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Posts Tagged ‘Sacrifice’

32nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mark 12:38-44

Threads

 

1.  Way In

A gift from my mother

Housewarming gift when we moved to SC

placemats made by my great-grandparents of Gulfport, MS – Horace and Mary Hinds

same fabric as the blanket they made

probably had lots of bolts of these yarns

many similar pieces

but my blanket has a silver thread through it

Scriptures are like these heirlooms from my great-grandparents’ loom

focus on the individual threads

miss the details like patterns, initials, silver thread running

focus on the silver thread reminds me

I was a special great-grandchild

Joseph III, named for Joseph Sr.

who they named after my great-grand’s sister Josephine

reminds me that I was woven into the family

a warm and useful memory for me – like the blanket

Bridge

Like the threads of my blanket and placemats

Bible is full of threads of storiessermon

creation and destruction

birth and death

defeat and triumph

promises made and broken

dwelling on death, we can miss the story of new birth

destruction – creation

broken promises – new covenant

let us look at today’s teaching parable, considering the threads that run thorough this text and everything that God teaches

heroic sacrifice of the widow who gave everything she had

AND Jesus’ teachings about the scribes who exploited the people’s gifts to the church

teachings about sacrifice, pride, and humility

2.  Tell the Story

Jesus taught to beware of the scribes

like to walk around in long robes

and to be greeted with respect, and get the best seats in church and in the marketplace

they devour widow’s houses and say long prayers for the sake of appearance

they will receive the greatest condemnation

They watched as a poor widow went into the Treasury – special room for receiving offerings

put in 2 coins

“mites”, worth about a penny

about 1/64 of a day’s wage

Jesus said that she had put in more than anyone else that day

they have contributed from their abundance

and she, from her poverty

put in all she had

everything she had to live on

3.  So What?

remember about the thread running through scripture

constant concern for the welfare of widows and orphans

condemnation of religious establishment for exploiting the vulnerable

Maybe she could have spent her money better and more wisely

after all, the temple was destroyed a few years later

would she have been better off saving the money?

A story of a new minister

Deacons told her of a single mother of 4 who was tithing from her meager paycheck

they were concerned about her welfare

Pastor went to let her know it’s okay to back off some

As the pastor spoke, the woman cried

“That would take away everything that gives my life dignity and meaning – giving to my church for the ministry of Jesus Christ

this is a story of somebody who knows what giving is about

we don’t give to the church because God needs anything from us

we do have this big building to maintain

but that’s not God’s problem

some of the church’s biggest problems have to do with buildings

maybe that’s why the only house of worship God laid out was the tabernacle – something basic, even portable

but our giving to the church is for us

we give because we need to give to God

need to learn to give – even sacrificially, to God

as God has given sacrificially for us, in Jesus Christ

Jesus’ teaching here

although  he says the widow gave more than anybody

implies the others could have given more

but he’s not critical of the other contributors

the ones he is critical of, actually he condemns them …

the scribes, religious officials

for pretentious practices and exploitation of people

Jesus tells them to watch out for the ones who walk around in long robes

and like the best seats

and demand respect

I’m starting to feel a little vulnerable

robe, fancy seat, called “Rev.”

this is who Jesus is saying to look out for

Jesus condemns empty religious practice

those that are weak and lifeless, destructive, empty and false

of giving to the church from our energy or resources when we can spare it, when we feel like it, on the days when there is so much extra that some sloshes over the top for the church to get

and he reminds us that we can’t always tell by looking

remember there was a scribe in last week’s reading who realized the truth Jesus was preaching and Jesus told him he “wasn’t far from the kingdom of God.”

but he warned against the ones who were exploiting religion for their benefit

the one who got it the most right on that day was the poor widow who dropped in two pennies – an unlikely example of a benevolent giver

 

Jesus condemns the religious practice of the scribes, showy and oppressive.  He lifts up the religious practice of the widow; faithful self-giving without show.

Jesus’ teaching recalls the prophecy that self-serving religious practices are not what the Lord requires.   Isaiah tells of God’s contempt for fasting yet still fighting and quarreling, and for offering worship to God while oppressing others.  “If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry, and satisfy the needs of those in need then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom will be like the noonday.  Your ancient ruins will be rebuilt; you shall be called repairers of the breach.  If you honor the Sabbath, not going your own ways, serving your own interests…Then you shall take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth.”

Friends, what we read in this book is are not old dusty words for us to gather around once a week and feel good about how we are not like some of these bad people.

    This book is the living Word of God calling to us over generations and ages because we still don’t have it right.

God is calling us to religious practices that give of ourselves for God and for others in need.  This is a common thread woven through the fabric of the scriptures.   God calls us away from religious practices that only give to ourselves, things done for us, and not for God.

    God is calling me to be careful with the office with which I have been entrusted, to remember the God of my salvation and to remember the vows I took at ordination.

    How is God calling you?  What is God showing you about your religious practices … about your commitment … what you offer

    We have talked this morning about reading the Bible, reading the entire Bible.  And we have talked about religious practices.  Our discipleship is the life resulting from reading the scriptures and our religious practice.

Jesus himself defied simple answers as to whether he was or wasn’t the Messiah–he simply told people to look at the fruit of his ministry and decide if it conveyed truth and power.

Recently, you should have received your stewardship letter and pledge card in the mail.  If not, there are some here today.  As you prayerfully prepare your pledge for 2010, I pray that we will consider our gift to God that comes from our abundance, even sacrificially, not because God needs it, but because we need to give it up.

We need to learn about offering the best we have for God.  And not from what’s left over, but from the very best we have to offer.

Friends, we are a small church.  And we are the right size to wrestle with the transforming truth of the Bible.  This church has a rich and vital history on this corner in the middle of this town.  Through many changes God has saved this church, and God has not saved it for nothing.

We are each woven in the rich fabric which is the First Presbyterian Church – people of God in this church, our lives are inter-twined with the life and ministry of this church over the years.  Each one of you represents a unique color or texture in this fabric, and the whole of it wouldn’t be the same without you.

May we recommit ourselves to God, and may our gift be of ourselves, our lives – the most precious gift we can give through the renewal of spirit, commitment to worship, fellowship, and service for the sake of the Church of Jesus Christ that we serve.  So may it be with us.  Amen.

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