The 22nd Sunday after Pentecost, November 9, 2003. Christ Episcopal Church, La Crosse, Wisconsin. The Rev. Canon Patrick P. Augustine, Rector. 1 Kings 17:8-16, Mark 12: 38-44

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As he taught, he said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets!

They devour widows' houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation." He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on." Mark 12: 38-44
You know the old joke about the chicken and the pig who saw the church sign saying "help feed the hungry". The chicken said "that's a good idea. Let's help. Let's give ham and eggs." The pig said "that's easy for you to say, but for me it is a total commitment." Isn't Jesus asking for total commitment from us every day?
One thing that strikes me about this woman (and the woman in the I Kings story of Elijah) is that as they give away their last meal/coins, they never once wail.
Can you imagine what it would be like when offering time came in the temple worship services in Jesus' day. They didn't pass plate to you. No paper money went into these trumpet shaped containers. It was all coins. You walked past this big metal receptacle, and you dropped your coins in.... right there in front of everybody. Big coins would clank the side of the box as you dropped them in. If you dropped in a bunch, it would sound like a bell ringing.... Clang, clang, clang, clang. People would notice. You made enough noise, they'd look at you like.... WOW, DID YOU SELL A KIDNEY OR WIN A LOTTERY? But if you just dropped in a couple of little "tinkers" - those little bitty coins that just kinda "Tinked" the metal as they fell in.... Everybody would notice that too. And there came a widow who just had two small coins to drop in these receptacles.
One author named Susan Jones offered this insightful poem entitled, "WIDOW:"
Widow
A word to strike fear
Into the heart of every Jewish woman
Widow
A hard word synonym for defenseless
Poor. Alone. Nothing.
For in your world you were nothing without a man
Only father, husband, brother or son
Gave you validation
For you, the fear has come true and here you are
Widowed,
One of the poor ones
Life hanging by a slender thread
A tissue-thin connection
Between you and hunger
Between life and death
Poor widow
Nothing on which to come and go
Just two small coins in your hand
Enough for the next meal, perhaps
But you
Make your way bravely to the Temple treasury
Ringing with the noise of many coins
Thrown ostentatiously into brass trumpets.
Quietly you slip between the crowd
And drop in
Your offering.
Did you wonder whether anyone would notice?
Whether your two small coins would make any difference?
Someone did see
One who rated your two coins more highly
Than all the clattering money thrown in that day by scribes
Who make stripping widow's assets an occupation
And down the years
Your act tugs at our heartstrings
And makes our overloaded purses
Heavy with shame
And any time we offer something small
We commemorate your gift as we say
"It's just a widow's mite."
Thank you, widow woman
For daring to come out of the obscurity
Of your status-less life
Refusing to let poverty restrict you
Refusing to be a nobody
Daring to be one
Who gave the most priceless gift of all
All she had.
(Susan Jones, "What was it like?" Ideas for Worship, JBCE 1993)
I am reminded of the song in Les Miserables, about little people, and one of the lyrics says,
"A flea can bite the bottom of the Pope in Rome."
I see in this gospel an amazing story of grace, commitment and generosity. Here is a place in the temple where the affluent, powerful ecclesiastical hierarchy of Jerusalem make notable sizes of donations. A widow's two copper coins would scarcely affect the Temple operations at all. Jesus draws attention to that which others might easily have overlooked. I love the way Eugene Peterson ends this passage: " All the others gave what they would never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn't afford - She gave her all." It's interesting to note that the widow does what the rich young ruler fails to do earlier in Mark, which is to give everything she has. Everything. All. This is dangerous giving--how will she live if she gives everything she has? Is it possible that the widow gave everything she had to the Temple treasury because that's the way she lived her whole life--giving all she had to her late husband, to her children, to her community, to her God?
