Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sermon for Year B Proper 27


On Tuesday, Election Day,
I stopped in at Starbucks 
for my usual Grande-Black-nothing-in-it-at all cup of coffee.
When I paid for my coffee
the Barista gave me--free--a red, white and blue bracelet
with a pewter bead on it that says, “indivisible.”

The word “indivisible” means “unable to be divided or separated.”
A very good word for election day.

Also a very good word for us as the Church, as Christians.
We sometimes worry too much
about our differences
and not enough about what binds us together, 
unites us.

There is a actually a great deal of theological discussion these days
about “non-dualism”--
to see God as the Holy One
and us as part of the Holy One
with the emphasis being on ONE.
Unified. Indivisible.

Not them or us.
Not I’m right and you’re wrong.
Not God in heaven and me on earth
But all as holy and all as one and all as together.

In Mark’s gospel today
Jesus is teaching once more.

He tells his listeners to watch out.

Don’t get all uppity and think you are something special
and that you deserve special privileges.

Just because you might have a position of power or authority,
don’t be too impressed with yourselves
and don’t walk around swinging your privilege like a scepter.
Then Jesus tells the story of the poor widow.
The widow who comes to the synagogue
and gives two copper coins.
Jesus even tells us the cash value of those coins--
“worth a penny”.
Not worth much then, not worth much now.

But Jesus keeps going.
What he says next must have shocked 
those who were listening.

“The truth is that this poor widow 
gave more to the collection 
than all the others put together. 
All the others gave what they’ll never miss; 
she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—
she gave her all.” (Eugene Peterson's THE MESSAGE)

Having just spent the past three days at our Diocesan Convention,
with four other dedicated people from this congregation,
some of our conversation was about giving.
Not just about our tithe to the Diocese,
but about what do we want to give of ourselves
and of our parishes
to move forward the mission of God’s church?

I want to share with you something I recently learned
while reading Peter Block’s book Stewardship.
It’s about the historical background of stewardship.

Stewardship means to hold something in trust for another.
Historically, stewardship was a means of protecting a kingdom
    whose rightful heirs were away,
or more often, were too young to govern--
the underage king.

For us, the “underage king” is the next generation.
We care about the environment, about Creation
not only because of ourselves,
but because of the “underage king”--the next generation.

We need to care about the Church in that same way.
God entrusts us with the church
so that we can hold it, 
we can be good stewards of the church,
for the next generation that is to come.
Just like the church has been held in stewardship for us
through many generations.

This concept also gives you a clue
of why so often we have those long list of names,
those geneologies,
in the Bible.
It is not just a matter of naming who fathered who.
It is showing us that through the ages
these are the people that were the stewards 
of what we inherit now.

So at the heart of stewardship is 
our choosing to serve.
To serve future generations over self-interest.

This is what infuriated Jesus about the scribes 
and the way the synagogue was being run.
The scribes cared about themselves--
they did not care about God’s church,
they did not care about future generations,
they didn’t even care about the people 
that were around them right then in time.

The scribes are not stewards.
The scribes are “grabbers”--
they grab the best seats for themselves,
they grab what doesn’t belong to them,
they greedily grab and grab and grab.
The scribes are not about service,
they are all about self-interest.

Their behavior did not sit well with Jesus.
Their behavior probably did not sit well 
with a lot of others either
but most people were too afraid to speak out
against those in power.

So did the poor widow give her two cents
because she was afraid not to give?
Because she was afraid of the people in power?
After all,
the widow is giving to an institution run by people
Jesus has just condemned.

The widow is giving to the very people
who “devour widows’ houses.”

Is Jesus pleased with the widow
or is he condemning her for being so foolish?

The widow gives to a corrupt and destructive institution,
run by people who care little if at all for her well-being.
Her money will not help serve future generations;
her money will only feed the gluttony of a few.

But on the other hand,
the poor widow is a model of true generosity.
She is willing to give her all 
because of her love for and her trust in God.

She has no illusion that money will keep her safe
or even make her happy.
She is a woman without fear.
She trusts completely in God.

The poor widow does not judge.
She gives.
She gives without checking the four-star charity rating
and determining if the institution is worthy of her gift.
She doesn’t give because she loves the synagogue, the Church.
She gives because she loves God.
She is willing to give her all for God.

Through her generosity, through her trust in God,
this woman is completely free.
Does she live in a world of corruption and greed?
But she, in her letting-go, is free.

The question for each of us is this:
to what are you willing to give your all?

To what are you willing to give your all?
What about YOU?
What will you give 
because of your overwhelming love for God, 
for one another,
for the world?

Will you give your all to create beautiful art?
To write poems? To help others sing with joy?

Will you give your all
to take on the tasks that no one else seems to want to do?
Will you give your all to make others laugh
or to be there with others, to sit with them in their pain and tears?

Will you give your all to work for peace and justice?
Will you give your all as parents or as grandparents?

The way we give our all is as diverse and varied 
as we are as human beings.

We are all called to service.
Service over self-interest.

We are all given gifts.
We may think our gifts are insignificant.
Indeed, others may think our gifts are insignificant.
Hardly worth two cents!

But Jesus thinks otherwise.
Jesus thinks that when we offer what we have been given
and generously give it away to the world---
yes, the ungodly and corrupt world--
when we choose to love God 
with generous hearts and minds and spirits--
when we do not cling or fear
but live and give and serve with love 
then we are good stewards.

We care for the generations to come.
We care for the generation that is now.
We care for our neighbor.
We care for ourselves.
We cast fear aside and join together all things.

That is the good news of Jesus Christ.

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