the one about giving...
November 12, 2018, 12:00 AM

Sermon from November 11, 2018

Text: Mark 12:38-44

Grace and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus who is the Christ – will y’all pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our rock and our redeemer; amen!

So, this is always an interesting text to read. And believe me, the subtlety (or lack of it) is not lost on me as this gospel reading is slated for the day that we have our annual meeting where we vote on our ministry spending plan for 2019 and vote for endowment fund by-laws. Let it be known that this is a happy coincidence and spirit led time.

But, the context in which this text is read, and how we get to hear it this day is not really the reason why I find this text interesting. It has more to do with the fact that as I read of this poor widow giving all that she has to the temple, I cannot help, but want to rush to her and get her to stop. Don’t do this. Save your money to care for yourself. If only you heard what Jesus was saying about those who participate in the authority of this place – how they aren’t really concerned with you and actively do things to devour your home and life. Don’t give all that you have!

That’s what I want to do. And frankly, I hope many would see the goodness and faithfulness of doing that as well. Jesus has just talked about the failings of those who are ‘well-off’ and in ‘control’ within this system. The temple system that is designed to care for those who don’t have the means to care fully for themselves. Part of the reason for that failing is that those who are in charge of caring for the poor and widows care more about how they look, how they speak, where they get to sit, and more. They care about themselves. In fact, the greatest sin they have is their apparent indifference to the care of the poor and widows. Their indifference is so strong that they don’t notice that their actions literally work against those who are in the most need.

So, all of that is rolling through my mind as I read of this woman giving all that she has to the temple. There are so many reasons for her not to give in order to care for herself.

But, then I stop. I pause. And I take a break from that to collect my thoughts and be in prayer. While I was doing that, I saw an absolute wonderful story shared by one of my friends and colleagues. His church as well as many, many congregations are going through budget voting and approval at this time. Calling many to pray over what they have given to their congregations and seeing if there are ways to up their giving or see their giving from a source of abundance.

So, the story that my friend shared was of an elderly man who wrote a note to his congregation’s finance team that was attached to his pledge card for the upcoming budget year. It is shared with permission and read as follows…

WARNING! To Finance Committee,

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ! Warning!! My health isn’t getting any better – might have to go to “Assisted living” my predicament is high. If that happens – I might have to cut even more; sorry, I managed $5.00 more dollars in my giving. Yours in Christ.

My colleagues, friends, and I that this was an amazing letter. And so incredibly faithful. Here is a man who explains his situation, apologizes for an unforeseen future, and then ups his pledge for the year. In so many ways, I want to approach this man the same way I want to approach the poor widow. Care for yourself, the church will be OK, and we will still be able to care for you.

But, it got me thinking, perhaps how I’ve been approaching this woman’s story has been misguided. Maybe, just perhaps she isn’t approaching her giving as the widow in Zarephath did – with apprehension and reluctance. Maybe she isn’t walking up to the offering box with thoughts of, “I know I should give, but how will I pay for food, my home, my clothes? If I give this, surely I’ll die.”

Maybe, much like the man at my friend’s church, she knows she doesn’t have a lot, but relishes in the lot she has to give. Perhaps she can look at the meager coins she has and think, “I have so much, I can give. And I am thankful to be able to give.”

I wonder if that is the perspective that Jesus wants us to see as she praises this woman’s faith. She gives all that she has. To the place she trusts and has faith in that will provide for not only her, but for others.

Then, I began to think about all those others who are cared for. For surely, she is not the only widow in this community. She is not the only person in need cared for by this community of faith. Now, not only could she be coming to give her offering in joy, but also thinking and caring for those around her. Knowing that even her gift – as meager as it is compared to the large sums thrown in – will be used to care for those in need.

We live in a world today that wants us to see and view our lives through a lens of scarcity. Where we don’t have enough. Where we won’t have enough. Where you need more in order to be a ‘good’ person, or ‘noticed,’ or ‘have value’ in the world today.

We live in a world that lifts up those like the scribes that Jesus talks about today. Where we are swayed and distracted by those who wear fancy clothes, drive nice cars, talk in ways that appeal to our base senses and tendencies and fears. We feel drawn to those who are powerful and those who flaunt that power. If we’re honest we can look and notice how much we ‘pine’ for the life of those who seem so ‘powerful’ and well off.

Yet, those moments distract and blind us to the needs of others. Where we are distracted by displays of power that don’t do anything to care for those in need around us or whose actions actively hurt the lives of those who are the ‘least of these’ in our community and society.

Jesus calls us to see our lives as full of abundance and worth. And in that abundance and worth to give what we have, to share it with those in need, to give all of our life so that others too might be able to live more fully and securely. Sure, it could be financial offerings, but that abundance we have could be in being with and sharing our other numerous gifts so that others might live life more fully.

Jesus doesn’t ever chastise those who give out of their abundance in our gospel reading this morning. All he acknowledges is the deep faith that this woman gives through. Perhaps calling us to see that she gives out of joy and hope, and asking us to do so like her.

I wonder too if Jesus is calling to us, speaking to us, and perhaps saying – live your life faithfully and in the knowledge that you indeed have so much – life, love, mercy, acceptance, forgiveness, opportunity – and in what you have so much of – give so that others might be cared for. Amen.

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