22nd Sunday after Pentecost
Mark 12: 38-44
8 ¶ Then the word of the LORD came to him,
9 "Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you."
10 So he arose and went to Zarephath; and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks; and he called to her and said, "Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink."
11 And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, "Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand."
12 And she said, "As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a cruse; and now, I am gathering a couple of sticks, that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die."
13 And Elijah said to her, "Fear not; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make for yourself and your son.
14 For thus says the LORD the God of Israel, ’The jar of meal shall not be spent, and the cruse of oil shall not fail, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.’"
15 And she went and did as Elijah said; and she, and he, and her household ate for many days.
16 The jar of meal was not spent, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD which he spoke by Elijah.RSV
38 And in his teaching he said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to go about in long robes, and to have salutations in the market places
39 and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts,
40 who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation."
41 ¶ And he sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the multitude putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums.
42 And a poor widow came, and put in two copper coins, which make a penny.
43 And he called his disciples to him, and said to them, "Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.
44 For they all contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living."RSV
Grace and Peace to you from our Lord and Saviour, Jesus who is the Christ. Amen
A modern parable: "Once upon a time, a pig and a chicken were walking down a village street. They came upon a church sign which was advertising a bazaar and breakfast which was going to be held in a few days.
At the bottom of the sign the menu was given, it read ’Ham and eggs will be served from 6:30 to 8:00 am.’ The chicken turned to the pig and said, "See!!’ Even we can help the work of the church!!!"
"Yes," said the pig, "but yours is only a contribution, mine is a SACRIFICE."
Now for a story in a serious vein, " Two wealthy Christian a lawyer and a merchant joined a party that was going around the world. Their pastor asked them to take pictures of any thing which they thought was unusual.
In Korea, as they were traveling, they saw in a field a boy pulling a crude plow, while an old man held in his hands the handles.. The lawyer was amused, and took a picture.
Commenting to the guide, he said,"That is an unusual sight. I suppose they are very poor."
"Yes," came the answer. "They are poor, that is the family of Chi Noui. When the church was being built in this area they were excited to give something to help it along, but they had no money so they sold their only ox and gave the money to the church. This spring they are taking turns pulling the plow themselves."
The lawyer said thoughtfully, "That must have been a real sacrifice "
The guide said, "They did not call it that." They thought it was fortunate they had an ox to sell.".
The lawyer was real quiet after that event. When they reached home, the lawyer took the picture to the pastor. As he sat down in the pastor’s study he said forcefully,"I want to double my pledge to the church. And please give me some plow work to do. I have never known what sacrifice for the church meant. A converted Korean taught me. I am ashamed to say I have never yet given anything to my church that cost me anything."
Mark says, "Jesus sat down opposite the treasury. And a poor widow came, and put in two copper coins which make a penny.....Jesus said: ’Truly I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living."!
The meaning of this story is very clear. Jesus is pointing up the true emphasis on giving, giving not the leftovers , or a little , bit so that a person won’t notice it, but giving from the point of sacrifice.
One pastor in a sermon on this text said pointing text said, "It is simply that true giving is relatively to what is left, not absolutely the gift. As Jesus sat there among the alms boxes and watched people making their contributions out of them all one widow stirred him and moved him to say. Here was the real thing." To put the matter with stark concreteness it was her next meal. The temple was full of the noise of coins cropping. The thirteen big receptacles, shaped like ear trumpets made a lot clanging of metal on metals. Jesus’ ears were attuned to the fairest noise of all, the fulling of two small coins, the smallest in circulation, worth in purchasing power about two cents...Yet.....it has was the one which caught the attention of Jesus".
Why was this giving so different, so unusual? Because this widow was willing to give from the heart. Her love of God knew no bounds. She gave even though she couldn’t afford it. She gave because she wanted to give. She was not compelled by guilt, or fear, or reward, she gave because she was in love, in love with God. She gave because she felt a deep commitment to God. She gave because this was one way she could respond to God’s blessings in her life. She gave sacrificially. She gave in humble respect for Cod. She gave quietly with no fanfare, no noise, but it was the small noise of her sacrifice that drown out all the noise in Jesus’ ears, The noise of the big givers who gave so that all would see their righteousness. This noise of two small coins was heard above the show, the fanfare of the Pharisees giving so everyone would know they were up-holding the law. This widow gave from her heart and it was the noise of love which stirred Jesus to say, "This poor widow has put in more than. all....out of her poverty has put in everything she had, her whole living,"
Maybe a story from the Seagull Methodist Newsletter from San Diego will help make the point. It is a modern parable from an Internal Revenue agent: he says ’’The other day I checked an odd return. Some guy with an income under $10,000 claimed he gave $1,248.00 to some church. Sure he was within the 20% limit but it looked mighty suspicious to me. So, I dropped in on the guy and asked him about his return. I thought he’d become nervous like most of them do, but not this guy.
"Have you a receipt from the church?" I asked, figuring that would make him squirm.
