Damariscotta Baptist Church
Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

11/11/12 Sermon

 

Mark 12:38-44

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts…..

 

Recently I received one of those circulating e-mails warning that the U.S.  Government had intentionally omitted the motto, “In God We Trust” off of the new one dollar coin.

The email instructed those who were Christians to reject the coins if you received them as a sign of dutiful, patriotic Christianity.

As I looked into this a little more I found out that the email as actually one of those urban legends.
 

In fact, one-dollar coins aren’t even being produced for general circulation.

Last December, the U.S. Mint stopped producing them due to costs and an excessive inventory.
 

Still, according to the U.S. Mint, there were an estimated 50,000 George Washington one dollar coins that were erroneously struck without the motto in 2007 and found their way into the batch of 300 million issued on February 15 of that year.

The point is that there is no conspiracy or no desire to remove “In God We Trust” from the coins.

But it’s interesting how certain Christians can take these kinds of things and turn them into pious or religious calls of action to demonstrate one’s faith.
 

Now our scripture today speaks about coins as well as outward pious, religious actions of people.  

We read the story of Jesus at the temple treasury watching people give their offerings.
 

The wealthy teachers of the law in their long, flowing robes show off their religiousness by the amount of coins they put into the offering box.

The temple treasury box was up front where everyone could not only see you come forward to put in your offering but also hear the amount of coins you put in.
 

And as we read, Jesus isn’t real pleased with this kind of piety.

These wealthy teachers of the law are into religious appearances instead of addressing a broken economic and social system that led to poverty and exploitation of the less fortunate.

They were ignoring God’s greatest command that Jesus spoke about in the 30th verse of this same chapter that was about loving God and loving neighbor.
 
And by doing so we have a poor widow here who has two measly mites, small coins worth nearly nothing--- but all she had.

You know, we can often read this scripture and turn into some sentimental message about sacrifice: A poor widow with nothing shows us how we should give sacrificially.

And it’s true that this scripture comes up in the lectionary right at a time where many churches are having a stewardship campaign.
 
Churches like the temples in Jesus’ day are trying to fill their treasury boxes.
 
And so pastors in struggling churches call for people to give sacrificially like the widow. They call them to give til it hurts as a sign of their faith and they will be blessed with more.
 
Meanwhile people can only give to the church what they can afford. They have mortgages to pay, utility bills, oil bills, car payments, credit card bills.
 
Giving to the institutional church is not high on people’s list. And why would it be?

It’s not as if the institutional church has been a sanctified entity that people want to give to.

We live in a time where people don’t trust the church. They lack respect for churches and see it as no different than any other organization.
 
And unfortunately the church has given people good reason to think this way.,,,,
 

There was a man who called at the church and asked if he could speak to the Head Hog at the trough.

The secretary said, “Who?”

Then she gathered herself and said “Sir, if you mean our pastor you will have to treat him with a little more respect than that and ask for the ‘Reverend’ or ‘The Pastor.' But certainly you cannot refer to him as the Head Hog at the Trough.”
 
The man said, “I understand. I was calling because I have $10,000 I was thinking about donating to the building fund.” She said, “Hold on for just a moment — I think the big pig just walked in the door.”

Churches can look no different than any other organization looking to fill their treasury boxes.

They can be very similar to the kind of religious institution that Jesus was shaking his head at in our scripture.
 
Why give to an institution that promotes the economic system where wealthy are treated better than those who have less?
 
I can recall a couple of years ago when the steeple committee representing DBC was raising money and had decided to give plaques to individuals who had given a large amount.
 
Meanwhile a special needs woman living in Waterville excitedly called me to tell me that she had sent $2 to the church. She had raised this difficult amount for her by going around collecting bottles and cans on the side of the road. I have to admit that I felt the temptation to dismiss the call as a waste of time.
 

But then I remembered the widow and shared with the committee that this practice of plaque giving was no different than what Jesus was disappointed in at the temple treasury.

