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You might recognize the name Elizabeth Gilbert as the author of the bestselling novel Eat, Pray, Love.  Along with her fiction writing, Gilbert also writes and speaks about creativity – how it works and how it sometimes doesn’t work.  She tells stories about her own experiences with writer’s block and the fear of failure that can stop creativity dead in its tracks.

Right Sizing our Lives

This message is based on The Christian Wallet: Rightsizing Our Lifestyle, Mike Slaughter, October 25-26, 2014. http://ginghamsburg.org/sermons/resources/2067

 

 

[Today in worship we are practicing the Wesleyan Covenant Prayer service.  This is prayer that Methodists make on an annual basis at the beginning of the year in an effort to realign their lives with God.]

 

The problem is humanity often pursues a lifestyle of bigger, better and more, so that the margins of our lives are so filled that there is no room for God.

 

The post christmas clean up involves removal of packaging rubbish and recycling, decoration take down and clean up of the children’s rooms.  For Tsipporah this meant making room in her bed, for her and on the floor, to play and in her cupboards for new toys.  I was impressed how she right sized her world this week.  Her hard work made room for her to rest and to enjoy the new toys.

 

That’s really the purpose of the Wesleyan Covenant Prayer.  It’s a chance to make room in margins in our lives for God.   

 

So today I’d like to imagine a right sizing of our lives. We are likely to rediscover Jesus in the margins that are created when we give up on bigger, better and more. Why? Because Jesus loved to meet people on the margins.  Today we will explore right sizing our lives to create margins for Relationship, Economics and Meaning.

 

1. Relationship Margins,

Let’s look at the Isaiah 5: 8

[Slide 1] Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone. Is 5: 8

 

In other words: Chasing a Lifestyle that are  bigger better and more can be self isolating. The supersized lifestyle squeezes people out of the relationship margin “till no space is left and you live alone.”

 

God is a God of Relationships.  [Our gateway groups are studying Paul’s letters and] in Paul’s letter the Ephesians he writes.

 

[Slide 2] [Please superimpose “and you belong to God’s household” on this image.]

Ep 2: 19  So now you are no longer strangers and aliens. Rather, you are fellow citizens with God’s people, and you belong to God’s household.  20  As God’s household, you are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.

 

Our God is always gathering up the isolated, lonely and lost into a full and vibrant household not a Mcmansion too full with stuff for people.

 

If we are going to right size our lives to create a relationship margin with God we need to prioritize a relationship with those around us.  Because it’s through these relationship margins that we encounter God.

 

Making time for homework. The life of bigger, better and more is so hyper connected we can do work everywhere even at home.  The kids have homework and thanks to the internet so do I.

 

[Slide 3] I remember one day while I was helping Tsipporah with her spelling I got distracted by an email.  Poor Tsipporah had to wait 30 minutes for me to continue the quiz that would have taken only 5 to 10 minutes to accomplish. Because I prioritized my homework over hers. (I do work for God, but I am not that important).

 

If I am really trying to make room in the relationship margin for God, I need to start by making room in my other relationship margins. My homework will have to wait for my children’s homework.

 

Jesus put it this way.

[Slide 4] Mt 5: 23 So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you,  24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.  

 

We are designed for relationships with God and one another. And there are consequences  (Is 9-13) for breaking from this design when we pursue the life of bigger, better and more.

 

We find the consequences of not right sizing our lives as we continue in Isaiah 5

[Slide 5] Isa 5:9   The LORD of hosts has sworn in my hearing: Surely many houses shall be desolate, large and beautiful houses, without inhabitant.

 

In other words you can’t take it with you. There is a home in our neighborhood where owners had passed away and it remained empty for a long time.   House was so full of stuff from the previous owners the new family that moved in a year ago is still clearing it out.

 

The only thing that is eternal is the investment that we make in each other.

 

When Ethan was in third grade Julie and I  went for a parent teacher conference.  The teacher shared a writing sample of Ethan’s writing with us.  There were lots of pictures in the margins and a small bit of text in the center. The assignment was to write about something he enjoyed doing over summer break.  The teacher said most of the kids wrote about riding bikes, playing video games, or even family vacation.  She thought it remarkable that Ethan wrote about his church.  It began...

 

“This summer I loved working in my church’s community garden.  That is where we grow food for the hungry people in our neighborhood.”  This is a treasured childhood artifact that we keep around in the home office, but it probably has a more prominent place in my soul.  I am proud of the way Ethan prioritized the people around him when it came to finding joy that summer.

 

Isaiah 5: 11-12 addresses of the Consequences of self medicating addictive behaviours.  

Is. 5:11 Ah, you who rise early in the morning

        in pursuit of strong drink,

    who linger in the evening

        to be inflamed by wine,

12     whose feasts consist of lyre and harp,

        tambourine and flute and wine,

[Slide 6] but who do not regard the deeds of the LORD,

        or see the work of his hands!

