Today’s readings, fitting quite well with last week’s exploration around the temptation of ‘more’, are actually stories about less. Less is the theme of all of our readings this week.
To Abraham God says – ‘go’… just go, and when you go you will be blessed. Just start the journey say God, just go… no fancy instructions of what to take with you, just go… in faith. The journey is all about the leap of faith in God… you don’t need your father’s house, your kin, your safety net of your home, just go… in faith and you will be blessed.
And Paul in his letter to the Romans speaks of Abraham as well…. Telling his readers that it is not Abrahams works, it is not Abraham’s adherence to the law that makes him the receiver of God’s blessing. It is Abraham’s faith that comes first ~ it is no more than the basic necessity of faith that Paul explains to his readers that is the key to the journey with God and key to receiving God’s blessing.
And then we get to our Gospel reading. Jesus tells Nicodemus that the key to being able to see the kingdom of God that is being realized in Jesus is quite simply to believe and have faith in the spirit. No more than believing in Christ is the way that Nicodemus will be able to see the mission of God unfold into the world. Believing in Christ is being born into the world of seeing things through the lens of Gods Kingdom. Believing in Christ is what we need. We need to have one starting point ~ belief: the trust and faith in God.
Our Christian journey is not defined by the works, the law, the rules, the temples, the churches, the liturgies, the stuff, the numbers at a church service on a Sunday, the financial bottom line, the size of the Youth group or the Sunday School. Our Christian journey is defined by much less than that… it is defined, first and foremost, by our faith and belief.
To trust as Abraham did, that his blessings from God would unfold if he just went in faith.
To agree as Paul suggested that the blessings of God are received by much less than adherence to some difficult society rules ~ by just simply having faith in Christ.
To recognize, as Jesus told Nicodemus, that seeing the kingdom of God takes simple, but yet life altering, belief.
The scripture is telling us that it is not about the more… it is about less. Pull everything else away… we simply need to have faith and the journey with Christ begins and continues to unfold in our lives.
In Christian communities, and definitely in our Anglican circles, and for sure in our Parish we see ‘less’ as so scary. We are so worried that we have less people. We feel so worried that we might have ‘less’ buildings. We feel like if we went with any less in number of services or buildings ~ well than we’ve failed ~ because we need ‘this much’ to be deemed alive and well. We are not alone… Anglicans and probably Christians everywhere in the Western world seem to feel that the path of who we are to be as Christians has to stay on the pre-defined course that continues to seek more – more people, more buildings, more money, more stuff. But Jesus says it is through one thing only, much less than everything we in our humanity think it needs to be, it is to focus on our faith and belief.
What would it look like if that was our focus;
What if we simply wanted to help each other believe in God more, to have more faith and trust?
What if we saw a blessing in less… saw a blessing in releasing ourselves from our pre-defined visions of success?
What if we decided to structure the delivery of our ministry around just helping people have faith that God is with them and God will bless them when they start to believe – even if they just have a little bit of faith? Even if they don’t believe the same way you believe? Even if their belief doesn’t translate to them showing up to church every single Sunday?
What if we defined success, not by numbers of people, but by the strength of our community and ourselves when we are faced with relentless doubt, depression, fears, or grief?
What if we said to each other how can we be the people of God with less ~ leaving more freedom for us to give money, support, and service to those in need?
What if we heard Jesus say the same thing to us that he said to Nicodemus when he said; let the Spirit of God be so important, so integral to who you are that you are reborn every time you allow the spirit to work in you through your faith. What if you are reborn every day ~ every time your journey is more defined by the kingdom of God ~ a kingdom where the freedom of less is life itself.
Who would we be? What would we look like? How would our lives be lived? Would we be following the mission of God?
The temptation of more is hard to pass up but maybe the allure of less is exactly what God is hoping excites us.