Indianapolis First Friends
Pastor Bob Henry
October 28, 2018
Psalm 104:1-5. 24-35 MSG
1-5 God, my God, how great you are!
beautifully, gloriously robed,
Dressed up in sunshine,
and all heaven stretched out for your tent.
You built your palace on the ocean deeps,
made a chariot out of clouds and took off on wind-wings.
You commandeered winds as messengers,
appointed fire and flame as ambassadors.
You set earth on a firm foundation
so that nothing can shake it, ever.
What a wildly wonderful world, God!
You made it all, with Wisdom at your side,
made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.
Oh, look—the deep, wide sea,
brimming with fish past counting,
sardines and sharks and salmon.
Ships plow those waters,
and Leviathan, your pet dragon, romps in them.
All the creatures look expectantly to you
to give them their meals on time.
You come, and they gather around;
you open your hand and they eat from it.
If you turned your back,
they’d die in a minute—
Take back your Spirit and they die,
revert to original mud;
Send out your Spirit and they spring to life—
the whole countryside in bloom and blossom.
31-32 The glory of God—let it last forever!
Let God enjoy his creation!
He takes one look at earth and triggers an earthquake,
points a finger at the mountains, and volcanoes erupt.
33-35 Oh, let me sing to God all my life long,
sing hymns to my God as long as I live!
Oh, let my song please him;
I’m so pleased to be singing to God.
But clear the ground of sinners—
no more godless men and women!
O my soul, bless God!
Last week we talked about “Redeeming Work,” and as I was preparing for this week, I ran across the following quote,
“…many people have become detached from their labor, seeing work not as a creative vocation but as a commodity to be sold in exchange for wages.”
I think for some of us this is tied directly with what we are talking about this morning – Abundance and Scarcity.
To help us understand the difference, Lucy Vinestock in an article on scarcity and abundance mindsets, points out some specific areas that help us understand the differences. I thought I would highlight her points quickly to help us explore and possibly identify with whether we tend to lean toward scarcity or abundance in our own thinking.
Take for example, Lucy starts with:
1. Comfort Zones – those with a scarcity mindset live very much within their own comfort zones. It is like a safety blanket, but doesn’t lead to risk-taking.
Those with an abundance mindset are often fueled by the belief that there are plenty of potential paths available to take.
2. Resources – those with a scarcity mindset feel as though resources are limited, such as money, time, and success. This can lead to over-competitiveness and negativity.
Those with an abundance mindset believe there is plenty to go around and there always will be.
3. Sharing – those with a scarcity mindset tend to be hesitant in sharing ideas – usually out of fear. They often are afraid that someone will “steal” their ideas.
Those with abundance mindsets feel a comfortability in sharing ideas without feeling threatened or intimidated.
4. Solo vs. Team – those with a scarcity mindset often want to work alone – taking the success for themselves.
Those with an abundance mindset are willing to work in teams, which create more ideas and possibilities.
5. What Drives Success? – those with a scarcity mindset are driven by their fears (of not enough time, limited resources, and not fully benefiting from shared ideas.) Negative thoughts and emotions tend to result in disappointment and frustration.
Those with abundance mindsets are driven by a general enjoyment and greater belief in their future success.
6. Focus -- those with a scarcity mindset often live in a sea of negativity which affects work, relationships, and general attitudes in life.
Those with abundance mindsets are often realistic, safe, and seeking ways to grow and succeed.
Now, I know these are very simplistic definitions and do not pertain to every situation. But I shared them simply because it quickly gives us a picture of how easy we can lean toward and get caught up in a scarcity mindset in our world.
Theologian and scholar, Walter Brueggemann says,
“[The myth of scarcity] ends in despair. It gives us a present tense of anxiety, fear, greed, and brutality. It produces child and wife abuse, indifference to the poor, the buildup of armaments, division between people, and environmental racism. It tells us not to care about anyone but ourselves – and it is the prevailing creed of American Society.”