She must trust in something other than those two coins to sustain her life. There is a preoccupation in Mark's gospel with this question of how will the disciples live if they give everything they have in order to follow Jesus. Now it is significant that she had two coins. The Scripture said that she had two very small copper coins worth only a fraction of a penny. She could have kept one and still been a 50% giver, which is pretty amazing. But she didn't. She gave both and Jesus said "Verily I tell you the truth". When Jesus says that, you better listen. Because when the God of heaven says I tell you the truth, something really important is coming. She gave more than anyone because she gave everything that she had. The meaning of this story is very clear. Jesus is pointing out what true giving is, giving not the leftovers , or a little bit so that a person won't notice it, but giving to the point of sacrifice.
A beggar in India sat by the road every day. He heard the maharaja was coming the next day with his royal retinue. The beggar decided to arrive early. He did. He sat by the road and soon heard the music and acclamation as the royal retinue approached. The beggar edged further out onto the road. Soon an official at the head of the arriving retinue approached. The beggar held up his empty sack. The official said "Wait" and went back to the enclosure in which the maharajah sat. Soon he returned. "His highness asks that you give him a gift of what you have." The beggar was stunned. Slowly he pawed through his meager supply of corn and handed over five pieces. The official thanked him and returned to the royal one with the corn. He then returned, took the beggar's small pouch of corn, and put his hand in it. "His royal highness returns your gift." That night, after the whole affair, the beggar went home, angry, to his poor space beneath a bridge. He muttered curses about the maharajah. He took his small sack of corn out and began to prepare his meager supper. But wait! He noticed a glint in the corn. He pawed through the corn and drew out ... a nugget of gold. Pawing more frantically now, he drew out another nugget of gold ... then another, and another till he had five nuggets of gold. He pawed frantically, looking for more, but no .. Only five pieces of gold. Then the beggar slapped his forehead. "He gave me one piece of gold for each piece of corn I gave him. Only five. What a fool I am. I would be a rich man if I had given him all I had." (Jerry Fuller, PRCL, 11/11/00)
There once was a man who gave his all. He made himself as poor as that widow. In fact, He gave up everything to become destitute for us. Like the poor widow, he had no financial wealth to contribute to the temple. Instead, He sacrificed himself for us. He gave his all, everything for us. Jesus found a cause worth His all. God made a total commitment to us all, "He gave his only begotten Son that who ever believes in Him should not perish." That is God's commitment to us, what about ours to Him! Have we committed our lives to God. Have we surrendered our will that God's will be done in every area of our lives. If we trust God, if we love His Son Jesus Christ, If we love His Church, then we shall not have any problem, any deficit in our budget, any lacking in our pledge drive. We shall give our time, talents, our money and our lives joyfully with a sense of gratitude to our God, to our Lord, to our Master and Savior Jesus Christ.
How do we see our commitment to Christ church? As an occasional place to gather, a social meeting place with spiritual overtones. De we see the church as the house of God? The place where God resides to perform the wonders of His mighty love? Do we see it as an agent of God's grace where sinners can be saved, the broken hearted can find comfort, the sick can find healing, the desperate can find hope? If so, I invite you to surrender your lives to Jesus Christ.
God blessed this woman. In this one act she showed herself to be more of a disciple of the Lord than many of the great men of the faith who have had their names blazed across the pages of history. God took note of what she did and God takes note of us as we give our lives, our tithes for the service of God.

The 22nd Sunday after Pentecost, November 9, 2003
Christ Episcopal Church, La Crosse, Wisconsin
The Rev. Canon Patrick P. Augustine, Rector
1 Kings 17:8-16, Mark 12: 38-44
As he taught, he said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows' houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation." He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, "Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on." Mark 12: 38-44
You know the old joke about the chicken and the pig who saw the church sign saying "help feed the hungry". The chicken said "that's a good idea. Let's help. Let's give ham and eggs." The pig said "that's easy for you to say, but for me it is a total commitment." Isn't Jesus asking for total commitment from us every day?
