Monday, November 09, 2009

Nov. 8 Sermon: The Widow's Might

Sermon texts:
Philippians 2: 1-11
Mark 8: 38-44

No podcast again today--sorry, once again it messed up as I began to preach. In my opinion, you didn't miss much though.

Here are the notes:
Nov. 8 Notes:
A mother wanted to teach her daughter a moral lesson. She gave the little girl a quarter and a dollar for church "Put whichever one you want in the collection plate and keep the other for yourself," she told the girl. When they were coming out of church, the mother asked her daughter which amount she had given. "Well," said the little girl, "I was going to give the dollar, but just before the collection the man in the pulpit said that we should all be cheerful givers. I knew I'd be a lot more cheerful if I gave the quarter, so I did."

This passage of scripture is as familiar as it is celebrated. IN our annual conference each year, we even present a church or a person with the “widow’s mite” award, which honors some church or individual who has “given everything” for God’s glory.

We are all fond of the message that “it’s not how much you give, it’s how you give it.” We like thinking about God taking our seemingly insignificant gifts and holding them up as the most impressive thing of all.

It seems the lectionary designers have churches and their inevitable stewardship campaigns in mind when assigning this story from Mark in mid November, when churches are all considering their plans for the coming year and how they will achieve those plans.

I noticed a speed bump though this year as we cruise into this story and scoop up the inevitable and seemingly obvious “moral of the story.”

We have this description of Jesus observing the religious leaders and calling them out for their long, drawn out prayers and long flowing robes. There is one word for the scribes: pretentious. They live on the pretense that everything is about them.

On another occasion, Jesus compares the very loud and ostentatious prayers of a scribe to the prayers of a simple man, saying “Lord, I have sinned.” Here, Jesus lauds what is genuine and from the heart. Luke 18: 9-14

I think the widow’s mite is comparable to that short, simple prayer.

Some may say, “well, there isn’t much that two pennies is going to do for you anyway, so you might as well give it away.” Perhaps this is why God so loves the poor. The poor haven’t accumulated so much insulation between themselves and Him. The poor widow who has nothing to her name is more awake to our ultimate destiny than the rich fool who builds himself a bigger barn to keep all his stuff.

As Mother Theresa said, “If you give what you don’t need, it isn’t giving.” Another luminary of the 20th century, CS Lewis, said I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.
If our place in life isn’t so crowded—if we live a simpler life, as Andy was preaching about a couple of weeks ago, we are more reliant upon God’s grace. The more room we make for God’s grace in our lives, the more we get. God fills us to overflowing with grace.

Have you ever been waterlogged? You just feel full and slow and uncomfortable, right? This is what happens when we think all the good that comes into our life is for our own consumption, and we consume and consume instead of being filled and then overflowing.

The true might of the widow isn’t “mite,” it is the might that she expresses when she takes the bold stance of hanging on to nothing in her response of gratitude to God’s grace. This is the kind of might that displays the power of God.

God’s power can be felt through such expressions of might. Instead of being waterlogged with the things that do not last, like wealth and presteigue, if we are mighty like the widow and let the sustenance of God flow through us into a world that needs it.

The Philippians passage is known as the “Kenosis Hymn” because Paul is here referencing a hymn known to the early church. “Kenosis” means “emptying” in greek, and it refers to this passage where Paul is proclaiming that Christ “emptied” himself so that we could know God through him.

Jesus sacrificed all he had and all he was for us. And this, says Paul, is the “same mind which should be in us.”

I have tried to keep things in my hands and lost them all, but what I have given into God's hands I still possess.
Martin Luther.

No comments:

Post a Comment