Last month, I spent a few days in the mountains of Colorado, in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. After a great visit with my brother, I headed back to Denver for a conference I was going to attend. I needed to grab lunch on my way, but being unfamiliar with the area and having made a decision to not eat wheat for the month, I did a quick web search about the best options in the area for gluten-free food. Quickly, I stumbled across a blog of a person who had written about the very topic and five minutes later, I was enjoying some delicious fish tacos at the Chimayo Grill. – thanks to this person’s recommendation.
On the way back to Denver, I hit a pretty solid traffic jam. Several friends had started using the navigation application – called WAZE. So, I thought I’d give it a try. Waze uses the locations, speeds, and feedback of other users of the application to report where significant traffic jams occur so that it can redirect you to a faster route. In no time at all, I was out of the traffic and moving quickly.
Before dropping off the rental car, I needed to fill up the tank with gas. I opened an application on my phone called Gas Buddy to help me find the least expensive gas in town. The application relies on people who use it to confirm or update the price of gas at the various locations around town. In no time at all, I found myself saving $5 on my tank thanks to the many people around the city who had shared that information when filling up their tanks.
When I arrived back at the Denver Airport, I dropped off my rental car and needed a ride to the airport. A few years ago, I would have called a taxi, but on that day, I opened another app on my iPhone called Lyft. I had already registered as a user before that day, and so I hit a button – “Request a Lyft” – and in less than 60 seconds, I received a text from Justin, a resident of Denver, and an approved driver for Lyft, letting me know he was on his way. 5 minutes later, he showed up in his black SUV to give me a quick ride to the hotel. Justin and I chatted for the 20 minutes drive, he was in between jobs, and working for Lyft and giving people rides with his own car was a great way to fill in the gaps while he was looking for his next career opportunity.
Soon enough, I arrived at my hotel, and said goodbye to my new friend. No need to exchange cash since it was paid for by my credit card on file.
My trip from my brothers house in Steamboat Springs to the hotel, re-iterated some things that I had already been observing about the world where we live in.
There has been this interesting trend toward sharing resources over the last decade. Some of it has been prompted by the change of technology and some has been encouraged by the slump in our economy – but there is no doubt that
People have become more and more collaborative and creative with how they share resources.
The Internet opened the way, but the truth is – we, as a community have responded and more and more we are sharing resources in new and interesting ways – ways that we might not have imagined before. We are sharing information and ideas, as well as everything from our cars, our spaces, our extra gift cards, and tools, and our time in volunteer hours.
Some have called this the emergence of a collaborative economy – one that isn’t solely dependent on cash, but simply on what resources you have to offer that others might find useful. It could be knowledge, it could be a parking space in front of your house, … my husband even told me about a way that people are using technology to share a space at their dinner table…
The result is that people are holding onto the things they have a little less tightly – and the resources that exist are able to flow more freely – move with fewer obstacles. If, of course, you have access to the technology to access this. (Another sermon for another day),
So, today we played a bit of a game. Half of the room was handed a pile of resources.
Pretty soon – what happened?
When you found yourself with a pile of resources, what were you looking to do?
When you found yourself running low on resources, what happened?
How many of you had the experience of giving at some point in the game?
How many of you had the experience of receiving at some point in the game?
What kinds of things could these resources represent?
In the early church, there is a similar phenomenon going on – one that grounded and shaped the identity of the very first Christian community.
It was a diverse group of people who gathered together. Some had a lot of resources to share and some had very little.
But when this community came together.
People just shared and gave what they could.
At times, people shared and gave resources that they had in abundance. And at other times they were the ones who received.
The resources weren’t really the focus –they were just moving to wherever there was a need – they weren’t stagnant. No one was trying to amass a pile over here.
The people in the early church held to their resources loosely – so it was easy to both give and share and it was also easy to receive.
The goal – the mission – the intention – was to make sure that EVERYBODY had what they needed.
And the RESULT – was, in fact, no one worried about what they had.
So, for the last four months, we’ve been working on a series focusing on discipleship and how we are taking another step forward in our faith.
We’ve talked about growing in our knowledge, sharing our faith, growing in our relationships with others, and last month, growing in our relationship with God.
And this month, we are talking about GIVING.
Too often in the church, we talk about giving maybe once a year – when? When the church is about to ask you to give some of your money. And while tithing and sharing your gifts is important, it is a very limited approach to what it means to be a person who is growing in this area of your faith.
So – our goal this month is to open up the idea of GIVING, much, much wider. To begin thinking about this idea that becoming a generous person in the world has much to do with our ability to hold onto things more loosely.
There are a few things that happen when we start taking steps in this direction.
First – we are less defined by the things that we have.
And second – when we hold things less tightly – it is much easier to let go of the things we have in excess. Because we know that if we become in need – others will be there to help…
And last – this one can be hardest of all for many of us. When we hold things more loosely – when we aren’t defined by what we do or do not have – then it is easier for us to receive.
My hunch is that we are probably better at one or the other.
Some of us are natural givers – that’s our default.
And some of us would absolutely prefer to be on the receiving end.
But one of the most powerful things about the early church was that everyone was both. Resources were held more loosely.
And so sharing was easier and receiving was easier also.
And hopefully – to help us see this topic – not as one we’d like to avoid – but as an essential part of our spiritual practice that is transforming us – and shaping us in ways that bring joy to our lives and to others.