May 3, 2020
Back at the beginning of March, a couple of weeks before our entire world seemed to get turned upside down, Vern and Theresa joined me to go see the Detroit Youth Choir and Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber. Pastor Nadia is the founding Pastor of The House for All Saints and Sinners in Denver. She started that congregation right after her graduation from seminary and has spoken at multiple National Youth Gatherings. She positively pushes the envelope on how many people believe a pastor should act. She is authentic and does not hold back and is not afraid to share her story (even if her story may contain profanity). A couple of weeks ago she kicked of a new podcast, The Confessional with Nadia Bolz-Weber. In it, she invites her guests to confess to previous actions in their lives they may not be proud of as they look back. Really, it is a repentance.
Her first two guests have not disappointed. As she welcomed Megan Phelps-Roper into the confessional, we here of her turning from the church of her family that proclaimed a Christianity of hate. That church was the Westboro Baptist Church and since she has left that church, she is living a more abundant life. Her second guest was Lenny Duncan, a fellow ELCA pastor. He entered the confessional to share of his life as a runaway and about being arrested and serving time in prison for selling drugs. He too, came to a point where he realized he was not truly following Christ and as he turned his life around, he found a more abundant life. Living in Christ, means living in abundance.
For the next month we hear from John’s gospel, and in John’s gospel Jesus lays it all out there for people to hear. Albeit, he may have to explain himself a couple of times for the disciples and others to understand. This week our gospel joins Psalm 23 and we get the familiar image of Jesus as the good shepherd, and much more. Comparing himself to the thief, he points out that the thieves that attempted to enter the pasture before him only had the desire to steal, kill, and destroy. Jesus, on the other hand, came so that humanity may have life, and have it abundantly.
It is easy to get confused by what it means to live an abundant life. There is so much in that one word, abundant. We get distracted by a life of abundance when Jesus came to give us an abundant life. To live a life of abundance means that we surround ourselves with those material things and living that distract and leads us away from Christ. By falling into living a life of abundance we may find that we own too much and our attracted to shiny objects (like the newest smart phone). When the shininess wears off (usually within few days), it becomes dull and we look for the next greatest thing.
Jesus, on the other hand, promises that we will have life and have it abundantly. He instructs the rich man that wants to follow him to leave it all behind and he becomes dejected. There are points of the abundant life that we can point to in John’s gospel that Jesus highlights. Jesus promises that those that drink of the water he offers will never be thirsty and will have abundant life (John 4:14). Jesus is the bread of life and whoever comes to him will never be hungry (John 6:35). Jesus is the light of the world, and if he is there we will never live in darkness (John 9:5).
As we seek out our own abundant life, we start to gaze upon other pastures. Pastures where we get led astray to think that some things are more important than Christ. Pastures that highlight our own personal wealth over that of our friends and communities. As we seek a pasture to call home, Jesus reminds us that if we listen for his voice, he will guide us into the pasture that offers abundant life. A life that gives us all we need where we never thirst and hunger and where we are led by the light.
It is God’s desire for us to enter that pasture. It is a pasture of peace and love. A pasture where grace abounds, and nothing is required on our part. It is a free invitation to be part of this incredible unfolding story of the good news. We too are invited to live the abundant life like Megan and Lenny. It may require repentance on our part. It may require being broken to have Jesus put us back together again. We can begin that process in this time of quarantine as we pray and ask Christ to be with us and our communities. It is a process that never ends. Living in Christ, requires work on our part, yet it also provides the promise of abundant life.