Sunday, August 5, 2012

"More and Enough" - a sermon for the 10th Sunday after Pentecost

A sermon preached by the Very Rev. Michael D. Kinman at Christ Church Cathedral on Sunday, August 5, 2012

Repeat after me....

More. Enough.

More. Enough.

More. Enough.

More. Enough.

We think about cosmic forces battling we think good v. evil. God v. Satan. Luke Skywalker v. Darth Vader. But all scripture and life is really a battle between these two forces:

More and Enough.

It is a battle being fought throughout this nation. It is a battle being fought around the globe. It is a battle fought every moment of every day inside each of us.

More. Enough.

More. Enough.

More. Enough.

Which side we choose determines the course for our lives and for this world.

Let’s start with more. More is a hunger. It’s a hunger that seems to come from deep inside.

One of the best images of “More” I can remember came from Al Franken. You might remember that before he was a senator, Al Franken was a comedian. And in 2004 he was speaking at Graham Chapel during the election season and he was talking about listening to former Tennessee governor Fred Thompson speak – you might remember Fred from his presidential bid or from his stint acting on Law and Order.

And Al Franken imitated Fred’s southern drawl and said he heard Fred say:

“I have more guns than I need … but not as many guns as I want.”

And Al paused and said, “and I found myself thinking … ‘This man is very different from me.”

And it was a great laugh line. And it was because Al knew his audience – it was an audience of mostly liberal college students. It was a joke that was designed not just to make us laugh but to make us feel good because we felt superior.

But really, when we think about it … Al missed the point. Fred Thompson really isn’t that different from Al Franken or me or you or any of us. We might not say that we have more guns than we need but not as many as we want … but we all say that about something. For all of us there is something – and frankly, many somethings, where there is a huge gap between what we need and what we want … and we are driven by the hunger of the want.

We hunger. And our hunger drives us.

And it feels like it's always been that way.

If we go back millennia when our ancestors were writing the first creation stories and trying to explain how we got here and why we are what we are, look at the stories we wrote. The story of the Garden of Eden begins with a litany of abundance. There is plenty. There is enough. Adam and Eve had no lack at all. They had everything they needed.

And then came the serpent, more subtle than any other beast. And the serpent sowed the seed of discontent. The serpent went to Adam, who was absolutely at peace and content and pointed to the one thing in the garden that Adam didn’t need but also couldn’t have. Pointed to it and said, “Hey … what about that fruit. Wouldn’t it be even better if you had that? Don’t you want that?”

The serpent introduced a new word into our language. A word that would be our downfall and drive us to this day.

The serpent spoke the word …. MORE. Adam --- don’t you want more?

More. More. More.

We hear that story with the Israelites in the desert. God leads them out into the desert and in the middle of nowhere provides food for them … manna raining from heaven. And there is only one instruction – gather only enough for one day, so that they might live in trust that God will provide fresh each day. It’s where the phrase “give us this day our daily bread” comes from. Just one instruction. But the people looked at it and said, “MORE!” and they gathered more … and it all spoiled.

The past few weeks we’ve heard the story of David and Bathsheba. David who has power and riches and a huge abundance of wealth because of the grace of God. David who has hundreds of wives – and by the way for those who think we should be following literally the Biblical prescriptions on marriage, we might want to consider that! … what does he do? He looks across and sees Bathsheba and his heart says “More.” And instead of saying “No. I will praise God for all I have and that it is enough.” He takes more. He takes what is not his. And it is his downfall.

In history we look at Alexander the Great, who conquered everything they knew to conquer and instead of being satisfied, what are we told he did? He wept because there were no more worlds to conquer. Instead of being content and saying enough. He wept because he wanted more and could not get it.

There’s something in us that keeps hungering . That is never satisfied. That never lets us be at peace. Something that cries more. And more is never enough.

We hear it in this morning’s Gospel. The people are fresh off the feeding of the 5,000, where we are told they all had eaten their fill. But still they track Jesus down the next day. And what do they say, “Give us more!” “More! More! More!”

And Jesus tries to enlighten them. “Don’t work for the bread that perishes. Work for the bread that leads to eternal life.” And in this hysterical moment of so not getting it, they say, “Eternal life bread? That sounds great. Give us more of that! More! More! More!”

Always wanting more but never being satisfied. Psycholgists have a phrase for this … they call it the Hedonistic Treadmill.

And finally Jesus has had enough and he says it as clear as he can say it. He says “I am the bread of life. Whomever comes to me will never be hungry. Whomever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

We are stuck in this insane cycle of more that is never enough. A cycle that creates discontent and war and poverty. And in the midst of it, Jesus stands and gives us a way out of the madness. A way to get off the hedonistic treadmill ... to break the cycle in our life and in the life of the world. A way to be at peace. A way to hunger and thirst no more.

When we feel the hunger of more -- and we all feel it. It doesn't make us bad to feel it. It's what we do with it. When we feel the hunger of "more," Jesus gives us a way out, a way to freedom. Jesus says, "If you trust me, when you feel like crying 'More!" I can help you know and even sing 'Enough.'"

There’s actually another Al Franken character that illustrates this in a pretty cool way. If you watched Saturday Night Live at all in the 1990s … or even if you didn’t, you probably remember Stuart Smalley.

Stuart was a parody of the self-help movement. He was a member of dozens of 12-step groups and his whole life was one string of affirmations. And he would begin each of his little shows sitting in front of a mirror saying “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone it, people like me.”

Stuart was funny for many people because it created a character of someone who was addicted to self-help and made us feel superior. But the thing is, there was also a gentleness and a peace to Stuart Smalley. And if you look at what Stuart was preaching, there was a link between it and the Gospel we hear from Jesus. Because Stuart was preaching the good news of “enough.”

I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And gosh darnit, people like me.

Stuart Smalley was saying there can be an enough.

Jesus says “This is the one work we must do – trust in the one God has sent.” Trust in Jesus. So it’s not self-help, but it’s Christ help. But Jesus is telling us some pretty similar things.

Jesus is telling us: “God is enough. You have enough. You are beloved by God.”

God is enough. You have enough. You are beloved by God.

In fact, let’s do Stuart. Let’s say that together.

God is enough. I have enough. I am beloved by God.

God is enough. I have enough. I am beloved by God.

God is enough. I have enough. I am beloved by God.

Feels kind of silly maybe? Kind of silly in the way that we laugh at Stuart Smalley. Well imagine what our lives would be like if we started every day looking in the mirror and saying

God is enough. I have enough. I am beloved by God.

Imagine what our lives would be like if we not only said it but lived it.

We would be free of anxiety and fear. We would hunger for nothing except for God. We would be like Paul, counting everything as loss for the surpassing love of God in Christ. We would never be hungry and we would be free.

God is enough. I have enough. I am beloved by God.

Imagine what the world would be like. No wars. No poverty. No hunger. Just peace and contentment. Enough.

God is enough. We have enough. We are beloved by God

More and Enough. They are the two forces that are battling over our souls and over the life of the world. So let’s try something this week.

First, just be aware. Be aware of the role “more” plays in your life. Be aware of when you feel driven to want more than you have. Then remember. Remember that Jesus says the one work we have to do is trust in him. And then ask him for strength. Ask Christ to help you take the hunger for more and turn it into the peace of enough. If it helps, even start your day looking in the mirror and saying, God is enough. I have enough. I am beloved by God.

If each of us can just one time every day – even one time this week - choose enough instead of more, we will be on a path that will change our lives and change the world.

God is enough. I have enough. I am beloved by God.

More or enough. There is a way out of the madness. Christ is waiting to help us. But the choice is ours.

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