Dear brothers and sisters,
This weekend (May 2-3), we were planning beforehand to celebrate First Holy Communion for our children, and we also had originally scheduled to welcome Bishop Bambera on Monday May 4 to celebrate the Sacrament of Confirmation. As of this writing, these celebrations of our faith have been delayed indefinitely. I want to assure all of our children, youth, parents, and sponsors that you are in my prayers, and that we are in this together. May God bless our families at this time, and may our faith and hope increase even in the midst of our grief and sadness of not being able to have these celebrations right now.
During this COVID-19 pandemic, there is so much uncertainty and things are changing daily, but God never changes. This week, we are talking about how it is possible to have an abundant life in Christ. How do we do so, if we have lost a loved one, or if we have faced significant loss recently, or if the spring celebrations we had hoped for have been taken away from us? Sometimes an “Abundant Life” to us means material prosperity, including a well-paying job, summer vacations, parties with family and friends, or a comfortable retirement in the Poconos. For people of faith, an Abundant Life is ours for the taking, but as St. Paul says, we are constantly battling that “old man” inside of us (Ephesians 4:22); and Paul in his letters often contrasts this old man with a renewed life in the Spirit. Paul had very little in terms of material wealth, but he was alive in Christ; he tells us: I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:8).
The Bible constantly reminds us that our ultimate happiness is not found in any material thing. We all know that this intuitively, even if we have a hard time believing and living it; but sometimes we miss out on the fact that we actually crave and thirst for God in our deepest desires – God has made us this way. St. Augustine famously said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you, oh Lord.” Unfortunately, the “old man” always tempts us to look to satisfy these cravings in earthly ways that we know are not satisfying. How do we share in the abundant life? We read Scripture, we pray, we worship, we show gratitude, we are obedient to God’s commandments. God invites us to come to him to quench our thirst, as he says through the prophet: All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, buy grain and eat; Come, buy grain without money, wine and milk without cost! (Isaiah 55:1). All day long, especially now, we have conflicts to sort out, decisions to make, and hardships to endure, but God is saying to us all day, every day: Come to me! The joy of God’s blessings, and salvation itself, is a free gift for the taking, and our prayer life trains us for seeking this gift. In prayer we say frequently, “Your will be done,” so that we are practiced for when things don’t go our way; and even when we face loss and death, we can still have abundance.
Questions for Small Groups:
How would you describe culture’s definition of the abundant life? Describe the ways that your life matches this definition.
We’ve been created with an insatiable thirst for God and we often displace that thirst in our discontentment. In what areas of your life do you have discontentment?
Talk about a time when you experienced hardship or loss but you were still able to find joy and peace in Christ; or talk about a time when you had hardship or loss and you just could not experience any abundance.
If what we actually crave is God, how can we shift our thirst for life (comfort, happiness) to a thirst for God?
a. When we desire pleasure, what we truly want is joy. How do we get joy?
b. When we long for life to be easy, what we truly want is peace and rest in our souls.How do we get peace and rest for our souls?
What does an abundant life in Christ look like for you? Talk about ways you can practice living the abundant life in Christ.