Receiving, what a strange idea.
We live in a world where receiving has been replaced by taking. We take time, energy, space, opportunities. We take resources from the world we live in, we take life from those who oppose us or just from creatures who get in the way of our being here. We take because we are entitled to. We are the predominant predator in the universe as we know it.
We have little or no input into the production of the very things that sustain our lives – food, energy, wisdom. We take from experts without having the capacity to judge the opinions they impose on us. We take without knowing where our food, our news, our ideas come from. We are passive aggressive takers in a world that has transformed us from people to consumers.
As a society, we are takers, not always conscious takers, but people programmed to consume what we are told we need or that we have become conditioned to receive. It is subtle and often couched in terms allowing us to rationalise it as rational and responsible. We build large fences around our houses for privacy and protection; we ration our resources to ensure that we will always have enough or more for our future. We concentrate only on what fulfils us and have little regard for the consequences of our consuming of resources.
Some of this is because we are disconnected from the production of the necessities of life. We do not live next to open cut coalmines, cattle feedlots or the mono-culture farms that use chemically induced agriculture. We do not see the awful gashes in our land or the smell of a feedlot or been evicted from our lands to make al this possible.
Some of this is because of the fear of scarcity – there will never be enough to go around, and I won’t have the resources when I need them. Much of this is created by the media, experts and specialists who are committed, not to our wellbeing but to the economy of taking, of making profits to continue the dominance of corporations.
How different is God’s economy, the economy of the Spirit. This is an economy of receiving, of being connected to the source of your life and of waiting for the consolation of Christ to provide us all we need to be fully human, fully live. Taking partitions life, it separates and divides. Receiving unifies and brings what was disconnected and disparate together as one.
Our Gospel is clear – unity is the essence of the spiritual life – and is fully dependent upon receiving, of waiting and becoming enfolded into the life of the Trinity.
John reminds us clearly:
18”I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. 19In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. 20On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”
There will always be enough for all your needs if you are open to receive. We will never be left with less than we need. We will never find ourselves unaccompanied in whatever stage of life we find ourselves. We are always connected to the Source through the Spirit of Christ, if we who have the commandments keep them.
What are the commandments we are to keep? That of an open welcoming love for all reflecting our open and welcoming love of ourselves as one with the Triune God, a love that holds no-thing just for ourselves but shares all we have and are in communion with others – in a community modelled on the community of the Trinity where giving and receiving flows seamlessly and without any sense of taking, entitlement or grasping found in a modern consumer society.
Our model is the Trinity, our practice is the Trinity. This is not a theological concept as much as a supportive community to which we belong – we are in fact in relationship with the Trinity and united as one with the Godhead there in. This is not a model of scarcity but of enough, nor is it a model were one diminishes the other in the act of taking but a relationship where the deficiency in one is filled up by the others in a dialogue of giving and receiving.
Taken seriously this model allows us to hold lightly to life and all life brings us, and in an understanding of the self fulfilling cycle of openness and receptiveness we find ourselves always with what we need – enough. We will not be left orphaned, as John writes. We will not find ourselves destitute, homeless, friendless or penniless; for we are one with the very essence of being human – the Triune God.
This may be true, you might agree, in terms of spiritual things and it sounds good from a pulpit but I need, you may think, to hold onto as much as I can to ensure I care responsibly for my family. Yet the truth of God’s economy is only found in letting go of what you have and being open to receive what you need.
This is an economy based on community, of relying on one another for the betterment of all. It is localised and sufficient, not universal and more. The Christian church came into being as one which pooled resources and shared those out to one another on a needs basis. This model is the model rural and, even, urban communities flourished on until we moved from providing for ourselves to relying on others to do so through the consumer society.
This has deeply affected church life and the sharing of resources necessary to maintain church communities. We give what we have left over after ensuring our own needs and fears are met. This is not the command we receive – we are to give out of the abundance we receive first then look after our needs.
Receiving is hard to do because it shifts the emphasis from the responsibility of getting what we want to the responsibility of gratefulness for what we receive. It shifts the emphasis from fear to hope, from wants to needs, from excess to enough.
John’s Jesus reminds us that there will always be enough, that we will not be orphaned, but this experience relies on us living out the commandments found in the humility of receiving.