For this week’s article, I thought that I’d remind you of something that happened to Rachel and me when we were in Bucharest, Romania one summer. While visiting a nearby pool with some kids from church, someone decided to steal our backpack. We found it in the men’s bathroom. They had taken a good deal of money, Rachel’s glasses, and our passports.
The most difficult and most essential items to replace were our passports. They served as identification wherever we went. They contained our visas. Without them, we had no proof that we were in the country legally. More importantly, we would be unable to leave without a replacement.
While our passports were easily replaced by a quick trip to the American embassy, our Romanian visas were another matter. Imagine a nightmare trip to the DMV where, every time you reach the front of the line, you’re told that you don’t have what you’re supposed to have and where every clerk is telling you that you need something different. Now throw in a language barrier.
Finally, add to all of that the lack of true lines. People didn’t queue up. Instead, they formed a swirling mob of humanity with a general sense of where the front was. It soon became clear that if we didn’t push our way to the front like everyone else, we’d sit at the back all day. So, rather than waiting patiently in a line, we spent a couple of hours jockeying for position and carefully guarding the ground we had gained.
When we finally arrived at the front, our clerk had trouble understanding our English over all of the noise, so she motioned us down two windows. Simple enough, right? Only, it wasn’t at all simple to the gentleman next to us, who thought we were trying to break in front of him. He grabbed me by the shoulders and began yelling at me in French. Just as I was thinking, “Hmm, this is not at all the way I expected to meet Jesus,” the “gentle”man saw the clerk waving for us and let me go.
I’ve never been in a room with so many desperate people. Pretty scary. There was never a moment where I felt like I could relax. And I think it was because everyone in the room (myself included) had a very acute sense of scarcity. There wasn’t enough space in the room. There wasn’t enough time for everyone. There weren’t enough employees. Scarcity makes people anxious.
Abundance is just the opposite. Abundance helps people remain calm. That’s why you and I can usually do OK standing in lines. We have this sense that, as long as we wait patiently, we’ll eventually get the attention we want. And we usually do.
Part of Jesus’ Good News in Luke 4 is to remind us that there is abundance. There’s plenty of God’s love and purpose. There’s enough for all of us. That’s why he’s preaching good news to the poor. How’s it work? We’ll talk about it this morning.