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Easter Abundance Mindset

A sermon preached Easter Sunday (April 8, 2012)
The Rev. John Ohmer, Rector
St. James’ Episcopal Church, Leesburg, Virginia

"Easter Abundance Mindset"

Tuesday of last week, a friend of mine forwarded me a joke on email. I was going to ignore it or save it for a less busy week. But the subject line caught my eye – “Hoosier humor: people from Indiana really understand the humor” and so I opened it and read it.

And this is how it goes:

“The year is 2036 and the United States has just elected the first woman as President of the United States ..

A few days after the election, the president-elect calls her father in Indiana and asks, "So, Dad, I assume you will be coming to my inauguration?"

"I don't think so. It's a long drive; your mom isn't as young as she used to be, we'll have the dog with us, and my arthritis is acting up in my knee."

"Don't worry about it, Dad, I'll send Air Force One or another support aircraft to pick you up and take you home, and a limousine will pick you up at your door," she said.

"I don't know. Everybody will be so fancy.  What would your mother wear?"

"Oh, Dad, I'll make sure she has a wonderful gown custom-made by one of the best designers in New York ."

"Honey," Dad said, "You know we can't eat those rich foods you and your friends like to eat."

The President-elect says, "Don't worry, Dad. The entire affair is going to be handled by the best caterer in D.C. and I'll ensure your meals are salt-free and just the way you like them.

Dad, I really want you to come."

So her parents reluctantly agreed to go, and on January 20, 2037, they arrived to see their daughter sworn in as President of the United States .

The parents of the new President are seated in the front row.

The President's dad notices a senator sitting next to him and leans over and whispers,

"You see that woman over there with her hand on the Bible, becoming President of the United States?"

The Senator says, "Yes I do."

Dad says, "Her brother played basketball at Indiana University "

Now I think that’s a great story for a couple reasons. One, it does seem to capture my home state’s Hoosier mindset -- as well as the mindset, really, of anyplace or anyone who is basketball- or sports-crazy.

The mindset in those places, where if you make a certain team -- not to mention win a certain championship -- well, what more can you ask from life? 

And it’s mindsets I want to talk about this morning.  Because, as that joke gets across, your mindset can keep you from appreciating – from seeing – what’s taking place right in front of you.  

And on this Easter morning: If you don’t have the right mindset, then -- you might miss this inauguration, this exciting new start of something new and glorious, even it’s happening in front of you.

Because if we’re honest about it, there’s a part of us that is like that father in that joke – believing that the best thing that ever happened to you is going to remain the best thing that ever will happen to you…

…that if is there is such a thing as “the glory days,” they’re in the past; they’ve already happened.

Like any attitude or worldview, that mindset affects not only HOW we look at the world, but WHETHER OR NOT WE EVEN SEE what is right in front of us. 

But I’d like to take this thought about mindsets a step further, based on something I read recently about socio-economic mindsets, where the author was making the point

that depending on what socio-economic background we come from, we carry a scarcity mindset, an achievement mindset, or an abundance mindset.

I got to thinking after reading that, it’s not as simple as what socio-economic background we come from – it’s what mindset or mindset we choose to identify most with, no matter our actual background.

Because I know economically poor people who, in spite of their circumstances, have an achievement or even abundance mindset;

middle-class people who have gone one direction into a scarcity mindset or the other direction into an abundance mindset;

and wealthy people who, in spite of their circumstances, have an achievement or even scarcity mindset.

And these mindsets can carry over to, our spiritual mindset.

Let’s look at each in turn:

·       A scarcity spirituality sees not only money, but things like love, grace, and forgiveness as in short supply. So if you’re in a scarcity mindset – again, no matter your socio-economic background, this applies to rich, middle class and poor alike – if you’re in a scarcity mindset and you happen to come across some money, you hoard it; if you spend any of it, you do so reluctantly and only for absolute necessities. But mostly you squirrel it away; you set up rainy day funds; you hold on tightly to it and protect it, because “you never know…” 

And if we carry that mindset over to what we believe about God, we believe that God’s love must be in short supply, so with all these billions of people in the world and so many of them in so much need, and me being who I am, how could God’s love ever get around to me? And God’s grace must be in short supply so I better not use up too much of it. And God must only have a certain amount of forgiveness so I had better not screw up and make him mad, and when I do screw up, I better beg for some of that forgiveness and hope God will give me some…

·       An achievement spirituality sees not only money, but things like love, grace and forgiveness not as things that are in short supply, but as things that come to you to the degree that you earn them, work hard for them. 

So if you’re in an achievement mindset – again, no matter your actual socio-economic background – money is something earned, through hard work, good education, creativity, wise investments, or a combination of those things. You spend it, but not all of it, because you’ve worked hard for it and you it’s yours, and saving it for later makes practical sense.

Carry that mindset over,  and get a view that God’s love is something you earn by being a good moral person. God’s grace is achieved in times when you pray well, and God’s forgiveness is earned when you are sufficiently sorry for your sins and working hard not to repeat them. 

