I’ve been thinking a lot about extravagance recently.
One reason being it has been a topic that HTGP has kind of been considering and the ‘elaborate’ title of my writing today is the title I gave my homily last night.
Another reason is that the world today seems to be changing and in major ways, with Brexit and Trump, becoming more scarce rather than extravagant in its attitude and acceptance of people.
Last night’s gospel reading was the story of the Wedding at Cana.
We contemplated why Jesus would do such a bizarre thing as his first ‘sign’ as John calls it.
Those of us in the church community who have been brought up to use resources wisely struggled with this idea of extravagance and the real possibility of waste. In this story alone we are talking of 180 gallons of wine. That’s 900 bottles open to the air in need of drinking. That’s some flipping party! I can’t believe it was all drunk. Some must have been wasted!
Elsewhere we see this same extravagance line in Jesus actions. When feeding the 5000 12 massive basketfuls were left. In a hot climate fish and bread would not last long. I guess it was wasted and thrown away.
In the story of The Prodigal Son, the father rushes out to greet his ‘lost’ son; the son who has been extravagant in a wasteful way and thrown away his inheritance, rather than being condemned as one might expect, is then welcomed back in more extravagance by the father.
Moving away from Jesus we see Mary being extravagant, and again wasteful, as she pours a years wages worth of perfume over Jesus’ feet. A little bit would have done the job. Again, instead of being condemned, Jesus praises her for her actions.
As a staff team we have read and chatted about Archbishop Welby’s lent book ‘Dethroning Mammon‘. Archbishop Welby writes ‘abundance exists to be given freely and openly’. He alludes to various incidences when God is extravagant and suggests we are called to mirror that.
I’ve been brought up to believe extravagance is wrong.
I grew up with a mother who worked hard in minimum wage jobs who saved and protected her money. I think this then led to her being over-protective but that is a separate issue. It’s hard to change a mindset of a life time.
To have an extravagant outlook I guess we need to sit quite lightly to feelings of ownership. If as Christians we believe all is a gift from God and all is Gods then at best we are only stewards and loan holders of God’s stuff for a limited amount of time. This should mean we do not get too attached to ‘stuff’. But …. we do!
One question Welby asked in his book was ‘what is your most expensive possession and would you give it away’. For me that would be ‘my’ house. Could I give that away? No is probably the honest answer! I wish I could say differently … and one day maybe I could be that extravagant … I decided with other things like my apple, or Max the mini that I could give them away if needed. It would be hard, but I could…. or I like to think I could.
But is this extravagance that seems to be pouring out of the bible only to do with money and possessions? I think sometimes it is really easy to make a donation, or give a gift. To be extravagant with time can be a real challenge. To be extravagant in our attitudes is a bigger challenge.
If we extravagant in our outlook then we have an attitude of welcome, a mindset of acceptance and a practice of love. In a world that seems to have changed to significantly in the last 6 months I believe that is what people need to experience. In this world where fear is bubbling and hate is thriving people need to hear the gospel message of extravagance …. a message that lavishes abundantly on me …. and on you …… and on everyone else too!
Whether we think we deserve it is immaterial …. God lavishes it anyway
Whether we think ‘they’ deserve it is immaterial … God lavished it anyway
Whether we think ‘what a waste’ is immaterial … God lavishes it anyway
Surely this is Christian mission …. to be extravagant in our welcome, in our love, and in our acceptance.