Lectionary Reflection for the Second Sunday of Christmas, January 2, 2011
…and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty, says the LORD. Jeremiah 31:14b
Happy New Year, faithful stewards! No, I am not going to bring up the subject of resolutions; that much I promise you. I do want, however, to tackle the topic of satisfaction as we stare the long month of January squarely in the face.
I’ve been thinking about satisfaction the last few days in light of Christmas–wonderful worship, the time spent with family and friends, the giving of gifts, the many gracious and thoughtful gifts received, and the abundance of food. Perhaps truthfully I should say the OVER-abundance of food. How can one not be satisfied–completely satiated–after such a glorious time?
Unfortunately, many people are not satisfied with their lives, even in the midst of such abundance. A person for whom satisfaction is elusive might walk into the average grocery store and see nothing worth eating. The same person may gaze into a jam-packed closet and claim nothing to wear. Faced with making weekend plans, such an individual may lament having nothing to do and cry boredom.
The problem is not a lack of possessions, possibilities, and pocket change, rather the problem is an inward focus, Incurvatus in se, a term Luther discussed in his Lectures on Romans (1515-1516), saying “Our nature, by the corruption of the first sin, [being] so deeply curved in on itself that it not only bends the best gifts of God towards itself and enjoys them (as is plain in the works-righteous and hypocrites), or rather even uses God himself in order to attain these gifts, but it also fails to realize that it so wickedly, curvedly, and viciously seeks all things, even God, for its own sake.” In short, navel gazing doth not a steward/disciple make.
Even iconic rockers the Rolling Stones tackled this subject in their song “Satisfaction,” singing “I can’t get no satisfaction,/I can’t get no satisfaction./’Cause I try and I try and I try and I try./I can’t get no, I can’t get no.” People in the pews are not immune to this phenomenon either. If all of us were completely satisfied, we would have far fewer arguments and disagreements in our congregations. There would be much less bickering over the budget and which ministry deserves funding over another. Sniping and snarking would be greatly reduced, as folks focused less on the negatives and more on God’s amazing goodness.
Why not take this opportunity with the lovely texts appointed for this Sunday and challenge one another to make 2011 a “Year of Satisfaction”? Deliberately seek out evidence of God’s abundance and lavish grace, not only this week, but every week both in scripture and in congregational life. Be satisfied with the bounty you do have rather than focusing on what Church A or Church B right down the street has that you do not–be it a bigger, newer physical plant or a growing contemporary worship service or a really cool coffee bar and book shop. Name your blessings, claim them, and live them. Most of all, share them with one another and the world. I guarantee that if you pray in thanksgiving for God’s many good gifts, if you lift one another up and recognize the many talents and skills within your fellowship, and if you commit to publicly telling these stories, the satisfaction level among people in your community of faith will climb like the heat index in August.
When it gets right down to it, what more can we really want? God has already given us everything in Jesus Christ, in the Word made flesh, the light that has overcome the darkness of sin and death. This first Sunday of 2011 affords a perfect opportunity to celebrate God’s goodness and to kick off “A Year of Satisfaction.”
Just what do you think it will take to truly be able to affirm those final words of God in the reading from Jeremiah: “and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty, says the LORD”? I challenge you to find out, for yourself, for your congregation(s), and for the world.