In the Interim: Reverend Terry Sweetser

In November we celebrate what it means to be a people of abundance. We ask ourselves what we dare and how we can help each other, to live the love we wish we could. Abundance is about, and this is my message for the month, abundance is about the generosity it takes to jump in and do what needs to be done for love.

When it comes to abundance, our culture and our religion are clearly at odds. Our culture cries, “Accumulate!” Our religion counsels “Appreciate!” The mantras couldn’t be more different: The commercials tell us to “Go out and get what you want!” The pulpits plea with us to “learn to want what you have.”

So, yes, appreciation is central to this month. Noticing the abundance around us is clearly the work we are called to do. But one wonders if that’s enough. It all depends on what you do after the noticing is done. Sometimes there’s a passivity to appreciation that leaves nothing changed.

There’s a big difference between appreciating the blessing of family and committing to sitting down together for dinner at least three or four times a week. It’s one thing to notice the beauty that fills your own backyard; it’s quite another to pull yourself out of the rat race so you have time to enjoy it. It helps to have a sermon remind us that our spouse or parent is doing the best they can, but that insight rarely sticks without a commitment to action that helps us truly let go of all the things we wish they were and embrace the limited but wonderful abundance of what they are.

In short, appreciation only gets us part of the way there. Noticing places abundance in view, but only new commitments put it within reach. Without a decision to change our lives, noticing becomes nothing more than nostalgia. So, what needs to change? Maybe that’s the real question this month. What needs altered so you can dance with what is plentiful rather than worrying about what is scarce? What clutter finally needs cleaned up so there is room for new abundance to enter in? What changes will free you from the urgent and allow in the important? Yes, people of abundance make time for noticing, but they also make tough choices. Choices that, after they are made, don’t really feel tough at all.

Spiritual abundance is waiting for us friends. May this be the month we choose it.

Here are two spiritual exercise to help each of us make the choice:

Find It By Giving It Away

A student went to his master and said, “I am very discouraged. What should I do?” The Zen Master replied, “Encourage others.” Nakagawa Roshi

When we are feeling the poorest, that’s time to give a gift.” Dhyani Ywahoo

It’s a great spiritual truth: We find abundance when we give ours away. Jesus put this insight at the heart of his ministry: “You must lose your life to find it.” We lift it up every time we say “To give is to receive.”

If you are struggling with a lack of personal abundance right now, turn this truth into your spiritual exercise this month. Don’t try to find encouragement; give it to others. Don’t tackle your problem head on; look for others with the same struggle and find a way to offer them help. If you are feeling “poor,” figure out a gift you can give. In short, address others’ needs for more abundance and see what you end up with in return.

The Abundance of Clutter Abundance gets in the way of abundance.

Sounds silly but it’s true. Too much stuff leaves us trapped. An over-packed schedule leaves us feeling empty. Clutter -material or spiritual - acts like a cage, leaving us little room to move, or breath.

There’s no better month than November to take on this clutter in our lives. Fall trees shed their leaves, inviting us to do some of the same. The holidays are right around the corner, with their yearly attempt to get us to pack even more into our lives. So find a few ways this fall to “declutter.”

Of course, you will first need to figure out what that means to you. Often it is material clutter we need to tackle. Just as often it is spiritual clutter that needs addressed. Truth is, most of the time, it’s hard to separate the two. Whatever you decide to focus on, choose at least one strategy to address it. And remember that not all clutter is junk. Our work is not simply to throw the clutter out, but to sort through it. Almost always, there are gems buried in the mess.

Here’s some inspiration and guidance to help you along the way: Thirty tips to unclutter your life

The ten-item wardrobe | Jennifer L. Scott | TEDxStGeorge 3

The less you own, the more you have | Angela Horn | TEDxCapeTown

Is your stuff stopping you? | Elizabeth Dulemba | TEDxUniversityofEdinburgh

Getting rid of 1000 things | Liz Wright | TEDxBedford

The Art of Letting Go | The Minimalists | TEDxFargo

A Secular Sabbath - Pico Iyer

The art of stillness | Pico Iyer

Blessings and see you in church!

Reverend Terry