Date: August 6, 2017
SCRIPTURE: ISAIAH 55: 1
5; MATTHEW 14: 13
GRACE COVENANT PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, ASHEVILLE, NC
August 6, 2017
The Rev. Dr. Marcia Mount Shoop, Pastor
Yesterday under a venerable old tree in the high desert of New Mexico, people
ered to remember one of the greatest practitioners of abundance this world has
The Community Farm in Santa Fe always seemed to have more than enough of what
nourishment, community, connection, wisdom, friendship,
purpose, hope, a
fed the community from
his land in Santa Fe C
produce was donated to agencies that served the homeless, the hungry, the elderly
the struggling, the challenged
All his farm hands were volunteers. And they got f
ed, too, not only from the
vegetables and fruit and honey, but from the communities of people who gathered
there, from the chance to reconnect with the ground that feeds us.
Mr. Stephenson made
in his old yellow Volkswagen pick up truck
all over Santa Fe and agencies that numbered well over 25, welcomed that truck as a
source of fresh food and faithful friendship.
ast Thursday would have been John Stephenson’s
just a few weeks ago
on the even
ing of the su
He died just
a few days after many of us gathered under our own venerable old t
for worship by our garden in June
That day under the tree when we
ed in the
branches, in the sacred space of the things that
ere, I told
you about John Stephenson
a farmer, a man of remar
kable integrity and
generosity, a man who taught me many things the year I spent in service on the farm
after college as a mission volunteer for the Presbyterian Church.
He taught me about hei
rloom seeds, about the sacred quality o
, about letting
fields lie fallow, and about using insects as allies for controlling other insects.
showed me what it looks like
to practice abundance.
The practice of abundance is the practice of fa
daily expressions of connection
and trust and nourishment that form and feed Jesus’ more excellent way. And it all
starts with how we understand our presence here on earth in the first place.
in WWII in the cavalry
Three times during his
service overseas t
ous platoons he was assigned to were completely wiped out
a seemingly random reason, John was spared.
Once someone pulled him from his troops to be a translator for a language he
didn’t speak and
so he didn’t go with his company
on their ill
Another time he was asked to carry a message to someone instead of go with his
company. Again, they were completely wiped out and he survived. And still another
time he was pulled out at the las
t minute for an unexpected change in assignment
only to hear later that had he stayed, he would not have survived.
He understood his life not as the result of God’s favor, but as a call to God’s service.
He didn’t believe his life got traded for anyone e
lse’s, nor did his see God’s grace as a
sum game. He simply believed that his being here was not something to take
used every gift God had given him
his gifts for forestry, for farming, for
connecting with people through the simplest th
telling them a story, showing
them how to pick corn (shake hands with i
. He used both his faith and his
strength (he was a w
orld record weight lifter in his
even 80s) to be fully
His faith found expression in the way he def
ined his life: HE DID NOT ENCOUNTER
THE NEEDS OF OTHERS AS A THREAT
John Stephenson staked his life on
the simple creed of there is enough to go around.
He lived by the doctrine of God will provide.
Christianity was born out of such a disposition
t of enough to go around, out of
God will provide.
And our faith traditions’ DNA also carries with it strains of fearfulness and
Our faith f
orbearers struggled with whether to
define their identity as people
in terms of
scarcity or in terms of plentitude.
And this tension remains in Christianity today.
Is Christian ide
who we are not
? Or is Chris
tian identity about who we
The biblical canon gives us plenty to go on for both. Our tradition
divided against itself
between scarcity and abundance.