It’s trifecta week—eight years ago, Monday, Jim asked me to marry him, on Tuesday I turned 50 (I almost typed 30) and on Wednesday I celebrated 20 years of ordination as a priest. The festivities continue this Friday and Saturday when our family enjoys an overnight in the city seeing Hamilton and going to museums and fun restaurants. And while all of those big occasions certainly involve me, all of them are at their heart about participating in a larger community of people—of family, friends and the church. Of saying yes to love. I would not be the person I am without the incredible gift of all of you.
Participation in life and love is essential as human beings; although it isn’t ever without risk or challenge. Author and pastor, Rob Bell, recently had a podcast on participation using the parable Jesus told of the various people given talents or, as Rob puts it, ‘bags of gold.’ We know the story: a wealthy boss gives his servants ridiculous sums of money—five, two and one bags of gold—to his three servants, each according to their ability with very little instruction before parting the scene. During the long absence, two doubled their bags of gold while the one who received just one dug a hole (a mighty large one) to hid the sum to produce on the bosses return. Finally, the boss returned. Delighting in the way the first two participated, he praises them and invites them to come celebrate, to ‘enter into my joy.’ But the ‘One bag of Gold dude’ says I know you are hard, and I was afraid, so I hid it and now give you back what was yours. But the boss is furious—What? Is that what you think of me? Then, basically, you’re already living in hell.
It is a story of participation. The boss delights in sharing and delights when the servants participate in the abundance, therein sharing his joy. There is nothing in the story to back up the One Bag of Gold Dude’s reading of the situation or the boss man. He is living in a story of his own making, seeing through the eyes of fear and scarcity, unable to share in the joy and generosity. Whether we realize it consciously or not, how we see God (or ultimate reality or the ground of all being) influences how we see everything—either life is an ongoing invitation to participate in the generosity, joy and delight of love or it is set up for scarcity, fear and judgment. And the result is experiencing heaven or hell here on earth. Jesus called the quality of life when we share in saying yes and participating in the blessing living in the kingdom of heaven.
We do so by claiming the “bags of gold” we’re given which come in many forms, participating in the flow of generosity and celebrating the joy. Some people keep a gratitude journal, listing the blessings of their lives—and there are always many, even in the hardest/darkest of times. It is easy to slip into hell, drawn by fear or scarcity, but it is a trap of our own making. The way out is to allow ourselves to participate in love, practicing gratitude for all that we do have, all that is good in our lives. I confess it isn’t always easy. The pull of scarcity and fear, of not measuring up and not having enough, permeates our culture and is a constant temptation. Thankfully, it is the community of love surrounding me who help me remember who I am and whose I am—and to live from that place. Thank you!
I’ve been listening to the Hamilton soundtrack a lot. There is a song that goes ‘it must be nice, it must be nice…to have Washington on your side!’ I’ve found myself singing it a lot but replacing Washington with love: it must be nice, it must be nice…to have Love on your side! It is indeed, and we all do, always.
Come enter into the celebration of love called life, enter into joy here and now.