For many years now, I believe this scarcity mentality so prevalent in America has seeped into the framework of the church. As Chris Smith eludes in “Slow Church” – it is scarcity that has impeded our imaginations and has the church concluding that “We could never do that.” I believe the utterance of those when are too often the beginning of the demise of churches across our land.
Sadly, I have a feeling those words have been spoken many times in our own Yearly Meeting and sadly continue to be spoken – and meetings continue to be laid down, doors shut, and possibility lost because the imagination has been impeded.
Just think about how often we embrace a mindset of scarcity in the church.
Start by asking yourself and others attenders and members right here in this place – when have we said, “We could never do that?” at Frist Friends. (Women in Leadership, Marriage Equality, Maybe it was having Vespers on the second Sunday of December?
Let’s explore this some more…
What are the “comfort zones” at First Friends?
If we would not have had some creative imagination to risk a little and step out and try some new things over the years, like our Youth Affirmation Program (the only one of it’s kind in Quakerdom), Threshing Together gatherings for men in the neighborhoods where they live, or Seasoned Friends Roadtrips, like the one we went on this past Wednesday, or taking time to build relationships with the Shalom Zone and going to work at the Food Pantry, or even opening our doors to Meridian Street Preschool and Co-Op, we would not have seen growth. These are just a few of the many ways we have stepped outside our comfort zones and took some risks and found a mindset of abundance moving us forward.
And folks, we’ve only just begun.
We started Connection Dinners for new attenders because this past year (July to July) found First Friends having over 200 visitors come through our doors. 50+ of those visitors (many of you here this morning) have stuck around and are considered regular attenders. 15 or so of you have even become members and more are on the way to membership. For a Quaker Meeting (actually for any church today where ¼ of their visitors stick around) – this is abundance.
What are the “resources” at First Friends?
Honestly, much of what I just listed, would never happen without the resources we have. And please understand, I am not talking about just money – that is helpful, but our resources and assets go much deeper. Endowments and offerings can be stabilizers while offering freedom for people to have more creative imaginations. We have a wealth of people with many talents and gifts in this meeting. Eric is working hard to tap that in the area of music, as is Beth in the area of children and youth. But as I meet with more and more of you, I realize the well is deep with resources and people willing to give of their time, talents, and gifts for this meeting and its growing community.
I always see the abundance as we prepare for Vacation Bible School. Something many churches have turned into paid daycare. At First Friends there is nothing old fashion or outdated about our program. And the people-resources that we are blessed to tap for this week are amazing! It is abundance at its best.
Where is “sharing” happening at First Friends?
A week or so ago, Sue hosted several women at our home to discuss the floundering “Women at the Well.” I headed out to another meeting (thus the life of a pastor family) and the ladies began talking. From what I heard the sharing that took place was very fruitful. They each came with ideas and input from others, and through open sharing came up with a completely different focus. They came to try and salvage “Women at the Well” and ended with realizing a need for a women’s retreat – where women could get to know each other more purposefully at First Friends, again, because we have so many new people. What I love is that some of those new people are part of the planning. Open sharing led to new possibilities, new life, new ideas, and a new ways to connect so that in the future there would be more regular events for women at First Friends.
Sometimes our committee meetings at First Friends can become so regimented and miss the reason they are actually happening. I love our Connections Committee – they start their meetings by doing what their committee does best - connecting with each other! Allowing people to share is critical for us to move forward and to slow ourselves to really listen.
As well, every week, sharing takes place in this very room, as well as in the parlor during the week. Open, waiting, or unprogrammed worship is our opportunity to share what we hear the Spirit speaking to us. At times it can be intimidating or threatening, but if we would embrace it as a time of abundance – a time when we get a bigger picture of what God is doing in our midst, of how others experience and see God at work, or an opportunity to embrace people for who God created them to be.
Where at First Friends is the “solo vs. team” mentality happening?
As Quakers we are known to say that “everyone is a minister” and yet many Quakers fall into a pastor-centric view of ministry – often a direct correlation with the evangelical churches in America and sadly often to their detriment.
