I’ve been on the road several times the last few weeks – including several trips up and down 231. Not surprisingly, I’ve fallen in line behind a combine a time or two. On several other occasions, I’ve driven by fields where the farmers are bringing in the beans and the corn – mowing the crops down with broad sweeps across our native land. So, in part of my mind are these images of harvest and abundance. I think of the semis I’ve seen, their trailers full to the brim with the corn that goes to feed our children and children all over the world.
And, yet, I have other images implanted in my mind as well – images of draught and dryness.
On my way back into town this past Sunday, I came down the hill just past Old Hickory on 231. As I drove over Big Walnut Creek, I looked out the window to see a sliver of the water moving through the creek bed; the waters life diminished by the lack of rain. We see the reminders of draught all over: in dry leaves that blow across the ground. We see the signs in our local shops, like the one at Humphrey’s: “Wanted! Rain Dancers.” We feel the dryness and dust in our bodies. “When will we get rain?” we ask one another – acknowledging that something has been lacking.
So, two images float in my mind – of abundance and richness on one hand and of emptiness and dryness on the other. The signature image was the scene I saw last night: a combine traversing the land near our home. As the great machine did its work, I could literally watch the plentiful land being trimmed back to just dirt and dust.
Truth be told, our fascination with abundance and emptiness goes deeper than the weather. The things we see in the created world speak to the other world, that spiritual one that we also experience. And, I’ve been thinking about those realities. How can I not? When our nation and the world continue to live with daily news of economic uncertainty? When people are hopeful not just for more rain, but for good news?
Did you know the word “gospel” comes to us from a time when the Israelites were facing perhaps their deepest destitution? This proud and gifted people had experienced terror and social and economic collapse. They had known years of abundance, but then everything seemed to turn to dust. But, right in those trying years, a prophet arose in the land. Isaiah was the man, and to this beleaguered, battered people Isaiah began to speak new news. He called it “good news” – gospel – reports of promise and hope, reports on what the Lord planned to do next. And in that gospel was the promise that God would form a highway in the desert to lead God’s people back to a place of refreshment, abundance and life.
Walter Brueggemann claims that we, humans, are always consumed by the fear of scarcity. That fear drives us individually and corporately. But, he points out that the great, dominant theme of our Scriptures (both Old and New Testament) is that God’s radical, amazing abundance awakens us to new possibilities, leads us into new life, and strengthens us to be generous towards others. Just when we fear there is not enough, God overflows our life with grace. And that is true. Think about it. After YHWH had delivered the Israelites from their bondage, they roamed the desert. Naturally, they grew fearful. Where would their food come from? But, even as they fretted and dreamt of Egyptian restaurants, God began to shower holy bread at their feet. Then, later, when the disciples began to stew and worry over the thousands who would need to be fed, Jesus invited a young boy to share his small basket of food and fed them all … with plenty left over.
This Sunday we will celebrate World Communion Sunday, a day we – as Christians all over the world – recognize and celebrate that our God, the Maker of heaven and earth, is a god who brings abundance to places of emptiness, refreshment to dry places. We will have the opportunity to celebrate the Lord’s Supper and give thanks to God for God’s ample grace.
As we do gather, please know that we’ll be gathering food for those in need. If you have an extra item or have a chance to pick up some food, please feel free to bring in your canned items so our deacons can take the items over to the food pantry this week.
You will also notice that some of our body did some good work cleaning and preparing our sanctuary this week. May that be a reminder for all of us to prepare our own hearts for our day of worship.
I look forward to seeing you Sunday. May God’s grace fill your emptiness,