Sermon for November 11, 2012

Sermon for 24th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 27
November 11, 2012, St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wallis, Texas
Sermon Text: Mark 12:38-44
Sermon Theme: Giving and No Social Security

(Sources: Andersonʼs Preaching Journal, Cycle B; original ideas;
Concordia Pulpit Resources, Vol. 22, Part 4, Series B.)
Grace, mercy and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord
Jesus Christ.
Since. weʼre in the countdown to Thanksgiving, I want to begin by
telling a Thanksgiving story originally told by one of Russell Andersonʼs
parishioners. Its a story about a turkey, actually two turkeys.
According to the parishioner, the Butterball Turkey Company has a
hotline you can call to receive advice on how to prepare your turkey and
what to do with leftover turkey.
One man called the hotline to ask if it were OK to roast a turkey that
had been in the freezer for three years. The Butterball representative
explained that if the turkey had never been defrosted, it was probably OK to
eat it, but the meat would not likely taste the freshest.
After thinking a little while the man came up with a solution as to what
to do with the turkey that was in keeping with his character.
“I know what Iʼll do,” he exclaimed, “Iʼll give it to the church.” Now
thatʼs exactly why I said the story was actually about two turkeys.
The Bible teaches us to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and
strength. The poor widow in our sermon text for today is a case study on
what it means to love God in this way. The poor widow loved the Lord
completely by entrusting to him everything that she possessed. If we trust
God with our pocketbooks, we trust Him with all the other areas of our life
as well.
During this election that we have just been through, there was a lot of
talk about containing the national debt and what to do about Social Security
and welfare benefits. Some folks were convinced that by the time they
would retire, the Social Security program would be bankrupt and they might
be destitute. The poor widow in our sermon text had no Social Security
whatsoever. She was left to rely on the charity of others, her own hard
work, and on Godʼs grace. Jesus marveled at her faith.
Many of you probably counted on Social Security for your retirement,
or at least as part of your retirement. Before the government started the
Social Security program, families provided Social Security. The poor widow
of the text had no social security except through her faith in the Lord.
Living without Social Security in todayʼs world would be very hard, but living
without Spiritual Security would be tragic.
Most people know the story in our sermon text, and itʼs usually been
called “the widowʼs mite.” In it, Jesus sat down opposite the temple
treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box Many
rich peope put in large sums of money. Then this poor widow came and
put in two small copper coin, which make a penny. And Jesus 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 eh offering box. For they
all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in
everything she had, all she had to live on.
In Jesusʼ day offerings werenʼt handled the way they are today, by
passing offering plates in the middle of the service. Instead, there were
thirteen receptacles in the courtyard of the temple. They looked like toll
baskets on some of our freeways. There was no paper money in those
days, so all put in coins. People watched and when someone put in large
silver coins, there was a positive reaction, perhaps like a swoon. The
woman put in two coppers, but nobody but Jesus realized how much she
really gave!
This story shows proportional giving. In the Old Testament, people
were expected to tithe ten percent of whatever their income was, so that
was proportional. One reason God prescribed percentage giving is that it
works on any income level.
God would like to see our offerings reflect the way weʼve been
blessed. How do our financial blessings compare with those of the widow
in our text? More important, how have we been blessed spiritually
compared to those Old Testament people who had to give 10 percent?
Under the New Covenant, we are not under the Law and we donʼt HAVE to
give 10 percent.
The Old Testament people had the PROMISE of a Savior to come
someday. We are blessed with the certainty that the promise has been
fulfilled The Savior, Jesus Christ, has come. We know He died and rose
from the dead for us, that He has taken away sins. Could we really
consider giving a lesser proportion of our income than people who only
looked ahead for the promise? We should give out of gratitude and
Now hereʼs a very important point! This story about the poor widow
and her two copper coins is NOT primarily a story about proportional giving.
It isnʼt primarily a story about giving at all! All those rich guys putting
money in the treasury — not doubt they were giving a hefty proportion! Ten
percent was required, but since they were giving for show, no doubt they
were giving well above ten percent!
But you know, you could give 100 percent and not be commended by
the Lord. If we think giving gets us in good with God, then no percentage is
good! Indeed, the story about the poor widow is not primarily about giving!
It is primarily a story about faith. Faith is recognizing what God has
done for us in the past and believing what He will continue to do for us in
the future. The widow in our text had so little of everything EXCEPT faith.
She had lost her husband, which in those days meant she had lost her
source of income. Yet somehow this woman believed God had done right
by her and trusted that he would continue to do so in the future.
Christian giving is always a matter of faith. God has always taken
care of us in the past, and we have faith that He will do so in the future. If
we believe as the widow did, then our giving will be in substantial
proportion, too.
Did you ever wonder why the story about the poor widow is
incomplete? We donʼt know what happened to her after she gave all that
she had. We like to think that Jesus and His disciples took her under His
wing and she became a part of His entourage. But the women mentioned
in the Bible who were active followers of Jesus were wealthy women, who
supported Jesus and His ministry.
We donʼt know what happened to her. She gave all that she had.
Did she starve to death? Many widows did in those difficult times. Itʼs
possible that she did starve to death. We like to say, “No way, God would
feed her!” But we donʼt know that.
Itʼs no accident that Mark doesnʼt tell us. If he did tell us, it would ruin
the story! If she did live happily ever after on this earth, we might think that
the point of the story is that if we do what God wants, He will take care of
us. If we tithe, our income might go up next year. If we give above ten
percent, God will make sure we donʼt lose our jobs next year. That is false
theology. God cares for us because He loves us, not because we make a
deal with Him.
I hope and pray that none of us will ever be like the man in the
Thanksgiving story I told at the beginning. Donʼt give the leftovers to God.
Give your first fruits to God; After all, they are His to begin with. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and
minds through Christ Jesus.