Mark 12: 38-44
8 November 2015
Take my lips, Oh Lord, and speak through them; take our minds and think with them. Take our hearts and set them on fire, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Do you have something to be grateful for today? Perhaps one of those little things like waking up to a warm house and fresh coffee? We’re coming right up on Veteran’s Day.
In a civil sense it is a day to remember, to celebrate, and to express gratitude for, those who have served in our armed forces, and those who currently serve as well. And in a broader sense perhaps we can make note that we live in a country where we are free to gather for worship to speak about our faith, to live as faithful people. Did you notice? Our lessons today urge us to celebrate God’s care of us, because, after all, it is God who gives everything to us. And that’s worth thinking about in light of our stewardship focus.
I was struck, while getting ready to preach today, with how several years ago, and in another diocese the Commission on Stewardship was renamed the Commission on Gratitude and Generosity. Gratitude and Generosity. They seem like key issues for a life lived in faith because God is a generous God. Scripture reminds us, over and over again, that in God’s Kingdom there is never scarcity. In God’s Kingdom there is always abundance. Yes, I know, it’s easy to take that statement and pick it apart. What… never scarcity…then why am I battling chronic illness? Why did I lose my spouse? Why do I struggle to make ends meet every month? Why are the church’s resources shrinking both financially and in the number of faithful members on the national level, the diocesan level, and on the local level, right here at Trinity? On the other hand what if we just take the statement at face value? What if we act as if God has indeed given everything we need? Our first lesson was taken from First Kings. It’s part of the story of Elijah and it begins a cycle of stories about prophetic opposition to a corrupt regime. Elijah speaks out against the worship of false gods. That got him in trouble with the rulers who had abandoned the worship of Israel’s God. In a surprising twist God sent Elijah on to Zarapheth. Understand, God sent Elijah into foreign territory. It was in fact a center for worship of those foreign gods. Elijah would not expect to be treated well in Zarapheth.
But God provided for Elijah. He was led to a poor widow who was about to starve. And somehow, miraculously, when she acted faithfully her little bit of meal, her small jar of oil, never did run out. Elijah along with that widow and her son survived by the grace of God. God provides, if not what we expect or what we want, but what we need. God works miracles through our faithful living even when we can’t see it. It’s one of the gifts of scripture, all those stories about the many and diverse people who lived in ways that brought the light of God’s love into their world. Often enough we think we don’t have the members, the skill, the time, the energy, the money, we can’t reach out to others, we can’t shine with God’s light, because we don’t have enough. But what if, what if we just took at face value the idea that in God’s Kingdom there is always enough, there is always abundance? The thing is, we already do a good bit. What you all give provides for worship, and pastoral care, It provides a safe place for N.A meetings. It allows the church to give to the food pantry and to support efforts to provide beds and bedding for those in need. I want to share a line from an old Forward Day by Day Meditation with you. It speaks to how we can to live faithfully in the area of our use of money as well as in our prayer lives. “A lot happens at the intersection of faith and money.” “A lot happens at the intersection of faith and money.” Let’s think about that in light of the Gospel reading today. We see the scribes, good religious folk, respected and seated in the places of honor. Today they would head up important committees and serve on the vestry. There were the rich people who came to the treasury and contributed out of their abundance. And there was the poor widow with her two small copper coins. The story can be seen as one pointing to our role as missionary people, people who bring God’s love into the world. Here’s why. Jesus was clearly criticizing the scribes, who, because of their piety
had the job of administering the estates of widows. Their compensation was a percentage of the assets. It was a system, administered by the Temple, that led to widespread abuse and embezzlement. Those scribes provided first for their own comfort. How did faith and money intersect in their lives? Did their living reflect God’s goodness? They provide a real contrast to the thrust of what God asks over and over in scripture, that those who call themselves God’s people reach out to provide protection to widows and orphans, to strangers and foreigners. In short, to those who have less of what we call the good things in life. Remember. At the conclusion of this story Jesus will leave the Temple for the final time as he continues on his way to the cross. Jesus leaves to establish a new way of thinking and doing. He leaves to give everything, absolutely everything, for us. God gives abundantly just what we need. In God’s Kingdom there is always enough. Think about that widow. What happened for her at that intersection of faith and money? We know she was generous but I suspect she was also grateful. I imagine her grateful to God for all the gifts she had been given even in the face of her likely exploitation by the Temple. That picture of her as grateful, of holding in tension both her poverty and her knowledge of God’s abundance allows her to reflect God gracious goodness. Still, she pushes me to ask what seems like a crucial question in light of our own gratitude and generosity (A.K.A. stewardship) focus. How will we continue to live out our mission here at Trinity? How will we respond to God’s goodness as we go on into God’s future?
How will we hold in tension what we’re tempted to think of as our poverty and what we know of God’s generosity? My challenge to you, and to myself as well, this week is this:
think about what you have received from God. Prayerfully consider what you can offer out of gratitude so this church can continue to do God’s work in our world. What can you give so that we together can light the way for others showing them God’s goodness and generosity, bringing God’s love into our world. Amen.