God is Abundant (1)

abundance is the defining characteristic of God, a life and love that are both without limit in an ultimate sense: infinite, eternal, and infinitely, eternally life-giving. In theory, we can distinguish God's life and God's love, but in practical terms, they are the same vital Spirit, bestowed on all humanity, enlivening and enlivening and embracing us whole. In this world, we are able to hinder God's actions, distort God's purpose and resist God's love to the point of death. But in an ultimate sense we are enclosed in God's life like motes wrapped in sunlight, or bubbles of air floating in a warm ocean. And this is a life which is altogether loving. Here, there is grace, mercy and peace for every last part of ourselves, including those parts we would prefer to hide, or whose presence within us we barely acknowledge.

Abundance is the expression of God's life, love and light, or truth. Any lovely form of abundance is "true to God". The various forms of abundance we imagine and dream of and work for are our glimpses of God's great vision or dream for us, which the Spirit is working to realise in the world. And just as God's life and love embrace us whole, so we learn how to love God and live for God with our whole selves.

In Mark 12.28-34, a scribe challenges Jesus to declare which commandment is the first, or most important, of all. "Jesus answered, 'The first is, "Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength." The second is this, "You shall love your neighbour as yourself." There is no other commandment greater than these.'" The scribe affirmed Jesus' choices and added that to observe these commandments "is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices", whereupon Jesus told him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God."

Jesus is not being dismissive. He is not implying that the scribe is half-hearted in his allegiance. On the contrary, he is commending the man in terms which remind us of his basic teaching, as summarised at the beginning of Mark's Gospel, that the kingdom is nearby, or "at hand"[1]. What he is saying is that the scribe has grasped the essentials. He can enter the kingdom: he knows all he needs to know. Though the sacrificial system was based on a theology of grace and abundance[2], its emphasis on the externals did not guarantee that gratitude and generosity were actually present.

It is love - understood as the disposition or attitude of the whole person - which brings the kingdom close to us and connects us with the Source of abundant life. Love is the means whereby we can dedicate the whole of ourselves to God, meet our own needs and serve our neighbour, too. Love is the means whereby we - and those we serve - can share in the abundance of God. Love is the way we pay attention to God, ourselves and others so that all are included in a widening circle of plenty, and "abundance" is realised throughout creation.

[1] Mark 1.14-15.
[2] Gifts that symbolised "abundance" in various forms were offered to God in thanksgiving for the immeasurable riches that God had already bestowed, and in trust that God would continue to provide with a lavish hand.

Beauty - recognising abundance
Birthdays, Christmas - celebrations of abundant life
Gifts - symbols of abundance

It is the sheer abundance of God's life which inspires and justifies Jesus' blessing. In his vision, the life of God is vast, in scale, scope, reach and richness; simple in itself yet capable of touching an enormous diversity of need; the life of heaven applied to the practical, personal, material requirements of human existence. God makes this life available to us in all its understanding, wisdom, justice and compassion; with steadfast faithfulness and for the holiest purpose. How can Jesus not be grateful for such grace?

God as the Creator; Jesus as our Companion on the creative Journey; the Spirit as creative process; ourselves as disciples, learning to be creative and agents of creative thinking/development in others, and of creative process in situations. Aim, to create abundance for all.

Jesus shows us how to keep faith with this vision until abundant life is made real for everyone. Seeing how Jesus works empowers our journey of faith. Enables us to re-envision what we already possess in a manner which allows people to access it. Need for systematic, holistic, pragmatic and pastoral analysis in this field.

How does the Spirit work? How does the Spirit engender and sustain transformation? How can we, as disciples, collaborate with the Spirit? Facilitate change in a positive and creative manner?

What kind of praying do people do - to get themselves on the move, to keep moving, to get where they are going?

They "imagine abundance" for themselves, then work to make it real - the creative process. A life-giving process. Learning to be ourselves. Living by faith. Loving the world.

Abundant life is good news. Knowing how to generate more life is good news. The more we have abundance - especially abundant life - the more we can help others.

God is big enough to hold all the "big stuff" there is. The loving strength of God is so immense that we cannot imagine it. Again and again in the Scriptures, the compassionate power of God is imagined as huge - so enormous in size, scale, richness, variety, detail, depth, compassion and creative potential - that we cannot get our heads around it.

Whenever we feel overwhelmed by the immensity of what has happened, or the sheer scale of a problem, or the amount of detail we must deal with, or the number of jobs that must be done, it is helpful to remember that God is abundant life. God is an infinite, eternal reservoir of life-giving power. Consequently, the power of God is more than enough to support us. The resources of God are more than enough to sustain us. The love of God is more than enough to forgive us. The life of God is more than enough to heal us. Our "big stuff" may be huge, heavy, diverse, complicated, perplexing, painful and profound, but God is larger still. God is infinite and eternal. God is endlessly compassionate and everlastingly creative.

Imagining the abundance of God fills our minds with this vision of God's multi-faceted, loving, life-giving strength. It reminds us that God can absorb and carry and deal with all the "big stuff". Mine and yours and everyone else's "big stuff". All the "big stuff" in the world. All at once.

In times like these, when we feel assailed by forces which threaten to destroy us, remembering the abundance of God can help us stay the course. It fuels us to remain faithful, hopeful and loving. It enables us to see that while we are dealing with the "small stuff" the "big stuff" is also receiving attention - from God, whose power is vaster than the heavens above us (Psalm 8); more life-giving than any river (Psalm 46); stronger than the hills (Psalm 121). The scale and splendour of the created world reminds us of the multi-dimensional greatness of God's loving, saving strength. We realise that our "small stuff" is contained within a vast and varied whole, and that God is large enough to embrace and sustain it all.

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