August 6, 2012: A Church Conference on Giving held at a Casino!

Posted on : Aug 6th, 2012 | By | Category: Still Speaking

Walter Brueggemann is one of the most brilliant and beloved professors of Old Testament in the United States.  His name is pronounced pretty easily, “Brew- guh-man.”  A number of years ago I met Walter in person.  The Presbyterian Church was holding a Conference on stewardship – financial giving.  Ironically, it was held at Agua Caliente Casino in Palm Springs!  Yup, you read that correctly.  A Church Conference on Giving held in a gambling hall in Palm Springs!

It was actually good stewardship.  The Conference was held in June which is “off season” in Palm Springs.  The rooms went for about $12 a night and the casino provided all the meeting rooms for free.  Most casinos do this kind of thing.  They provide “deeply discounted” facilities expecting that conference attendees will more than make up for the room rates by losing, I mean sending, money in the casino.  Strangely, the management couldn’t figure out why no one in this group was gambling.

The highlight of this conference was Walter Brueggemann, who, by the way, is a United Church of Christ minister.  He spoke at length about how we are constantly taught that we live in a world of scarcity, yet from “Day One” in the creation story to the end of Revelation, we as Christians are told that we live in a world of abundance.   Jesus’ story of the feeling of the 5,000 is based on this same belief.  We have more than we need, both in terms of what God gives us and in terms of the necessities of life – if and when they are shared or distributed justly.  So true – and how relevant to our current economic situation today.

The July 29, 2012 LA Times Business section had an interesting article by columnist Michael Hiltzik entitled, “Deficit debate driven by the wealthy.”  In it he made an interesting case that those who want to “cut, cut, cut” to resolve the federal deficit are the same folks who have been trying to kill Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California) since their inception.  And I would add, as I did in a sermon a few months ago, that nobody – Dems or Repubs – has the courage to speak about reducing the Military Industrial Complex budget which runs about 700 billion a YEAR.  So in the absence of sanity, scare tactics abound, and the voices of “scarcity” are screaming at the top of their lungs.

But somehow in the midst of this craziness, I hear the voice of our former office Diva, Stephen, saying in his best Bette Davis impersonation, “But you’re wrong Blanche!  You’re Wrong!”

When we live with a theology of scarcity, God becomes very small and judging.   God’s love and grace gets rationed.  A few are blessed, many are cursed.  When we live with a theology of abundance, there is no limit to God’s love and grace for us and others and that compels us to live large.  What would happen if we lived empowered by the awareness of God as One who has blessed us with such abundance that we have far more left over than we need?

For further personal reflection on how that might change your life, continuing reading on.

Blessings,

Dan

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