SERMON 15 MAY 2011
“Life in all its fullness”
By Rev. Fei Taule’ale’ausumai Davis
PRAYER: Give us ears to hear and open our mouths that we may proclaim your greatness in our lives. Enable us in all our dealings with people to be genuinely humble, actively compassionate, gentle peacemakers who bring with us wherever we go the joy of Christ. Amen.
I have come that you might have life and life in all its fullness… Ua ou sau ina ia latou maua le ola, ia maua atili ai lava. I wonder what that fullness of life looks like? Pe faapea fea foliga o lenei olaga? If I was to ask you what does life in all its fullness look like to you? What does it mean for you? What would your answer be?
For many of us as the years are added to our age every year, I know sometimes we wish we could stop the clock or go back to a time when we could do everything and not have to worry about this leg or that knee, my gout or my arthritis, my diabetes, the list can go on. We have all heard it said to us, and we have said it as well to others, “when I was your age I could do this and do that.” Many of us can talk of our younger days and recall times when we had more energy and strength, more get up and go. Some of you don’t need to look for memories or reminisce because you are still very young and have so much looking forward to do in your lives. Don’t be in a hurry to grow up. What does fullness of life look like to you? Are we there yet? Has anyone been there, arrived, and gone beyond?
Many preachers quote John 10:10 as support for the idea that Christianity leads to physical prosperity and "every good thing." Prosperity theology, also known as, "Prosperity Doctrine," "Health and Wealth," "Name It and Claim It," or "Blab It and Grab It" and there is too much of that going on in a lot of these Mega churches. When you become a member of such a church you must first sign a direct debit form for your weekly tithing. Wow that would be so cool if we did something similar here eh, commit to us every week half your pay packet, and too bad how you going to pay your bills and put food on your table.
Too much negative Christianity is being preached in churches these days. I remember being told at a youth meeting I went to in Wellington when I was in my twenties that the word Christian meant “Christ-i-a(m)n(othing). I thought wooo slow down there, aren’t we supposed to be building up the self esteem of these young people? As the national youth co-coordinator of the Presbyterian Church I was called to work with and serve these young people who to me were something, something very important. As a minister it was my duty to direct them to be something, to find life in all its fullness. The word Christian does not mean Christ I am nothing, but because of Christ you are everything. Too much prosperity theology and too much judgmental theology creates division and dissension and perpetuates a world of haves and have-nots, blessed and cursed, rich and poor and them and us.
This verse has been used as a description of the Christian life, the normative pattern of life that Christians can expect because of God's blessings. Thank God for my wealth, thank God that I am not living like those people over in the next suburb, poor things, fancy having to live in that neighbourhood.
Many of you know I have been trying to study towards my PhD for too long now that I am too embarrassed to tell you just how many years. It was my goal to graduate when I turned 40. Today I’m 50 years old and I’m 4 months into my PhD programme at Auckland University of Technology and for the first time in 14 years it finally makes sense. I thought it did back then, but now I understand why it felt like I was trying to push a huge boulder uphill and every time I stopped it nearly crushed me in my tracks, and it took everything to keep it from rolling all the way back to the bottom of hill. In the end you know I had to let it go and wave goodbye to it and watch it smash at the bottom knowing that that was it. That was a necessary part of letting go in order to start afresh. When that metaphoric boulder smashed I was able to grab a chunk of that shattered dream and hold on to it. I believe that piece of rock that I grabbed was hope towards fullness of life. Fullness of life for me means not just finding the time to do the things that I am passionate about but also having the strength and the energy to do these things that will help me be more effective and help others be more effective and achieve their goals as well.
Other versions of the Bible call this fullness, abundance – life abundantly. Abundant life, the chance to not simply persist, but thrive, to not simply exist, but flourish. To have a sense of meaning, purpose, and fulfillment; to know and be known, accept and be accepted.
John 10:10 does not promise an improved physical life for us Christians. The passage promises superior, abundant spiritual life, life empowered by the indwelling of Jesus Christ. Because we "have “this opportunity to invite Jesus to be a part of our lives we have the riches of a full life, life in abundance. John 10:10 promises a spiritual dimension to life, not physical wealth and health prosperity abundance.
Fullness of life as intended by Christ is life as we should live everyday of our lives regardless of our state of wellbeing and health. Fullness of life in the spirit of Christ allows us to live peaceably and fully knowing that we are thankful for everyday that God gives us to live and breathe on this planet earth. That regardless of how much money we may or may not have, what car or scooter we drive, what clothes we wear, we are here for a purpose and that purpose is revealed to us each new day. Not too romantic for you?
Think for a moment about the most important relationships in your life. How would you describe the way these relationships shape your actions?
We are creatures of habit who get used to living life the way we always have because we are shaped by our culture, our environment, society and those around us. When the relationships are broken and dysfunctional then our lives often reflect that brokenness and dysfunction. When they are positive and whole then we tend to emanate that in ourselves and in those we are in relationship with. In other words we reap what we sow, if we sow positivity and encouragement, we receive the same in return. What goes round comes round.
In what ways can you and I help make the lives of other’s easier to bear? I know that as a minister I need to be challenged always not to overburden myself and you with too much expectation especially financially.
We are the sowers of the seeds of many things both positive and negative. Our challenge today is to place the things we say and do as well as ourselves in front of mirror and take a good hard long look at what we see. Will we remember what we see; will our good faith in action reflect back on us in the lives of those with whom we are in relationship with, our family, our friends our church community? That is the challenge for you and I.
Abundant life is not something to earn or achieve, buy or barter for. Rather, it is a gift, the sheer gift of a God who loves us enough to lay down his life for us. There are so many thieves and bandits in this world who would rob us of life, who would cheat us of abundance. And so Jesus comes as the gatekeeper and good shepherd, the one who knows his sheep – intimately and truly – and who calls us by name so that we, hearing the difficult truth about ourselves, may believe and receive the second and wonderful truth about God's great and victorious love for us. In the name of the living Christ. Amen.
 Lose, David, Marbury E. Anderson Biblical Preaching Chair Luther Seminary St. Paul, MN http://www.workingpreacher.org/dear_wp.aspx?article_id=475
April 2011 to June 2012