice in God’s abundance.

He dawns through the darkness, a light for the upright; he is gracious and merciful and just. His children shall be mighty upon the earth.

Walter Brueggemann must also have some of these thoughts. He goes on and on in The Prophetic Imagination about how we shut down and die inside if we follow the god of the empire, living in a state like that created by Solomon, satiated, protected, fed from the government breast from birth to death. Not all of us get that chance. But if we do …

IF? Who among us turns aside with a polite no thank you? Who among us does not even take it all for granted, in America anyway?

That’s not fair, of course. I am only thinking of myself. I do all of that, and then I’ll do it again tomorrow. And I would like to stop. On my deathbed, surely, but sooner? Oh, Lord, rescue me from this body of death!

Which of you, wishing to construct a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if there is enough for its completion? In the same way, everyone of you who does not renounce all his possessions cannot be my disciple.

(Romans 13, Psalm 112, 1 Peter 4, Luke 14)

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