 

The life that pursues bigger, better, and more:  frequently participates in self medicating addictive behaviours.  Isaiah describes alcohol abuse, and we know how substance abuse can squeeze people out of our relationship margins. But there are more subtle self-medicating behaviors to which we are addicted.

 

Social media and technology is a kind of self medicating addictive behaviour.  Today you have to be careful when you walk or drive around campus.   Because everyone is into their phones.  We are so into our phones that we have become the ones… “who do not regard the deeds of the LORD, or see the work of his hands!”

 

Isaiah 5:13 warns us of the consequences of chasing after food that doesn’t satisfy.

[Slide 7] [please superimpose “dying of hunger, and their multitude parched with thirst”

13     Therefore my people go into exile without knowledge;

    their nobles are dying of hunger,

        and their multitude is parched with thirst.

 

Our bigger, better, more lifestyle: encourages us to eat on the run. Thus the Fast-food nation.  Twenty five percent of americans eat fast food every day.  Fast food is designed to eat on the run.  It’s created to eat without cutlery, be eaten while driving a car, and sold via a drive through. Most fast foods are fried and taste good because of added salts fats and sugar.

 

We are filled up with fast-food but we are malnourished with obesity related disease like diabetes, stroke, and high blood pressure.

 

The point is leaving no relationship margins has temporal consequences like loneliness, self-medication, and malnutrition.  There are also eternal consequences when we fail to encounter God in the relationships that we have squeezed out of the relationship margin.   

 

And when we fail to right size our lives we squeeze God out of the economic margins as well.

2.   Economic Margins (Deuteronomy 24:19-22)

When we have wrong economic priorities we leave little margins for God. Deuteronomist described it this way.

          

Deut. 24:19   When you reap your harvest in your field and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be left for the alien, the orphan, and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all your undertakings.  

 

Don’t maximize profits, remember the least of these, says Deuteronomist and then she says it again.

 

20 When you beat your olive trees, do not strip what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow.

 

Don’t use everything for yourself share with the immigrant, the parentless, the lonely, says the Deuteronomist and then she says it again.

 

21   When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, do not glean what is left; it shall be for the alien, the orphan, and the widow.  

 

Three times God’s people are reminded to not to maximize profits.  To leave some for sharing. When you see something repeated like this in scripture it's for emphasis, because we aren’t getting it.

 

[Our Gateway book] Paul’s letter to the Ephesians echos this repeated emphasis on economic justice for the foreigners, orphans and widows.  

 

Ephesians 2:12  At that time you were without Christ. You were aliens rather than citizens of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of God’s promise. In this world you had no hope and no God.  13  But now, thanks to Christ Jesus, you who once were so far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14  Christ is our peace. He made both Jews and Gentiles into one group. With his body, he broke down the barrier of hatred that divided us.

 

Our economic priorities can build walls that divide us.  Christ invites us to leave room to share in ways that make us one people.

 

Jesus put it this way when he told the parable of the “rich fool” ( Luke 12)

19  I’ll say to myself, You have stored up plenty of goods, enough for several years. Take it easy! Eat, drink, and enjoy yourself.  20  But God said to him, ‘Fool, tonight you will die. Now who will get the things you have prepared for yourself?’  21  This is the way it will be for those who hoard things for themselves and aren’t rich toward God.”

 

Right sizing our lives invites us to encounter God in our Economic Margins.

 

And we ought to right size our lives to encounter God in our meaning margins.

 

3.   “Meaning” Margins

[Slide 8]

Jared Leto  - Thirty Seconds to Mars - Dallas Buyers Club - part of generation flux.

 

An article in the Nov 2014 edition of Fast company, called Generation Flux’s Secret Weapon  by Robert Safian [http://www.fastcompany.com/3035975/generation-flux/find-your-mission] described the secret weapon of an emerging generation of successful entrepreneur as the quest to “find your mission”.

 

Life is not about chasing money but about chasing mission.

 

The article share some key business school research. A Stanford Business School report indicates that the pursuit of meaning is the primary motivator for people over happiness.

 

And Wharton School of Business has discovered that a life focused on giving rather than taking increases productivity and satisfaction.

 

Lovers of God have long known these pearls of wisdom.  God desires to enter into our meaning margins too. And if we right size to make room we shouldn’t be surprised to find Jesus there.

 

Right sizing our lives around meaning means that we reorder our work in ways that honor God, bless people and bring us joy.  For some of is this will just require a tweak or two.  For many of us this is means a second career of service in addition or even in place of our first career.

 

Perhaps you are already doing a wonderful job of keeping your life right sized in the areas of relationship, economics and meaning.  And maybe you encounter God in all of those margins.  But if you feeling pressed for space in these margins maybe today is a great day to pray the Wesley covenant prayer.