“Life isn’t fair.” I imagine you’ve heard and possibly said this refrain, but probably in a negative manner to explain why bad things happen when they shouldn’t. YET, what if was True in the most glorious and amazing way? What if we trusted and lived like the Universe was rigged in our favor, God is good in every wonderful sense of the word, and Love is actually all around and in us? I bet it’d change our lives and the world because I see it transform my existence and communities on a daily basis.
At the beginning of the Book of Genesis we get a couple of beautiful poems about God creating the planets, suns, oceans, trees, fish, birds, humans, and so on from an outpouring of divine goodness. I believe the Bible’s stories, ancient as they are, are also timeless in that they contain treasures applying to our lives here and now. For instance, in Genesis 3, after it describes the epic’ness of the Creator fashioning the universe, followed by an undefined time of harmony, we see Eve tempted by a serpent. The thing is the snake’s deception wasn’t a singular or unique event, I think it’s common to us all.
In my mind, more than anything, the serpent, which many later identified as Satan, questioned God’s goodness. It convinced Eve God isn’t all together good, that our Creator is stingy, that our heavenly Parent doesn’t have our best interests at heart, and that the nature of life and reality is competing and getting ahead rather than sharing and celebrating. And who of us hasn’t thought about, been tempted by, and even believed these untruths? After Eve and Adam chose to believe the serpent things went south for them, and in my experience the same is true for you and I.
Here’s another way to put this: Do we trust God, and thus all reality, is the Source of abundance … or do we think scarcity rules the day? When Adam and Eve opted for scarcity work began to suck, parenting became painful, and relationships became a struggle. Whether we’re a believer, an atheist, or an agnostic, the image we have of the Divine shapes us and informs how we live and act in the world. When we believe God, and thus the universe our Creator fashioned, is scary, stingy, or against us, we become fearful, anxious, divided, and violent. Yet, when we trust the Spirit behind it all is good, giving, and FOR us, we become grateful, peaceful, joy-filled, and loving.
In a podcast I listened to the other day, they read and talked about Jesus’ first miracle in the Gospel of John, which I think is a fantastic reminder of the gratuitous goodness of God. Here’s how it goes:
1-3 Three days later there was a weddingin the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there. Jesus and his disciples were guests also. When they started running low on wine at the wedding banquet, Jesus’ mother told him, “They’re just about out of wine.”
4 Jesus said, “Is that any of our business, Mother—yours or mine? This isn’t my time. Don’t push me.”
5 She went ahead anyway, telling the servants, “Whatever he tells you, do it.”
6-7 Six stoneware water pots were there, used by the Jews for ritual washings. Each held twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus ordered the servants, “Fill the pots with water.” And they filled them to the brim.
8 “Now fill your pitchers and take them to the host,” Jesus said, and they did.
9-10 When the host tasted the water that had become wine(he didn’t know what had just happened but the servants, of course, knew), he called out to the bridegroom, “Everybody I know begins with their finest wines and after the guests have had their fill brings in the cheap stuff. But you’ve saved the best till now!”
11 This act in Cana of Galilee was the first sign Jesus gave, the first glimpse of his glory. And his disciples believed in him. (John 2.1-11, The Message Version, emphasis mine)
I’ll start by saying this is probably my favorite miracle of Jesus. I say this because my wife and I LOVE wine, it shows God loves to throw a good party, and Jesus turning the water for ritualistic/legalistic cleansing into juice for celebration is just plain awesome.
While I’ve read/heard this parable many times, when I heard it on the podcast it came alive in a new way. The miracles in the Gospel of John are highly symbolic, which means it’s no accident this story starts with “three days later.” You see, after Jesus was killed on a cross, three days later he rose from the dead. Yet, this wasn’t just a resurrection of one man/God, it is THE beginning of the resurrection, rebirth, and recreation of ALL humanity, reality, and creation. On the third day Jesus started a new way of being in the world, one of gratuitous goodness, giving, and gratitude, hallmarks of the reign of God.
At the party the Christ did NOT limit the “Jesus Juice” (my favorite name for wine, props to author/pastor Bruxy Cavey for introducing me to it) to the “good” people. Perhaps the best wine ever was given to anyone and everyone indiscriminately. God is an indiscriminate giver of goodness to anyone and everyone. We see Jesus echo this refrain in teachings and parables. For instance, He reminds us the incredible gifts of sunlight and rainfall are equally given to both the just and the unjust (Matthew 5.45). Likewise, in a parable telling us what the kingdom of heaven is like, Jesus says it’s like a landowner who pays a full day’s wages to workers who work a full day, 3/4 of a day, half a day, 1/4 of a day, and a mere fraction of a day (Matthew 20.1-16). It seems the blessings and good gifts from God are equal for all who receive them, whenever they “come”, open their hands, or accept the Divine favor.
I’ll land with one more example, which I think also helps us apply this principle. In Matthew 13.1-9 Jesus tells the Parable of the Sower, wherein a farmer (who I think represents God) gratuitously scatters seed (which I think represents the Good News of God’s love and care for each us) ALL over the place (i.e. to anyone and everyone). When the seeds land in good soil the plants grow and flourish, yet in other places they struggle or die off in this parable. While the Divine favor is freely and indiscriminately given, it only has a lasting affect on hearts open to and trusting of God’s goodness (at least that’s how I read and interpret it 🙂 Jesus says: “Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.” (Matthew 13.8, New International Version)
When we decide to see the world as benevolent, life as good, and God as amazing our hearts expand in incredible ways. We realize each breath is a gift. We recognize every loving relationship is a blessing. We understand our bodies are works of art. We comprehend the miracle of each step we take. We grasp the glory of every hug. We see goodness abounds all around us with glorious sunsets, beautiful people (in that we ALL are in our own unique way), magnificent music, delicious food, kind words, grass blowing in the wind, the majesty of ocean waves, the glory of the sky and stars above us, and, of course, yummy Jesus Juice!
Once our eyes are opened to this Truth, it seems to me we can’t help but spread the goodness around. While I’m naturally talking about doing our best to ensure those less fortunate than us have food, clean water, shelter, healthcare, equality, justice, and so on, in light of God’s gratuitous goodness I think it also goes beyond this. What I’m getting at is “wine” is NOT a necessity; instead, it IS a celebration. Lisa (my wife) and I pretty much bring wine to every party, gathering, and celebration we attend. That said we also bring encouragement, positivity, and curiosity (her more than me). My point is, what gratuitous, not required but totally amazing and enlivening, goodness do you have that you can indiscriminately share with others? With that in mind, I encourage you to both receive gifts from and be like the Wild and Extravagant God by sharing this goodness freely with others!
Grace and peace,