In pm's words
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November 9, 2015, 8:56 AM

the one where we ask, 'who do you trust?'


Sermon from November 8, 2015

Sermon Text: 1 Kings 17: 8-16 and Mark 12: 38-44

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

It’s pretty good to be gathered altogether here on a Sunday isn’t? Now, I know we’re gathered altogether this morning because of our annual meeting after this service, but it is still wonderful to have the full voice and body of our community on any day. Whenever we can get everyone together – that’s always a good thing.

So, we come to this day and we hear two stories about widows from our scriptures. One from the Old Testament that we read from in 1 Kings while the other we read from the gospel of Mark.

As I read these two stories one question kept jumping out at me – who are you going to trust? We have two pretty similar situations dealing with widows. They each approach their situations differently, but they seem to end up in a very similar decision

Now, there are a few things we should know and understand first about widows during this time. First, women were not treated very fairly. Women were viewed more or less as property that transferred between their father and their eventual husband. Women didn’t hold jobs, they weren’t allowed to provide for their families in the same way as men were, and more. Now, if women had it rough, being a widow was even worse. For your support disappeared when your husband died. Of course, there weren’t that many men who were seeking to marry someone who had already ‘been married’ before. So widows were stuck. This is why God has placed an emphasis on the fact that those who follow God are called to care for the widow and orphans – because based on the society that they lived in – they weren’t able to provide for themselves.

In 1 Kings, Elijah is told by God that he will meet a widow when he goes to Zarephath. Lo and behold as soon as he arrives at the town gates he sees a widow. They have a short – but deep – discussion where Elijah asks that she gets him a drink. We have to remember here that this is during a different time and within a different culture than our own. I don’t think any of us would approach someone we don’t know and the first words out of our mouths would be, “Bring some water so that I can drink would you? And while you’re at it, I’m hungry too!”

This widow – in the midst of following through with Elijah’s request – makes it known that she really can’t. She’s been collecting sticks to make a fire, and with the last bit of oil and meal she has left she will make some bread for her and her son – and it’ll be their last. They’ll eat and eventually die of starvation.

This isn’t a happy story that she tells. She has no one to turn towards. For all she knows, the god or gods she and her people has been praying to has left them because of the drought that was going on. So, she couldn’t even turn to the ones who were supposed to listen. Who is she to place her trust in?

Yet, in the words that Elijah gives to her he says, “Do not be afraid.” Elijah is asking this woman to trust not only him, but to put her trust into the one whom he proclaims – the God of Israel. This of course is not the God she knows or follows. She is a part of a group that is outside the nation of Israel – Elijah is a foreigner in her land.

He asks her to do all that she has said she was going to do – to make her last meal so that she and her son could then die from no food. But, first he asks to still make him a small loaf of bread. With that small act of trust and faith – the jars of meal and oil that she has will not run out.

She places her trust in the one she doesn’t know – but, who knows her.

Now, we fast forward over to our Gospel lesson and we again meet a widow who is in a similar situation. However, there is a marked difference between her and the widow before Elijah. The woman that Jesus points out is one who is very poor – she is a widow afterall. In fact, the amount of money that she gives – all that she has – is worth no more than two pennies.

Yet, she takes all that she has and she drops it in to the offering box at the temple.

Jesus lifts up her faith in that small act, saying that she has given far more than what anyone else has given and apparently there have been quite a few who have offered up hefty sums of money. Yet, this widow is lifted up as being ‘greater’ than those.

Now, there is a tendency here to lump these wealthy individuals with the scribes that Jesus has just condemned, but I want to caution us here on that. Yes, Jesus does condemn the scribes – the ones who use all that the widows – this widow – gives to line their own pockets and not help them in their need (which the money is supposed to be used for).

Jesus doesn’t chastise those who have given large sums to the temple at all here. He just makes a point about how they offer and what the widow offers. The wealthy have given out of their abundance – and that’s good. It is good to give out abundance – out of our abundance – and no one should ever be made to feel guilty of that. It is good to give – especially when we are called to give to help those in need, like the widows and the orphans. Which I’m sure many who gave to the temple that day in front of Jesus fully believed that their money would go towards.

This widow however has done something different than those around her who have abundance. Instead of giving out of her abundance – which she doesn’t have – she instead has given her entire livelihood – she has given her complete trust in the one she worships and follows.

That is what Jesus lifts up. It isn’t so much that her two pennies are ‘worth’ more than the bags of money that the others have given. It’s that she has placed her trust completely into and with God.

Because if we are being truly honest with ourselves, we can’t blame the first widow for being a little hesitant in following through with what Elijah is asking of her. She’s doing the right thing by caring for herself and her son. I don’t think I’d want to give my absolutely last meal to a stranger either – and if I did it wouldn’t be an easy endeavor. That takes a lot of trust and faith.

Also, I think many of us – especially those of you who are keen financial stewards – are probably just itching to tell the second widow that she’s being foolish. She is given all that she has into a system – though designed to help her – that we know probably won’t because of the scribes that will use it for their own selfish gains and desires than for her and others’ needs.

I’m not great with money – just ask Erin – but, I know when not to give it all away.

Yet, both place their trust into something – into someone – beyond themselves. One more readily than the other, but they both place their trust into God. The one who has promised to care for the poor, downtrodden, and oppressed. The one who has called us to do likewise.

So, we hear that story this morning on the day that we gather to vote on a budget and vote for leaders within our community to help guide, direct, and shape the ministry here in service to God and neighbor.

So, the question before us this day – and every day – is this: Who are you going to trust?

We as a people of God are called to place our trust in the one who cares for us in ways that we cannot imagine. We are called to place our faith and trust into the one who has come down to be with us. The one who was, is, and always will be the Word made flesh. We are called to place our trust into the one who has gone to the cross for us and who was raised from the dead for us in the victory over sin and death.

We are called to have trust and faith that the budget we vote on is used as a tool and ministry for God’s service. We are called to have trust and faith that the six individuals before us and the three we elect today to sit on council are guided by God through their words and actions on behalf of this community.

Like the first widow we met this morning, there could be some hesitancy about what we have to offer might not be enough or it might be used in a way that we normally wouldn’t agree with. But, in that act of trust – we are placing our faith in a God who works through us and our actions so that all might be served and brought to life.

Likewise, we might give out of our abundance because we know and remember that God is active in our life and in the life of ministry here at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer. That even if what we have to offer is so ‘little’ compared to what appears others can – that God still can use that too.

That as we all are contributing, offering our lives to God – all can be cared for. Ministry can thrive. The Word of God can spread. The Gospel can be proclaimed.

Some might call it foolish. Some might be hesitant. But, we remember that even the foolish, even the hesitant are provided for by God. Both of the widows in our lessons today are loved, accepted, and cared for by God.

Christ is at work through each of us as we continue to offer up our entire selves in service to God and in service to one another and in service to those who are strangers among us. When we place our trust it may be foolishly simple or even difficult – but, we place our trust in God.

Our trust that God is active in us, in the life of this community, in the life of the world.

We place our trust in the one who sees, who cares, and who sends. Amen.

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