Summary: A Sermon for the Twenty-third Sunday afte Pentecost, proper 27, series B
23rd Sunday after Pentecost (Pr. 27) November 12, 2006 “Series B”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, you have blessed us with the gift of life and all that is needed to sustain us from day to day, but we are often unappreciative. You have revealed the depth of your love for us, through the life, death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus the Christ, yet we often fail to share your love with others. Through our baptism, you have claimed us as children of your kingdom, and heirs of eternal life, yet we often fail to express our gratitude for your gift of grace. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, move us to deeper faith, and empower us to live our lives in thanksgiving. We ask this in Christ’s name. Amen.
Isn’t it amazing how some things in life just seem to amaze us, even cause us to stand in awe, as we behold them. For example, last Sunday I invited a friend to join me at my camp for the night. After we had wound down from the Steeler game, which was anything but amazing, I went outside for some fresh air. Even though it was overcast to the point where you couldn’t see a star, there was a full moon.
As a result, I invited my friend to take a short walk with me in the woods, without a flashlight. Jon was just totally amazed at the amount of light that came from the moon. After we had walked for a while, he stopped and just stood there. “I am totally amazed,” he said. “You can even see the shadows of the trees. I never knew the moon could make that much light.”
“If you think this is bright,” I responded, “you should see it on a clear night.”
Of course, the beauty of nature is not the only thing that can amaze us. I remember a phone call that I received from Amy, shortly after she had visited Rome. Her voice was just filled with awe, as she described to me the sensation of standing on the ruins of that ancient culture. “Dad,” she said, “Do you know what it is like to stand in the very place where Caesar was killed? It was just totally amazing to behold with your own eyes, this place and these buildings that are over two thousand years old.”
I share these thoughts with you because magnificent buildings and events do have a way of impressing us. And sometimes, when we are moved to amazement and awe at what we see, we can lose focus on what is truly important.
This, I believe, is the context in which we might interpret our Gospel lesson for this morning. Jesus has just entered Jerusalem for the last time in his earthly life. In just a few days, he will be betrayed, arrested, and crucified. And so he takes his disciples to the Temple, where he teaches the crowds and seeks to give his closest followers some last insights concerning what it means to live in a faithful relationship with God.
Here, Jesus teaches us to beware of the scribes and those who like to walk around in long fancy robes, demanding respect and honor wherever they go. They really don’t care for the poor. In fact, Jesus suggests that they may even take advantage of the poor to increase their own wealth by buying the houses of widows, taking advantage of their need, by purchasing them at below market value, in order to turn a profit.
And then, as Jesus sat and watched the crowd putting money into the Temple treasury, noting that many rich people put in large sums, a poor widow came and dropped two small coins into the pot, worth about a penny. So Jesus seizes the opportunity, calls his disciples to him, and says, “This poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she, out of her poverty, has put in everything she had.”
The lesson seems to be clear. Jesus is advising his disciples not to be so impressed by the prominent and powerful people they see, or to marvel at the size of the offerings that they make to the temple. Rather, Jesus calls this poor widow to the disciples’ attention – this person who had so little – and yet he indicates that she has truly given far more than the others have, giving her all to God.
In other words, Jesus is advising us to be careful about those things that impress and amaze us, to put them into the perspective of living in a faithful relationship with God. But like us, at times, one our Lord’s first disciples had a hard time grasping the significance of what Jesus was trying to convey to them. For in the very next verse that follows our text for this morning, Mark tells us “As he came out of the Temple, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!”