  • And an abundance mindset sees not only money, but things like love, grace and forgiveness not in short supply, and not as things that are earned or worked for but as things that are in abundant supply because they all God’s.

So if you have an abundance mindset, then all money – all over the world – is God’s money. Some of it – a little or a lot – is entrusted to you, not to be protected, but as an opportunity to glorify God and help other people.

Carry THAT view over and you get the view God’s love is without limit, without border, without exception, without condition:

“the love of God is broader than the measure of our mind,”           
 God’s grace is “amazing grace,” given freely, new every morning.

Which brings us to Easter -- that first Easter, and this Easter:

God’s love, grace, and forgiveness is so abundant that when he came to earth in the person of Jesus to convey this his message of abundant love and grace –
not just to convey it, but to personify it, live it for us –
and on that first Good Friday, humanity, rejected and killed that message, his Son, nailing him to a cross,
what was God’s response?

Easter.

“I see your Good Friday, and raise you Easter.”  

God’s response was a response of abundance, because abundance is God’s nature.

Listen: whether you believe it or not, God delights in you.
Whether you believe it or not, you are his precious treasure.
Whether you believe it or not, God has been in love with you since before you were born.  

Here’s the thing: It is difficult if not impossible to believe that to trust in an abundant God, while living with a scarcity or achievement mindset.

That’s why, that first Easter, God up-graded you.

(Now I don’t know about you, but there’s just something about being upgraded that is so wonderful.

Fifteen years ago, when Mary and I were in seminary, our fifth year anniversary came up. We had an 18-month old and a newborn – we’d gone from “double income, no kids,” to “double kids, no income!” -- but we decided to get a babysitter and splurge on an overnight stay at the downtown Marriott anyway. We picked that hotel because someone at my seminarian field education site committee worked for Marriott.

We go to check in. I ask the front desk person if the room had already been assigned. She said yes, why. I shared with her that it was our wedding anniversary and I was hoping for a nice room, a corner room perhaps, one with a view. She looked down at the screen, looked back up at me, looked back down at the screen, and said “Umm…sir….I’m pretty sure you’ll be happy with this room…”  

What we didn’t know was the person at my field education site remembered that we were going to be there and she upgraded us.

Well…she was a high up at Marriott…

You know you’ve been upgraded when your room key does not have a number, but a name. Like “The Washington.” And when the first thing you see, when you open your door, is a baby grand piano and a dining room table that seats twelve…!)

            Now that’s an upgrade!

That first Easter, humanity’s relationship with God was upgraded.
Anything and everything that stood between us and God – any brokenness, any sin, any distance – was overcome, defeated. “Death is conquered, we are free; Christ has won the victory.”

That first Easter, your relationship with God was upgraded.
Anything and everything that stood between you and God -- your old life of brokenness, sin, distance, was overcome, defeated. Your old self was  conquered, you are free to live a new life of abundant grace.  

Today is a day of celebration of that inauguration day. But if you don’t have the right mindset, then you might miss the big event, the exciting new start of something new and glorious.

So the question is, how do you respond, how do you enter fully into the joy of this day and of this God?

By letting go of your scarcity or achievement mindset.

And that brings me to the gospel for today.

Notice something about those women, heading for the tomb, that first Easter morning, to finish the job of embalming Jesus’ body.

Notice something about their mindset.

They, of course, don’t know it’s Easter, they’re deep in sadness from the crucifixion and their loss. They’re wondering who will roll away the big heavy stone from the entrance of the tomb.

And then they notice that the stone has already been rolled away. It’s already been done for them.

But for all the times I’ve read this passage over the years, here’s what I’ve never noticed before: it says that they didn’t notice that the stone had been rolled away until what?

Until they looked up.

When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back.”

Looking up, they saw!

Looking up, they saw that the obstacle they feared – the “very large” heavy thing they didn’t know how to get around or out of the way on their own – the thing between them and the One they loved -- had already been rolled back, already taken care of for them.
It’d been done for them!  

And when they go into the tomb, what’s the angel say to them? Again, more about looking.

“You are looking for Jesus,” he says. “[but] he isn’t here. He’s been raised.

The expression “you’re looking for Jesus” is about more than what they happen to be literally looking at, but is about their mindset, their attitude, their expectations: Don’t look for Jesus here, in some cold dark tomb…

“He is going ahead of you [to Galilee.] There you will see him.”

Your mindset can keep you from appreciating – from seeing – what’s in front of you.  

Ahead of you! is where you will find him.

This Easter morning, be open to a new mindset:

Look up, and look forward.

Look up, and see that all obstacles standing between you and a deeper, more trusting more intimate relationship with God have already been rolled away.

And look forward.

The best thing that ever happened to you is NOT the best thing that ever will happen to you:  you’ve been upgraded, and the best thing that will ever happen to you are present, and ahead of you, in this life, and hereafter.

Leave behind your scarcity or achievement mindset; look up, and look forward to your new life of abundant love,
abundant grace,
abundant forgiveness,
abundant life,
and abundant joy.

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