September 5, 2007

Abundant Life

A Meditation on John 10:10
I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.


Shepherd Jesus, Guardian of our lives, Gate to God,

What do you mean, exactly, when you say "life abundant"?
We are not altogether sure.

Life – being alive! – is already such an inexplicable gift,
already such a remarkable endowment.

Yet all around us these days is much chatter about "rights"
– a right to life, a right to death.

Perhaps. But there are no rights with you.
It is not a thing to be demanded, grasped. There is only gift.

So then, Gift-Giver, Life-Giver,
to your already supreme bequest,
why do you add abundant?

Why would you qualify the noun of our existence
with this adjective of your grace?

What is this holy grammar you employ?
We are not altogether sure.


Your writers have named it perissos in the Greek.

That which surpasses usual expectation.
Extraordinary. Remarkable!

Is this what you desire for your ordinary flock?
Is it for extraordinariness that you have come?

If so, then forgive us for our remarkably low expectations.
Of life. Of ourselves. Of you.

That we are bored and depressed, insular and immovable –
is it because we expect too little?

How could we have underplayed your grace?
How can our sight shrink so dim?

You have spun the planets, named the stars.
You have sighted the blind, unstopped the deaf.

You have striven with the angels
and wrestled with our demons.

You have born our lowest banishment
and were raised up on extravagant Easter wings.

Perissos. An amount that exceeds necessity.

You have come that we might have life,
and have it in excess of necessity.


What does this say about us, O Christ,
about the lives you have entrusted to our care?

Truth be told, we cannot always make
the connections you make. It is hard to see what you see.

What does your thick life of profusion
have to do with our thin lives of dearth?

Give us eyes to see what you so readily saw:
the extravagance of Abba, the abundance of Immanuel.

If we are the sheep, and if you are the Shepherd,
then the pastures to which you call us

Must be ripe-green with grace, free and wide in mercy,
rustled about by Holy Spirit winds.

We want to see such abundance as you saw.
We want to know what you know.

I know this:

I know I notice moments – here and there, now and then –
when I sense your abundance.

Moments above and beyond
the bony language of rights and demands.

Moments saturated with more life than is necessary,
yet just enough to awe me to heaven.

Watching two people forgive and forget.
Unprompted thoughtfulness, none too soon.

The quiet, anonymous generosity of those who truly give.
The ecstasy of covenant embrace.

There is such unnecessary beauty in Bach.
There is remarkable peace in lasting friendship.

I do not deserve to be dismantled and rebuilt
by your preachers and prophets and poets.

… And then there is laughter. Laughter!
That highest of abundance. That proof of your existence.

For what more surpassing gift could you give
than uncontainable, expressible joy?

The sound of my child's original mirth
was more than my life deserved. perissos.


You say you came for life. That we might have it and hold it.
And to do so in abundance.

Are these little moments of extra your other sacraments?
Are they touchstones of your grace?

Are they the thin places where heaven and earth collide,
commingle, if only for a moment?

Are they circulating trailers – previews –
for the resurrection life to come, when you will be all in all?


O Shepherd Sublime, Swinging Gate to Extraordinary life,

I imagine that what I most appreciate a
out your kind words of abundance

Is what they suggest about the shape of your heart divine.

That it is your nature to call forth a little extra,
to speak into existence more life than necessary.

That your determined grace
not only welcomes home the prodigal,
you pull out all the stops.

That you find pleasure in our finding pleasure,
you delight in our delight.

That your consuming fire of judgment, just and necessary,
is nevertheless a tool to fashion our praise.

That you are not only "pro-life",
you are in protesting-support of abundant life.

Mercy. Justice. Reconciliation. Shalom.
Awe. Wonder. Praise.

These are more than we deserve.
More than is necessary to get by.
Yet this is precisely who you are.


Forgive us for choking the life out of your life,
for hanging your extravagance on our greedy crosses.

Forgive your church for its vacuous moralisms,
its too-cerebral dogma, and its smug nostalgia.

We are sorry for trading your substantial abundance
for sentimental drivel, the claptrap of our times.

Pardon us for hoarding your plenty
and wasting your waste, forgetting

That your abundance is abundant precisely
that it might be shared, profusely, liberally, and well.

Shepherd of perissos, Extraordinary Lord,

Make us not to want any more
than what you have already lavishly given.

Grant us that kind of Acts-abundance so obvious
in our earliest mothers and fathers of faith:

Wonder, awe, generosity. Laughter and life.
A common koinonia. Faith, hope, and love.

Make us to lie down in your green pastures.

Lead us beside your still waters.

Restore our souls.


I have come that you may have life, and have it abundantly.

Thanks be to God.