Damariscotta Baptist Church
Monday, May 21, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

06/21/15 Sermon - Never Invisible

 

“Never Invisible”

 

 

Mark 12:35-44

We are back in the book of Mark, at the end of chapter 12. Jesus and his disciples are still in the temple. A couple of weeks ago we read that Jesus had been conversing with one of the teachers of the law and discovered that not all the Jewish leaders are far from the kingdom of heaven. Jesus continued to teach, and managed to ask some questions of his own.

Let me remind you. At this point in the story, Jesus is on his last week of life as a man, on earth. He is fully aware of what is about to happen to him. And interestingly enough, decides to

explain how the Messiah was not only a descendant of David, but also David’s Lord. As Jesus was teaching, Mark wrote that the crowd listened to him and was delighted. Then Jesus continued with his straight forward description of the teachers of the law, the Jewish religious leaders. We already know that Jesus was not impressed with them. Mark had told us that when he described the event that occurred a couple of days before when Jesus spent time tipping over their tables in the temple and declaring them robbers and thieves. Well, Jesus wasn’t afraid to tell it how he saw it and didn’t mince any words in his description of the religious leaders.

In fact, when you look at what is written here, Jesus was pretty scathing in his comments. The temple leaders were described as narcissistic and they completely misunderstood who they were called by God, to be.

Jesus declared that they “devour widows’ houses” and to emphasis his point, Jesus sat across from the treasury, watching the crowd as they put their money in and lo and behold, who arrived but the temple leaders and a widow. As Jesus described it, the rich people gave of their surplus, but the widow had given her two small coins, all that she had to live on, she gave to the point of impoverishment….

Thus – just as Jesus had described it….“they devour the widows’ houses”

Were we sitting there with Jesus at the time, we may have read between the lines and we may have heard in his voice, something to this effect….

“See what I mean! I rest my case. This widow understands what is required, but look at the rich around her, the so called “religious” people. They are not only clueless, this widow has been exploited by the very system that was supposed to protect her.”

Now I realize that this widow’s giving has been described as an example of how we should give, but I would like us to consider the possibility that Jesus’ attitude may have been one of sorrow and despair.

Hasn’t Jesus been defending the poor and the destitute so far in the book of Mark? Let’s step back for one moment and consider what this picture truly reflects.

The Old Testament is packed with examples of God’s concern for the widow and the poor. God has given explicit instructions for the Jewish people to care for the widow, the poor and even the alien residents in their midst.

In Deuteronomy 10:17-19, we read…

For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.

 

I think Jesus looks at the leaders then looks at the widow and rather than seeing how greatly she has sacrificed, he recognized how poorly the people of God have failed. They have missed the point of what it meant to be God’s people.

Why just a few verses before, when Jesus was having a discussion with the religious leader, they both agreed the most important commandment was

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

The minute Jesus turned around, did he see the religious leaders living out those two commandments? No, on the contrary, they were doing the very opposite. They were devouring widows’ houses, literally.

 

You see, the giving was in the wrong direction. It was not the widow who had to give a certain amount to the Temple as if to validate her relationship with God. It was the rich and wealthy in the church, and the Temple that had a responsibility to the widow, as she was one for whom God had a specific concern.

Were the religious leaders truly loving their neighbors as themselves?

The religious scribe stated himself in verse 33 of this same chapter,

“To love him [God] with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

 

By pointing out the widow’s sacrificial giving, Jesus is simply pointing out that that the religious leaders say one thing yet “do” another.

The religious leaders are all about themselves. They want to be seen, applauded, well thought of and make sure others are saying good things about them. That is why they are giving a lot of money to the temple. They are self-absorbed, not God centered.

Then there is the widow.  She is not n the temple, or giving to the temple for her own benefit.

 

In fact, she is doing so to her own deficit. She is giving out of faith. She is demonstrating that her relationship with God is more important than her daily needs, possibly even her existence.

Her giving is sacrificial. Selfless.

To me this story represents two examples of faith.

One example follows the two most important commandments given, and one doesn’t. The widow puts the two commandments into action. The religious leaders demonstrate the exact opposite.

It doesn’t take a college education to figure out which one is more Christ like.

The faith of Jesus Christ isn’t absorbed in selfishness. It is a faith that is secure in the fact that self is taken care of, and therefore I can sacrifice, without fear.

Faith in Action is written in Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

The faith that Jesus Christ offers isn’t about us.

It isn’t about me.

It isn’t about you.

It’s about God. It’s about what God has given us because of His love for us. And out of our love for Him that we give back in return. The irony is that God set up the system that we show our love for Him, by giving to those in need. And receiving we are in need.

God is quite familiar with giving sacrificially. He gave His only begotten son – so that we may have eternal life.

So what are we giving?

 

Or perhaps more importantly, why are we giving?

 

Are we like the religious leaders? Giving our of our abundance and out of obligation? Making sure we cross our t’s and dot our I’s, and give what is expected? Or are we giving out of love. Recognizing that all of it is God’s anyway?

 

Just like the insignificant widow and her mite, what we give and why, to God, is never invisible.

 

The widow’s giving was an investment in hope – in the kingdom of heaven. And this kingdom of heaven is really a world that encompasses all of us – the young, the old, the poor the rich – and we are called to work together, as God intended, the body of Christ, - then we will experience a glimpse of this kingdom, by living out the very commandments we read today in our church covenant.

 

Let’s close today by reading those words again, together.

 

Please stand and read with me the first paragraph of our church covenant, in unison…

Amen.