Half-Empty or Half-Full?   Ý
Copyright 2003 by William Meisheid (05-01-03)

Bill Cosby tells a story about his college days which illustrates that some of life's best insights come from the most unexpected places. His philosophy class had been debating for three hours the question: “Is the glass half-empty or half-full?” Later while talking with his grandmother about what he was doing at school, he told her about the half-empty/half-full debate. She immediately replied, “It depends on whether you’re drinking or pouring.”

Such common sense drives through the philosophical tangles and strikes to the heart of the matter as it relates to our human experience. With that insight in mind, I want you to consider your Christian life and experience at St. Timothy's. Is it half-empty or half-full? Let me explain. I have been at this church almost twenty-seven years. Over that time people have come and gone, the church has grown and shrunk, and while our problems have been difficult, they have been solvable. However, there is one issue that I have continually run into over the years, and it relates directly to Bill Cosby's illustration. From many of the people that have left the church over the years I have heard the same basic sentiment, "I am not getting my needs adequately met."

This is definitely a glass is half-empty opinion. But I also think that Mrs. Cosby's insight applies. From her perspective this half-empty sentiment is the opinion of someone drinking, not someone pouring, and it goes to the heart of whether you approach the church as a consumer or producer. Yes, you can legitimately point out that we are all consumers at some points in our Christian lives. There are times when we all need help from the body of Christ in order to just survive what is currently happening to us. That is both true and fair. Paul did say in 1 Corinthians 12:25b-26a "…the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it…"

However, while moments of need happen to us all, and there will be times when all of our glasses have been drunk down to half-empty, is that the normal way we are supposed to live our Christian lives? Isn't the fundamental expression of the Christian experience found in agape', the Greek word for the self-sacrificial love of God and the foundation of Jesus' sacrifice on the cross? Agape’ is also at the heart of his statement about how we are to live out our Christian lives, recorded in John 13:35, "By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love [agape'] for one another." The central tenant of agape' is sacrifice and the willingness to offer, to give, to be a producer of love. While it can be expressed in a myriad of ways, in the end it all comes back to being willing to see the glass as half-full and wanting to participate in refilling it as necessary. Christians are fundamentally producers. (That is probably why capitalism grew out of Christian Western civilization, since it is an economic philosophy dependent on having a critical number of producers.)

The church follows the same principle. Congregations grow for a lot of reasons, but the best reason is that people are producing the fruit of the Christian life in the midst of their life together. It is no accident that the Christian festival of Thanksgiving has been historically represented by a cornucopia of plenteous giving. A church filled with those kinds of people is a sustainable, effective church that will ride out the vicissitudes of life. It will continue as an effective Christian witness, because the glass is always half-full and the congregation is diligently working to replenish whatever gets consumed by those in need.

As we celebrate the Easter season, leading up to Pentecost, I would like to encourage you to see the glass of your Christian life here at St. Timothy's as half-full. I would further encourage you to answer the challenge of Jesus and expend your agape' helping to keep it filled. And, if you are in need, I would also encourage you drink deeply, and when you are back on your feet again, help us to refill the glass.