This has been a different day. I had the service all planned and the bulletin printed off for our service this morning when the phone rang at 7:00. Our guest speaker was sick all night and was having to cancel two hours before we usually leave for church. I assured her that we understood she couldn't help being sick and so I came into my office and began working on the morning's sermon. I have never written a sermon in two hours...before the church school service. I have written one the night before as when our last guest minister canceled because of the death of his grandson.
I was working along and a light went on in my brain. I called the woman back and asked if she happened to have her sermon on her computer. She did. I asked her if she would mind e-mailing it to me as an attachment. She said she would be happy to do that...and did. I prepared to use her sermon material for the morning..including her illustration....a pitcher of water and six empty glasses. It went well. The theme was "Give Your All". Here were her thoughts.
Give Your All
Mark 12: 38-44
November 8, 2009
Opening: Empty a pitcher into several glasses. Before filling each glass ask the congregation to name things that they give to (children, work, cleaning, church, God, etc.) When the pitcher is empty make remarks about how we sometimes give our all and it leaves us feeling empty.
Our theme today “give your all” comes from the main lectionary scripture found in Mark 12:38-44. This is traditionally known as the story of the widow’s mite. Before I read the scripture, let me try to put this text into context for us.
I like the book of Mark because he tends to focus on discipleship. Mark likes to make fun of how slow the disciples are and often uses women as models of how true disciples should behave. As a disciple of Jesus Christ, I appreciate all the advice I can get.
This story comes at the tail-end of Jesus' earthly ministry. Jesus has made his triumphant entry into Jerusalem with the crowds shouting Hosanna. This is his second day in Jerusalem and the religious leaders have been busy testing him and questioning his doctrine. He is at the temple-the center of everything in Jerusalem, teaching the crowds and trying to teach his disciples. Jesus just had an encounter with a kind scribe who understood his teaching of the greatest commandments-to love God, self and our neighbors. This is one of the last opportunities Jesus will have to teach or reveal what our response to God should be. Jesus is on the last leg of his journey to the cross-to give his all.
Read the scripture.
This story contains several important concepts.
It is a stern criticism of the scribes at the Jerusalem temple. They were greedy, dishonest, and arrogant. They talked the talk but they didn’t walk the walk. They were hypocrites.
It is also a criticism of the elaborate temple rites that developed out of the 613 Jewish laws.
It is also an example of the sharp contrast between the rich and the poor. There existed a huge gap between the rich people and the poor people. The rich flaunted their wealth by putting in large sums of money (large coins like this one that made a loud clanging noise when they hit the metal treasury container). The poor humbly put in all they could (usually small coins like this lepton that made a tinkling sound when they hit the metal). The gap between the rich and poor still exists today and is worthy of much discussion.
However, our theme today is “Give Your All”. What does God want us to know about giving? What lesson was Christ trying to teach to his disciples and the people gathered about giving?
1.Giving our all from our hearts-sincere, humble, joyfully.
2.Giving our all so we can be open to receive whatever God has for us-God’s will.
What does this scripture have to say to those of us gathered here today as the community of Christ? What can we learn from it? How can we relate to a lesson from almost 2000 years ago to now?
I understand that your congregation has some very generous givers that enabled you to pay off your building in five years.
As part of the South Central States Mission Center, we can relate this scripture to our recent success at using generosity based giving to meet our Mission Center budget.
As members of a World Church, we can relate it to one of our churches enduring principles: Grace and Generosity. According to the principle of grace and generosity in the “We Share” document,
“We believe that God’s grace, especially as revealed in Jesus Christ is generous and unconditional.
We believe that having received God’s generous grace, we respond generously and graciously receive the generosity of others.
We offer all we are and have to God’s purposes as revealed in Jesus Christ.
We generously share our witness, resources, ministries, and sacraments according to our true capacity.”
The widow generously gave according to her true capacity. Why did she give her all? Because of her faith, she knew the Lord would provide for her needs. She trusted God with everything she had to give. Her open hands characterized her open heart.
Back to the pitcher and glasses:
Empty vessels are not dried up and broken-they are simply waiting to be filled. Ask “what spiritual disciplines help us get re-filled?” (praying, meditating, reading scripture, serving others, giving)
(Re-fill the pitcher with the glasses of water as they answer). When we give our all joyfully and humbly as the widow did, we do empty ourselves. We give our all so we can receive.
The miracle happens when we choose to put God at the center of our lives so God can use that empty space-our openness and vulnerability to bless us with something much greater than we ever imagined. God gives us grace.
I pray that God will continue to bless you with grace and generosity so you can be a blessing to others.
And...it went well. Ah the age of technology! It saved me a lot of work this morning. I fixed my dishes for the dinner and was comfortable using her material. Tonight we have another dinner. It is the 70th birthday of one of our "Living the Questions" members. We will have a dinner to celebrate that.