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From Anxiety to Abundance

Anxiety. This is the one thing that never seems to be in short supply. Whether you are anxious about work, or your children, or your future, or your finances, I suspect that you know some anxiety in your life.

There is a tap root deep into our culture which feeds and nurtures that anxiety. The deeper source of anxiety is the feeling that there may not be enough? Enough jobs to go around or enough nice guys of a dating and marrying age or enough money to get through the month. There is this sneaking suspicion that you might not have all you need, or if you have it now that it might not last. Then there is the keeping up with the Joneses aspect as well.

Why is it when I visit someone else they seem to have their act together more than I do. As one friend has said after visiting the home of another they often find themselves saying, "Did you notice they have more stuff than we do." And the standard reply is "And nicer stuff too."

This week I have been hearing of a different voice. Instead of speaking of scarcity, this voice speaks of abundance. I am at Honey Creek, a conference center at the north end of our county for a series of lectures given by well known and highly regarded Old Testament professor Dr. Walter Brueggemann. Dr. Brueggemann laments that as we encounter scripture in short passages each week in worship or each day in private readings, we can miss over arching themes.

The theme he pulled out for us was the repeating pattern of the move from slavery to freedom, which is also the move from scarcity to abundance. He showed this pattern with Moses in Exodus, with Elisha in 2 Kings and with Jesus in the Gospels.

In explicating the theme, Dr. Brueggemann noted that the move from the anxiety of scarcity to the freedom of abundance takes an unexpected act of generosity. In the Exodus story we find this pattern in Pharaoh who is the richest man in the world yet dreams of lean years and pushes everyone to work harder.

Once the Hebrews are out from under his yoke, the miracle of God providing bread in the wilderness (called Manna, which literally means "what is it?") is just such an act of unexpected generosity which proves that creation is ongoing and the creator can make fruitfulness where we can not generate that fruitfulness ourselves. Then we find in the Sinai encounter that the Hebrews are given dreams of freedom and abundance through the Law of Moses are shown how to care for their neighbor so that all have enough.

Dr. Brueggemmann showed how this pattern and theme repeat in scripture with a some other examples. He noted that many people are anxious and driven to do more, more, more by fears of scarcity. He said this anxiety is fed by Pharaoh's command is "make more bricks." And in many ways we tell one another that the solution to our problem is to make more bricks. But this is not God's answer to anxiety over not having enough. God's command is to take rest on the Sabbath and to "love the Lord your God."

God's answer to anxiety is seen most clearly in Jesus' words in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus lays out this promise of abundance over and against the world's fear of scarcity,

"Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Of course not." He goes on to say, "So don't worry about having enough food or drink or clothing. Why be like the pagans who are so deeply concerned about these things? Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern. "So don't worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today's trouble is enough for today." This is from Matthew 6:25-34 in the New Living Translation.

Jesus' words in that sermon fit with the overarching theme of scripture which calls us again and again to come out of Egypt with its anxiety and dreams of scarcity to enter in to the Promised Land which is a land flowing with milk and honey. This is not some pie-in-he-sky future promise. This is a real hear and now solution. For if you chase after more, more, more, there will never be enough. The more you get, the more you have to be anxious about losing. If instead, you focus on the things that really matter and let stuff be stuff, then you will find that God's grace is sufficient.

I don't know what problems you run into in trying to live into this. For me, it is the issue of Daily Bread. For I find that when I work the way I think I need to, without concern for not having enough, that sometimes finances do get tight. Sometimes I don't know exactly how we are going to make it. Yet, predictably, dependably, when I trust in God, I find I have what I need when I need it. This is daily bread. I want monthly bread or annual bread, but God doesn't work that way.

If you don't believe that, read the story of Manna, the Bread from Heaven found in Exodus. There was always enough Manna for the day, and even a double portion to cover the Sabbath. But there was never enough to store up or to get ahead.

God is still teaching us that lesson. Don't be anxious about what you will eat or what you will wear. But trust in God to provide and you will find not scarcity, but abundance.

(The Rev. Frank Logue is pastor of King of Peace Episcopal Church in Kingsland.)

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