Sunday, November 11, 2012

Pentecost 24 (Proper 27), Series B

Sermon on Mark 12:38-44
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
November 11, 2012 (Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost)

This poor widow put in more than everyone else did, when measured as a percentage of her income, or even of her savings.  She put in all that she had.  Her offering probably wasn’t even noticeable in the context of all the money that had been put in by others that day.  But it was everything she had.  And God, who looks at the heart, saw it that way.  To Him, it’s not about the amount of money or what it can buy.  After all, everything is His, whether specifically given to the place where His people worship Him or not.  He made all of it, and all of it belongs to Him already.  To Him, it’s about the faith in Him that she is confessing by her actions.  It’s about what is in her heart rather than in the results of her actions.

Now, should we be emulating her example?  Well, yes and no.  Yes in the sense that we do need to recognize that since He made us and everything we have, we and our money and possessions belong to Him already anyway.  Even our own bodies and souls are His property, ultimately, as He is our creator.  And therefore it’s not to our credit when we give our money or possessions away, either to a religious organization or to charity, as we only give to Him what was already His anyway.  Rather, everything we are and everything we have are always to be in His service.  We are, in fact, to give it all to Him all the time.  When we serve our neighbor in love (including especially those neighbors who are members of your own household including your spouse and children), we are giving it to Him.  At our jobs, when we use our time and energy to serve the neighbor we call our customer, we are serving God by doing so, whether our job happens to be making a good product, making sure store shelves are well-stocked, driving products from place to place, making sure children are well-taught, making sure records are well-kept, or whatever else it may be.  Everything we do in life, as long as it is in accord with the Ten Commandments and our particular place in life, is done in service to God, and therefore the resources we use are given to Him.  Whatever is not done for Him, is sin against the First Commandment if not one or more of the others.

The sense in which we are not to follow this woman’s example, of course, is that she gave all that she had to the house of worship.  Now, I’m not saying it was wrong for her to do so, simply that our circumstances are not hers.  After all, she was a widow who lived alone, as far as we can tell.  She didn’t have to support anyone besides herself.  The tiny amount of money she had, could best serve God by being put toward the upkeep and improvement of God’s house, where He had caused His name to dwell.  The fact is, however, that most of us have a vocation, a calling, a responsibility, to others in our lives whom God has given to us.  If we were to give 100% of our possessions and income to the church, we would be unable to fulfill our other callings in life, serving our neighbor in the home, workplace, and community.  These other callings are also God-given and God-pleasing, and therefore also ways in which His people serve Him and give back to Him what is already His.  To give it all to the Church would be to deny the God-given duties that He has placed upon us to our neighbors in this life.  Again, I’m not saying the poor widow in today’s Gospel lesson did wrong in her circumstances, merely that in our own circumstances we have many different ways in which God has asked us to serve Him through our neighbor, and devoting it all to God’s house would not allow us to serve Him in those many other ways He has placed before us.

But there is another way in which this woman is a picture for us.  Not as an example of what we are to do and how we are to look at the many blessings God has given us, but as a picture for us of what our God did for us.  You see, He gave up everything so that we could be reunited with Him.  He gave up even His very life so that we could have life.  His few possessions, which by the time of His trial amounted to His clothing and virtually nothing more, became something for the soldiers to divide amongst themselves.  Even life itself was given up so that we could have life eternally.  That’s what our God did for us.  He gave up everything so that we could have everything, forever, with Him.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

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