I believe, at First Friends we are working hard to be “team” players. Shalom Zone is one great example of this. Ironically, we are part of two different pastor’s associations and working to connect with many other churches in our area. And those are just the beginning – having Ecumenical services, providing ramps for those in need, coming together for Eco Films, having our Muslim friends at Nur-Allah Islamic Center come share with our Affirmation class are great examples of how we work as a team in the greater community.
I, personally, would like to continue seeing ways we can partner and team with other churches and meetings. I think one way we can foster an abundance mindset in regards to racial struggles in our community is by partnering with a local African-American Church. Several people made connections at our last Friends Educational Fund Scholarship Sunday with people from predominately black churches. Even some, like Linda Lee have visited and are working on building that relationship to further help us bridge the racial divide in this city. I believe when First Friends embraces fully an abundance mindset, the doors will swing much more wide (wider than they currently are) and bring in even more diversity and opportunities for team work. We are just beginning to see the possibilities of what the Spirit is leading us into as a meeting.
And that leaves us asking, what is the “focus” of First Friends?
Let’s be real honest here, negativity is a real downer – but within the church – it can be the biggest turn off to moving forward. In my last year meeting we talked a lot about “Negative Nancys” and “Downer Dans.” (no offense to our Nancy’s or Dan’s). You know these negative and down people, though. Someone just popped into your mind, when I said that.
The scarcity mindset breeds negativity, which quickly takes a toll on anything you do. If you know someone negative, someone that nags about everything, that never has a positive word to say, then you know someone that has bought into the scarcity mindset.
If we are going to continue to make First Friends a safe place where optimism, hope, and worship flow freely, then we are going to have to embrace an abundant mindset that is realistic, that seeks ways to better our community, that takes time to get to know and grow with the people around us, and ultimately see this place as a place of positive opportunity filled with the Spirit’s leading.
In the August edition of Friends Journal, I wrote about this very thing in an article titled, “Tapping a Viral Energy.” I wrote and passionately believe,
“…it is time to do whatever is necessary to lift the bondage, embrace the future, gather the people, and make Quakerism a viable reality with a viral impact in our world again. I strongly believe that it is going to take embracing new ways of coming together, new uses of social media, new teaching methods, new activism, and a new translation of our distinctives for today’s society. We will need to explore all the possibilities, not just those that worked in the past. It is going to take living new stories and inviting others to join us, including people we may not have been comfortable with or whom we have rejected in the past. It is going to take a willingness to get up and go and get out of our boxes and to experience new things. It is time to make Quakerism go viral; it’s time to believe again.”
I know this isn’t typical for us, but can I get an “Amen”?
And whenever anyone asks me about this, I say, “Come and check it out at First Friends.” I am not ashamed of inviting people to this place. because honestly, it is happening at First Friends.
Folks, I don’t want to hear “We could never do that,” in this place - rather I want people here to be saying “Let’s try that” or “Let’s have a conversation about that” or simply, “Why not?”
Please hear me on this…Quakerism is not going to die on my watch! Yet, we must remember that we are surrounded by scarcity mindsets breading fearful, intimidated, threatening, limited, and negative views. All you need to do is turn on your radio or TV. People around us, and even in our midst, and even we ourselves will at times embrace a scarcity mindset, but my prayer is that we will be aware of the abundance that God is calling us to.
As Chris Smith says in the book “Slow Church,”
“As we seek to thrive in deeper and more creative ways on a local and sustainable scale, we will get a taste of God’s superabundance. And as we grow in faithful witness to God’s economy, our economic relations will extend beyond our care for one another in our local congregations.”
I don’t know about you, but I want a taste of God’s Superabundance. No, I need a taste of God’s Superabundance. I think our communities and world needs a taste of this as well! Our cry should be that of the Psalmist this morning…
What a wildly wonderful world, God!
You made it all, with Wisdom at your side,
made earth overflow with your wonderful creations.
Send out your Spirit and they spring to life…
May we be faithful to seeking and being people of God’s Superabundance and may we go forth from this place springing to life as well!
What are my “comfort zones”?
In what areas do I need to share more?
How am I promoting "God’s Superabundance" in my life?