I came that they might have life, and have it abundantly.
Many of us can remember the song that included, “The times they are achangin.” There’s not a doubt that we are living in that kind of situation right now. Much that makes up our lives has changed, and continues to do so. Yet there are a few constants that remain an integral part of what an abundant life can mean.
The abundant life has everything to do with the relationship of the shepherd to the sheep. For Jesus, the first and foremost sign of an abundant life has to do with knowing and being known. “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” says Jesus of the shepherd, “and the sheep follow him because they know his voice” (vv. 3-4). We don’t serve a dispassionate, disconnected God who sits in a divine office dispensing orders. In Christ, God knows us by name, values us, cares for us. In a world that seems to always operate out of a sense of scarcity, where the operative principle is always wanting, doing or being more, Jesus offers an abundance of love, grace and hope. Moreover, the church has always recognized the value of being known, not only by God in Jesus Christ, but by each other. Thus the emphasis on hospitality and community. You could say that church is a place where “everyone knows my name.” If not everyone, at least enough people to satisfy our human need for being known. We are working on improving our sense of connectedness during these times of social distancing. As the process works, we are all coming to know folks differently, and often better.
Our relevance in the world isn’t based on our job title, on what we produce or how much we make. We get out of bed to live our lives, and our work tasks are merely part of those lives.” An abundant life embraces a larger vision of life and our place in the world. As Paul put it, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10, NIV). No matter what job, family or life situation we find ourselves in, we find relevance when we see our connectedness to the purposes of God for the whole world. As changes continue to occur, we count on our Shepherd and our relationship with one another. That is a source of encouragement for me. We are never alone.
Praise the source of faith and learning
That has sparked and stoked the mind
With a passion for discerning
How the world has been designed.
Let the sense of wonder flowing
From the wonders we survey
Keep our faith forever growing
And renew our need to pray.
Thank you God, for knowing and loving us. Guide us through the gift of Spirit on the paths that fulfill our life and manifest your will. Through Jesus, our Shepherd we pray, Amen.