It was an endorsement of the corrupt way of the world where we reward those with wealth in an economic system that can exploit and ignore those in need.
 
So why should we give sacrificially (til it hurts) to the church that can be a participant in a corrupt system?

Well for the same reason that the poor widow gave in this scripture.

You know what’s so amazing about this story and the action of this poor widow is that even though she is poorer than a church mouse and is so because of the corrupt economic and religious system that she lived in, she still gave all she had!
 

Why would she do that?

Why give her last two measly coins to a system that exploited her?
Well maybe it has to do with that motto that’s on our coins and bills in our pocket books and wallets.
 
Maybe those coins represent something that goes beyond the reason not to give.
 
Emile Townes in her commentary on this scripture from “Feasting on the Word” says that instead of focusing so much on trying to be the widow in this story (which is what happens in most stewardship sermons) that we should focus instead on being the coins.

The coins Townes says, “represent more than money. They represent faith and belief and how they must be lived… in concrete acts…..”.

The point she’s making is that if we focus on being the coins instead of being the widow, we turn from focusing on a stewardship sermon of the act of giving more to a message that’s about who we are.
 
If we look to become the coins, we become the offering itself.
 

We become an offering that even in the midst of a broken and corrupt world is stamped with the motto, “In God We Trust”.

You see the widow’s coins represent her trust in God.
 
Regardless of the corruption of the system, she is giving the offering to God trusting that He will use her offering in a way that will bring forth the Kingdom of God.
 
You know in such a similar way, this story parallels Jesus’ own offering to the world.
 
He gives all he has, his whole self, to a world that is broken and tainted and corrupt. He gives of himself with trust in the Father in heaven that in the midst of all that is evil and bad in this world that his offering of himself will be used to God’s glory.
 
And as we know-- it was.
 
His offering overcame the world and evil and death. His offering brought forth freedom, salvation and resurrection to all who follow him.
 
So what does all this mean for us?
 
Well if we see ourselves as coins stamped with In God We Trust we live our lives giving ourselves unconditionally and sacrificially to the ways of the Kingdom of God.
 
We become an offering to the world with who we are and how we live that touches and sanctifies all that we come in contact with.
 
We trust that even in a corrupt world we can and do make a difference in the kingdom of God by who we are, and thus what we give and what we do.
 
Our time, talent, money are given as a result of our trust in God and we trust that God will use us for his glory.
 

So how is this lived out practically?

Well it means that even in the midst of the hectic busyness of this world, we trust in God and prioritize spending time with God in prayer and study.
 
We offer ourselves to God trusting that God will transform us and give us peace and strength as we go thru each day.
 
Thru this offering of ourselves to God, we then offer ourselves to others.
 

We become a gift to others sharing kindness and a listening ear, even to those who are undeserving.

We become an offering to others shedding light and offering hope.
 
We also become a gift of forgiveness and mercy and compassion to others as we trust in God’s grace to us.

We also become an offering that seeks to bring justice and mercy for the less fortunate. Jesus warned those who were living comfortably about their ignoring of those in need.

And we also become an offering even to the broken church we are a part of.
 
We offer our time and talent and treasures with others so as to become a truer witness of Christ sacrificially giving ourselves to the community in which we live.
 

And as a result, our seemingly small offering adds up to a large offering as we become a body of believers who are funding the coming kingdom of God………..

Today, the message to us is not a stewardship sermon to call you to give more sacrificially as the widow did.

Rather, it is a call for you and for me to trust more in God that we might be a sanctified offering to the broken world in which we live.

So today as the offering plate comes by---and when you pull out your wallets and pocketbooks, I invite you to pay close attention to the motto that’s on our currency.

But don’t see it as some sign of a patriotic Christian piety.
 
Instead let it be a reminder to you, that all of us are called to be the widows’ coins.
 
And while we can seem small, and insignificant, when we are stamped with “In God We Trust” on our hearts, together we make a powerful impact in the kingdom of God.
 
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen