2021 August 8 “Extravagance”

Scripture   Ephesians 4:25 – 5:2

“Christ’s love was not cautious, but extravagant”

Message    ”Extravagance”    Rev. James Renfrew

“Christ’s love was not cautious, but extravagant”.  The Sunday message is all about “Extravagance”. It’s not a word we use very often.  Usually we live according to “no-frills” basics.  “Extravagance” seems to relate to people living in some other place far from where we are!

Upon hearing the word “extravagance” what comes to mind?  There’s a blank space on the cover of the bulletin that you can use to illustrate what “extravagance” means to you.  A picture, key words, emotional colors.

I think of one of those dinners at the high table on Downton Abbey, the PBS drama based in the 1920’s, complete with multiple courses, uniformed waiters, fine crystal, silver tableware, the best food and wine, all the guests dressed in clothes we could never afford, and knowing for certain that people like us would never be included on that guest list!  And, wow, those high-born folks don’t just put on their clothes before heading to the dinner table, they each have a personal servant who dresses them.  And, of course, different clothing for each meal of the day! Now that is extravagant!  Far beyond anything I could even remotely hope for in life.

Yet, here it is, the word “extravagance” appears in this humble Letter to the Ephesians: “Christ’s love was not cautious, but extravagant”.  And with that verse I have to shed everything that I just described about “extravagance”.  “Extravagance” must mean something else besides dining at the high table at some castle, estate or plantation.

“Extravagance” is a word used to describe the abundant generosity of Jesus Christ, who responds to our need for love, healing, justice and peace.  So not crystal goblets and silver spoons, but the more important ingredients of life.  “Extravagance” is an important word because it reminds us that what Christ offers is not limited, not limited to only a few highly deserving people, not limited to only the rarest occasions, not limited to a few crackers, but offered in abundance to everyone, especially offered to those who are normally excluded from extravagance!

So let us consider the evidence of Christ’s extravagance to you and me.

  • How have we experienced this extravagance? Let’s share some stories.
  • Have you missed out on this extravagance? We can help you find it!
  • Are you living off of a memory of extravagance from long ago? Let’s find ways to experience it right now.
  • How can we offer this extravagance to others? Let’s get on the same page about ways to share!

In troubled times (yes, we live in troubled times!) the easiest course is to be cautious with our resources and our commitments, but extravagance suggests a very different course.  Let’s lean in that direction!

Now, last week I issued an invitation to be a part of a September 14 conversation about mission.  Maybe we should call it “extravagant mission”. We’re not just doling out small tidbits of Christ’s love, strictly rationed, and cautiously shared.  We’re talking about generous mission, offered in abundance.  How can we do that? It’s not like we are swimming in abundance, some of us have plenty of difficulty making ends meet. How can we be more extravagant in what we do?

“Christ’s love was not cautious, but extravagant”. Extravagance could refer to the size or amount of generosity we offer, but I think it has more to do with the spirit of generosity.  The kind of generosity that breaks down the barriers between the giver and the receiver.  The kind of generosity that is infectious. The kind of generosity that reminds us that we are all in this together.  The kind of extravagance that impresses all who are involved with the unexpected, the surprise, and the miraculous.  Extravagant is about openness, expression, love and good stories to share.

I once did once get the chance to experience extravagance like at Downton Abbey.  It was 1974 when my university had a study group that spent 3 months in Oxford, England. We took college classes at Mansfield College, and we had to dress up for the high table in the Refectory (not the cafeteria!).  There were servers at every elbow.  I’d take a sip of water, and before I even set the goblet down one of the servers was already refilling it from a glass pitcher.

The best part was the croquet pitch at the center of the campus. One day we all dressed up as best we could in jackets and ties, long dresses and floppy hats, to demonstrate our supposedly extravagant lives as Oxford students and we played a game of croquet.  Amazingly, American tourists stopped to take photos of us thinking that we were typical Brits enjoying the extravagant life.

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