Together We Have Abundance
“Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.” - Stitch What does abundant life look like during a pandemic? Pastor Jim posed this question to us on Sunday morning. In John’s gospel reading Jesus says, “I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly.” What does this promise even mean for us at a time when we are far more often reminded of scarcity than abundance? I really hate going to the grocery store these days because the empty shelves leave me feeling dejected, like life has become everyone for themselves: What is in your pantry is not in mine, and what is in my pantry is not in yours. My survival comes at your cost and vice versa. It is true that for some of us scarcity has become a real threat. For those in our community who were already homeless or struggling to get by, access to resources has become even harder. For others, unemployment has come unexpectedly, maybe for the first time, and lines of cars at the food pantry extend for miles. But for still others, we fear the scarcity that might befall us. The sight of empty shelves and signs like “one per customer” fuel this fear, and the temptation to stock up grows to preempt any need we might have in the future. Jesus calls us to abundant life, but I don’t think the abundance he promises means cupboards full of Lysol and bread while our neighbors have none. That is just scarcity by another name. Abundant life has far more to do with what we have together than what we have as individuals. In Acts we read about the early Christian community in Jerusalem: “All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.” In the last two months I have seen examples of this among my own neighbors. Pantry goods and cleaning supplies left on the front doorstep with a sign reading, “I bought too many. Take what you need and stay safe!” Neighborhood sign-ups for volunteers to deliver groceries, walk dogs, check in on the elderly. Signs of encouragement and gratitude hung in windows or drawn with sidewalk chalk. People wearing homemade masks donated by skillful sewers. When I go to the grocery store, I feel alone. But when I walk even 10 steps down my street I suddenly feel bolstered on all sides. What the early Christian communities recognized, what we are now coming to realize, is that for better or for worse we are all interconnected. In a global pandemic my sickness spreads sickness around me, but my health contributes to health around me, and the health of my neighbor contributes to mine. My wellbeing can be offered to help yours and your wellbeing can help mine. My mask keeps you safe and your mask keeps me safe. And it’s about more than simply having needs met - the feeling of being cared for by a neighbor offers a spiritual strength that simply providing for myself does not supply. Scarcity leads us to fear that we are on our own – financially, emotionally, medically, physically, socially. Jesus reminds us, however, that we belong to a flock. Abundant life is communal life, in which not only are each person’s needs met (adequate resources), but in which we meet one another’s needs (sharing resources). This requires trust and commitment – trust, that we will be cared for should we fall into need, and commitment to offer what we can when we can. I know that for me, fear leads me to believe that I have less to share than I actually do. I am convicted this week to look more closely at the ways I can provide for my neighbor and to begin doing those things more frequently. And I will continue taking walks through my neighborhood to remember that we are not alone. No one is left behind or forgotten. Together is the way through.