"Sure" he replied, "I always drop them in a drawer." And off he went to get his checks and receipts
" Well," I said to myself, "he had me. One look and I knew he was on the level. I apologized for bothering him and explained that I had to check on deductions that seem unusually high .
As I was leaving he invited me to attend his church.
"Thanks," I said, "but I belong to a church myself . "
"Excuse me," he replied, "That possibility never occurred to me."
As I drove home I kept wondering what he meant by that last remark. It wasn’t until Sunday morning when I put my usual dollar in the offering plate that it came to me.".
Sacrificial giving is linked to’trust as seen ’in our first lesson from Kings, trusting in God to provide, to take care of our needs is seen dramatically in this story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath. In this story, Elijah is commanded by God to go into a Gentile city and there a widow will care for him. To understand this story in all of its fullness , you need to know that these was a greet famine and drought in the land, it had lasted already for three years.
This widow was giving to Elijah the small meal she had planned for herself and her son. Their only meal of the day. She even gives us a clue as to her physical welfare in that she says, she and her son are going to eat, then they will die . She was on her last bit of strength. She had fought for three years the hardships of this famine and drought ,now her strength was failing, her will power to live was going fast. But a man of God comes to her and says ," please make me a cake out of the only bit of food you have left. And what does the widow do??
She trusts in the saying of Elijah as he says, "The jar of meal shall not be spent the cruse of oil shall not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.".
Elijah says to her that God will provide, provide for this meal and all the rest ,until rain comes and the land can produce again, As the text says,"She went and did as Elijah said; and she and he and her household ate for many days. The jar of meal was not spent neither did the cruse of oil fail,... ."
This widow trusted in the word of God to provide and that word came true for her. She trusted, she risked for God and God provided for her. Now notice it didn’t say that she ate better than before. She ate the same meal and used the same oil for cooking, but there was plenty. She trusted God to provide not to extremes, but in a simple way. She wasn’t hoping she would win the Iowa lottery, she was hoping God would give her some meal to continue to make cakes for her family. And God did provide. God came through. He delivered. God continued to be with that widow as he promised, as they ate God provided.
A church member who was not exceptionally wealthy had a reputation of giving to many causes. One day he was asked rather frankly how he could give so much and still have some left over so that he and his family would life comfortably but modestly. "You see," he said, "as I shovel the money out, God shovels it in. And God has a bigger shovel than I do! .
Now comes the part of the sermon which turns the attention to you and I . Can you relate to the two widows in these stories, and I don’t mean the fact they were widows. Can you relate to the one’s sacrificial giving and the other’s trust in God to provide the means for living? Where are you? Does this all seem so foreign to us that it is like a story out of a fairy tale book? Or have you experienced the joy of sacrificial giving, the extreme happiness of a deep love for God in which giving becomes a source of joy and not a duty?? Can you give and trust God completely to provide without thinking of getting it back or having regrets that you even gave?
The third verse to a very familiar Hymn speaks of trusting in God to provide; Listen: "Nothing in my hand I bring; Simply to thy cross I cling. ., .,, Naked, come to thee for dress, Helpless, look to thee for grace...Foul, I to the fountain fly;...Wash me, Saviour, or I die."
Do you know the hymn, yes Rock of Ages. As we cling to the cross of Jesus, we rely on the Father’s’ s care to provide for us. It is in complete surrender, it is in living sacrificially, when that trust in God is answered by His caring hand.
But not only does He care for us with physical things, as food, shelter and warmth, I believe he gives us each other to build up our spirits and faith in Him. The two widows were a source of inspiration, the first was a sign to Elijah that God was still with him, and the second was a sign to the disciples and us that Jesus wants us to live in complete trust that God will provide as we sacrificially give to Him from our blessings. You and I are signs from God for each other as we walk this journey of faith. I see your witness in your lifestyle and you see mine, and hopefully, we can draw strength from each other. But that is only possible as you and I are walking the road of faith as Jesus would want us to, living sacrificially and trusting in God’s care to provide. The question can be asked each of us, are we a good examples for our brothers and sisters in Christ. As a brother or sister looks at my life or your life can they draw encouragement for their faith? Can another see in you or me a love for Christ and a love for God which allows me to trust completely in His power so that I can live sacrificially? What does another see as they observe your life?
" A man was asked to visit a prospective member but he was hesitating in going. It had been a rough week at work with a lot of overtime and then demands from the family.
He felt he was too tired to visit and besides he wouldn’t be a comfort to anyone as lousy as he felt.
But he went anyway. He drove up to the house and waited in the car for a few moments as he prayed for guidance.
The couple welcomed him in with a warm greeting. He could see the man was recovering well from his open heart surgery and the man’s and woman’s face were beaming with the joy of life. They said to him, "Come, . .let me fix you some coffee...you look down and a little tired let’s talk...God answered that man’s prayers, He gave him the guidance of this couple who knew the journey of faith was difficult as they walked it these many years. They could reach out a comforting hand."
God does provide sometimes in ways in which we least expect, but God’s ways are not our ways as the Bible says.