Living Into Abundance

By Bishop Scott Alan Johnson

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote, “In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.” This is what I wonder as I think about abundance: are we aware that the sheer fact of life itself is not a given, that even our troubles come to us only because God has created, and continues to create? Or, as one of my seminary professors put it: “Nothing in creation is required – it all comes from God’s abundant love. The sheer fact that there is something is a miracle: there could have just been more nothing.” When we consider the universe, as the psalmist says, the sheer magnificence of all that God has created, should we not be in awe of the fact that our small lives are each a matter of great importance to the One who flung the Milky Way into the sky?

In other words, fellow children of God Most High, do you realize that you are deeply loved and cherished by the one who shaped you in your mother’s womb and continues to be at work in you through the Holy Spirit? In the midst of both troubles and abundance, in times of sorrow and of joy, God is ever-present and continuing to hold us in love. There is no trouble which can take us out of God’s care, and no sorrow so deep that God will not heal in time. For this, even in times of trouble and sorrow, we give thanks and do our best to recognize abundant joy when we see it.

I am reminded every year around this time of the story of Martin Rinkart. Rinkart was a pastor in the German city of Eilenberg during the Thirty Years’ War. In 1637, a great illness swept through the city. At the start of the year there were four pastors in town. One left and could not be convinced to return. Rinkart buried the other two, and was eventually burying 40 to 50 people every day. In May of that year, Rinkart buried his own wife. No one would have questioned Rinkart’s right to bitterly mourn his troubles. Yet he wrote the following poem as a prayer for his children:

“Now thank we all our God, with hearts and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in whom this world rejoices.
Who from our mother’s arms has blest us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.”

We give thanks, not for a life without troubles, but for an abundant creation in which God’s constant presence accompanies us through every trouble and every joy. So, friends, take today for the gift that it is, and tomorrow as well, and live in the abundant love of the One who blesses you with every day, every hour, every breath.