A Table of Gifts

A Table of Gifts

During this season of Lent, we are taking a deeper dive into our expressions of gratitude. In doing so, we are guided by the book Grateful: The Transformative Power of Giving Thanks by Diana Butler Bass and companion content from The Work of the People.

Last week’s message began with a question about where we find God, with the understanding that where we locate God tells us quite a bit about who we think God is. In understanding that God is present and in our midst—Emmanuel, God with us—Bass draws the illustration of a table around which we sometimes share meals.

Imagine a time when you have shared a meal around a table, including family and/or friends and/or strangers. Often when we do so, it is incredible to see the generosity of spirit that is evident in how we are able to be in community with one another. We are gifted with stories and laughter and sharing and connection! In those times, we we are recipients of abundant generosity: generosity of the food being shared and generosity of the spirit of community.

Luke 6:27-38 (CEB)
27“But I say to you who are willing to hear: Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you. 28Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who mistreat you. 29If someone slaps you on the cheek, offer the other one as well. If someone takes your coat, don’t withhold your shirt either. 30Give to everyone who asks and don’t demand your things back from those who take them. 31Treat people in the same way that you want them to treat you.

32“If you love those who love you, why should you be commended? Even sinners love those who love them. 33If you do good to those who do good to you, why should you be commended? Even sinners do that. 34If you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, why should you be commended? Even sinners lend to sinners expecting to be paid back in full. 35Instead, love your enemies, do good, and lend expecting nothing in return. If you do, you will have a great reward. You will be acting the way children of the Most High act, for he is kind to ungrateful and wicked people. 36Be compassionate just as your Father is compassionate.

37“Don’t judge, and you won’t be judged. Don’t condemn, and you won’t be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. 38Give, and it will be given to you. A good portion—packed down, firmly shaken, and overflowing—will fall into your lap. The portion you give will determine the portion you receive in return.”

Consider these questions:

  1. How do you think about the word “abundance?” An antonym for this word is “scarcity;” how do you think about that word? How are these concepts connected or disconnected for you?
  2. How does the way you think about God affect your level of gratefulness?

Post-Worship Update on 3/10

Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found at this link (will open in a new tab).

Sunday’s message took a critical look at our cultural mindset of scarcity. In this current climate of concern over the COVID-19 virus, online and brick-and-mortar stores are sold out of things from hand sanitizer to bottled water to toilet paper to biodegradable communion cups! It was/is not my intent to critique those who purchase what is needed for healthy living, but surely a question about whether the demand reflects actual need or a fear-based response centered in scarcity.

I further suggest that our cultural buy-in to pervasive scarcity can easily affect (or infect) our spiritual lives, causing us to look at the availability of God’s grace and love through the same lens. I believe this to be spiritually dangerous, because this has a natural consequence of making the table of our community smaller when I believe that God calls us to expand this table.

But if we can shift our spiritual focus away from scarcity and toward abundance, acknowledging the infinite presence of the God of love, perhaps we can in turn shape our culture! God’s gifts are all around!

Consider these questions:

  1. In this week’s video—used by some of our small groups and emailed as part of our Lenten Gratitude group—Diana Butler Bass says, “The world is this way because we have not practiced the reality of [God’s] grace and gifts. [We have] turned a table of abundance into a table of scarcity.” How is God calling you to practice the reality of God’s grace and gifts?
  2. How can you model gratitude for others?
  3. How can you practice wholehearted gratitude for yourself?