Scarcity and Abundance
#ScarcityAndAbundance is the podcast for July 28, 2019, If God were a smoker, would he give you his last cigarette? Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Luke11 #Scarcity #Abundance #Prayer #cigarettes #blessings #friends #generosity
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 7/28/2019 The 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Luke 11:1-13.
I have two stories to tell you to start today.
When I used to smoke cigarettes, oh almost 35 years ago, sometimes I would find myself without a pack and without my lighter. So, if I were working a job as a roofer or in the gas station where I was, I would sometimes find myself unable to leave the job site to replenish my supply. So, I found myself begging from other smokers on the job for a cigarette, uh, and a light.
It would not be uncommon for the other smokers to use the following refrain after I asked for a “smoke” and a light. “Would you like me to smoke it for you, too?”
Here is the second story: recently, when the Bishop visited, we had reason to go up to the hospital to give holy anointing before someone’s death. As is my practice, I went to the nurses station first to wash my hands and meet the nurse caring for my sheep, their patient. I like to have a conversation about the person on their general welfare and how they have been doing, everything that does not violate privacy. Then, I like to find out about the nurse. Is he or she new? How are they? Are they having a good day? Would they like a blessing?
On this particular day, with the bishop, I asked the nurse all these things and she had been on the job for 30 days, fresh out of college. I said, “would you like a blessing because you are so new?” She said, “Yes, thank you.” As I was getting ready to lay my hands on her head, the nurse next to her said with a joking tone, “Geez! I have been here 11 years and no one has ever given me a blessing!”
What do these two stories have in common?
They have the idea of scarcity. The people who give cigarettes to beggars are annoyed because cigarettes are expensive and the addiction can make the smoker stingy. These are my cigarettes. Or as Gollum likes to say, “My Precious.” I am so glad I left that god with a small ‘g’ behind. There are only so many cigarettes in a pack. There is a need to have so many to satisfy the addiction until the smoker has to spend more money. Hence this is why there is sarcasm and frustration with the person who is not providing for their own addiction. The whole scheme is run from an economy of scarcity.
The nurse who turns to me and says, “Well, I have been here for eleven years and no one has given me a blessing,” is also operating in an economy of scarcity. Either, there is a scarcity of blessings or I would only give so many blessings out. She is saying, “I want a blessing, too,” but is wording it in such a way that she is operating in an economy of scarcity. There is either a scarcity of supply or a scarcity of desire to give.
When the disciples approach Jesus after he was “in a certain place,” says Luke, they asked him to teach them how to pray. Here, Luke tells us that Jesus gave them a sample that we have come to know as the Lord’s Prayer and he also told them about who God is and how prayer fits into our relationship with God.
The Lord’s Prayer is awesome as a pattern for prayer. In Luke, the Lord’s Prayer has two points that glorify God and then requests that God be attentive to our daily needs as we conform our life to the forgiveness and generosity he desires. Then, he tells this strange story about a friend who has a visitor that arrives in the middle of the night from a journey. Apparently, the friend arrived with no notice because there were no provisions in the house for them. So, he comes and knocks on your door. The way Jesus tells it, you will be good to him because you want to get that pest off your doorstep so you can go back to bed.
He is saying that you will work with him because you have a scarcity of good will. You’re not really helping him or giving out of the abundance of your forgiveness, you are giving because you are annoyed and want to be left alone. That is a selfish motive. Yet, we are all guilty of it. I am especially guilty of it when it is late at night and I am tired. Whatever you want, just leave me alone!
Yet, what Jesus says to us is that God is not like that. He does not operate out of a scarcity mentality. God created everything and is joyful about it. He loves creation, loves the animals, the plants, the mountains, the flatlands, etc. He even loves the jerks that he brings into our lives. The ones that we will do a good deed for just to have them not come back, he loves even those.
So, if God were a smoker, he would not only give you the cigarette, he would offer to light it before you could ask. He would gleefully tell the nurse who hadn’t been blessed in eleven years that he has a blessing for her too. Believe me, there are plenty of blessings to go around. The storehouses of heaven are filled with blessings just waiting for you.
Prayer is a conversation. It is telling God that we believe in him, we love him, and then we trust him. He, in turn, then treats us like a Father who is more than willing and very ready to help. Yet, that is not how we pray, is it? We pray like God has a limited supply of everything: food, clothing, shelter, forgiveness, patience, entrance into heaven, you name it.
What separates us from other religions is that we have been expressly told to call God not just ‘Father,’ but “Abba”, which is Hebrew for “Daddy.” There is something very intimate about that relationship. Our God has a desire for an intimate relationship with us. He wants us to ask.
I used to have a student who would start her prayer off in a sing songy greeting to the Lord, “Hi, God…” The way she said, “God…” was so every day like. She knew him and so, yeah, once again she was coming to have a conversation and ask for help for a myriad of things, or just hang out. If you are intimate with someone there should be a level of confidence that the person you are approaching has your concerns at heart. You don’t need to approach like an ‘unworthy slave.’
By the way, slaves were not unworthy. They were just told and treated like they were unworthy. They just accepted that treatment for survival and it became their way of life. But we are not slaves. In fact, St. Paul says that we are sons and daughters. God has a lot for us. The storehouses of Heaven are filled with blessings for us.
I would be careful to ask God for things in a way that relies on him to know what is best or what he can give us that will not hurt others. He has the whole view and will send us what we need. Ask for provision, that is ‘our daily bread’. Ask for comfort. Ask for change of heart. Ask for good things for others. Ask, ask ask. Yet, do not ask as if God only has one cigarette left in his pack for the day or as if he is asleep at midnight and you are a supreme annoyance.
I invite you to pray, frequently, throughout the day. I live as though God is an active presence with me everywhere I go, because he is a presence with me wherever I go. Remember, he is a God of abundance, not scarcity. He is a God of good will toward you, love toward you, and intimate joy toward you. He is “Abba”, Daddy. Amen.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian