What an amazing prayer we have before us in Ephesians ? The writer of this letter gives us a wonderful example of how to pray for others to understand the God whom they are infilled with and by.
This is a God of abundance and fullness, a God that provides us with all that we need to be fulfilled and empowered people. This is a God of great generosity and compassion who is available at every moment of our lives.
It is so easy to get caught up in the fake news of the consumer cult we have become slaves to, to actually believe that this world is a threatening and fearful place and that we have to protect our selves from the scarcity that is rampant all around us.
Scarcity comes in many forms. It can be the scarcity of safety, diversity, loss, want or health. We want more of each of these and sacrifice our humanity to get it. We sacrifice compassion, inclusion, welcome and hope on the altar of fear driven by the need to consume and make wealthy those who benefit from such consumption.
David, in our Old Testament reading sacrifices his integrity and righteousness out of a need to want more, to want what was forbidden but because he was David the King it was his to take. He took Bathsheba, got her pregnant and then began the long journey of cover-up and ultimately murder. David’s desire for more resulted in him becoming less. It is a story about scarcity and that seems incredible for someone who had everything.
Remember David was a shepherd boy. He came from poverty, in relative terms, to those in power. He knew what it was like to miss out on those things that made life good. He also knew what it was like to be denied the things others had and you wanted. Now he was king, that fear of missing out (FOMO as the young generation calls it) was still a part of his make up, but now he could ensure he didn’t miss out. And he didn’t.
The result a diabolical mess only resolved, if it could be resolved, when the prophet Nathan confronts him with the truth.
The feeding of the crowds in our Gospel reading reminds us that what we get depends on what we focus on. The disciples immediately look at what they don’t have – enough food. Jesus looks at what he has enough of – the abundance and fullness of God; one ensures failure, the other guarantees enough. The result of Jesus understanding of God’s capacity to provide results in left overs, the disciples only failure.
This fear of missing out drives people to gather more money, possessions, property, wealth, gadgets, holidays etc. than they can deeply appreciate. It becomes an insatiable appetite for more.
Michael Leunig suggests instead of FOMO, we should seek JOMO. He tells the story of missing the local train and being left alone on the platform, with only the singing birds for company, waiting for the next. It was so enjoyable he now misses trains on purpose! He calls it JOMO, the Joy Of Missing out!
And perhaps that is the essence of the prayer we have in Ephesians, the joy of missing out on the consumptive materialism rampant in outr world and the scarcity of abundance and fullness found within where God, the Great Creator Spirit lives and has its being.
This prayer is not about having great material wealth, but realising the abundance God gives us through Jesus and the Spirit. We do indeed have all we need within and without to be fulfilled in this world. We have it in spades, as they say, yet because we fear missing out on a comfortable retirement with house, family and holidays we forgo the wonder of simply being at home in our inner-selves.
What does this prayer want for us? Not a grasping or grabbing, not a church full of people of all ages, not a bank account overflowing with riches but the understanding that there is and always will be enough. Why? Because enough is always found in the abundance and fullness of God. We will never miss out.
There will always be enough people in this church to be God’s presence in this place. There will always be enough people to do the things that need to be done. If more are needed God will bring them. That is not our responsibility. Ours is simply to be here and open to the possibilities of abundance and fullness.
There will always be enough money, resources and faith. God will see to it. What will get in the way of God and this abundance is our Fear of Missing out.
Yet one of the wonderful things about this parish is that it is beginning to discover this abundance. Christopher Richardson, one of the singers from last Sunday, mentioned several times, the warmth of the welcome and inclusion he saw in our Parish. He felt it deeply. Others also commented on it.
Over the last few months I have watched as people have begun to discover that abundance and fullness within and taken on roles and activities that previously had been left to the Vicar. This includes planning, organising and implementing new ideas; in the proactive engagement with others that allows them to take on tasks they thought they were not ready for; the way people care for each other and how people share their needs with one another; and there is more.
It is seen in people who have no long-term connection to our parish or the church volunteering to participate in the life of the Church. It is seen in the growing number of regulars at the musical events. It is seen in the people visiting the garden.
No longer does the Vicar stand at the centre of the parish wheel, spinning madly trying to make something happen. It is happening organically and that allows the Vicar to stand back and enjoy.
This is the abundance of God’s creating spirit at work. It happens when we let go of our fear of missing out, of scarcity and begin to act as if God is all we say God is. The future for our parish is beyond our imagination if we continue to live in the fullness of being which is the abundant urge for wholeness.
So we will end where we began:
14For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name.
16 I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, 17 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. 18 I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullnessof God.
20 Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.