One thing that strikes me about this woman (and the woman in the I Kings story of Elijah) is that as they give away their last meal/coins, they never once wail.
Can you imagine what it would be like when offering time came in the temple worship services in Jesus' day. They didn't pass plate to you. No paper money went into these trumpet shaped containers. It was all coins. You walked past this big metal receptacle, and you dropped your coins in.... right there in front of everybody. Big coins would clank the side of the box as you dropped them in. If you dropped in a bunch, it would sound like a bell ringing.... Clang, clang, clang, clang. People would notice. You made enough noise, they'd look at you like.... WOW, DID YOU SELL A KIDNEY OR WIN A LOTTERY? But if you just dropped in a couple of little "tinkers" - those little bitty coins that just kinda "Tinked" the metal as they fell in.... Everybody would notice that too. And there came a widow who just had two small coins to drop in these receptacles.
One author named Susan Jones offered this insightful poem entitled, "WIDOW:"
Widow
A word to strike fear
Into the heart of every Jewish woman
Widow
A hard word synonym for defenseless
Poor. Alone. Nothing.
For in your world you were nothing without a man
Only father, husband, brother or son
Gave you validation
For you, the fear has come true and here you are
Widowed,
One of the poor ones
Life hanging by a slender thread
A tissue-thin connection
Between you and hunger
Between life and death
Poor widow
Nothing on which to come and go
Just two small coins in your hand
Enough for the next meal, perhaps
But you
Make your way bravely to the Temple treasury
Ringing with the noise of many coins
Thrown ostentatiously into brass trumpets.
Quietly you slip between the crowd
And drop in
Your offering.
Did you wonder whether anyone would notice?
Whether your two small coins would make any difference?
Someone did see
One who rated your two coins more highly
Than all the clattering money thrown in that day by scribes
Who make stripping widow's assets an occupation
And down the years
Your act tugs at our heartstrings
And makes our overloaded purses
Heavy with shame
And any time we offer something small
We commemorate your gift as we say
"It's just a widow's mite."
Thank you, widow woman
For daring to come out of the obscurity
Of your status-less life
Refusing to let poverty restrict you
Refusing to be a nobody
Daring to be one
Who gave the most priceless gift of all
All she had.
(Susan Jones, "What was it like?" Ideas for Worship, JBCE 1993)
I am reminded of the song in Les Miserables, about little people, and one of the lyrics says,
"A flea can bite the bottom of the Pope in Rome."
I see in this gospel an amazing story of grace, commitment and generosity. Here is a place in the temple where the affluent, powerful ecclesiastical hierarchy of Jerusalem make notable sizes of donations. A widow's two copper coins would scarcely affect the Temple operations at all. Jesus draws attention to that which others might easily have overlooked. I love the way Eugene Peterson ends this passage: " All the others gave what they would never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn't afford - She gave her all." It's interesting to note that the widow does what the rich young ruler fails to do earlier in Mark, which is to give everything she has. Everything. All. This is dangerous giving--how will she live if she gives everything she has? Is it possible that the widow gave everything she had to the Temple treasury because that's the way she lived her whole life--giving all she had to her late husband, to her children, to her community, to her God?
She must trust in something other than those two coins to sustain her life. There is a preoccupation in Mark's gospel with this question of how will the disciples live if they give everything they have in order to follow Jesus. Now it is significant that she had two coins. The Scripture said that she had two very small copper coins worth only a fraction of a penny. She could have kept one and still been a 50% giver, which is pretty amazing. But she didn't. She gave both and Jesus said "Verily I tell you the truth". When Jesus says that, you better listen. Because when the God of heaven says I tell you the truth, something really important is coming. She gave more than anyone because she gave everything that she had. The meaning of this story is very clear. Jesus is pointing out what true giving is, giving not the leftovers , or a little bit so that a person won't notice it, but giving to the point of sacrifice.
A beggar in India sat by the road every day. He heard the maharaja was coming the next day with his royal retinue. The beggar decided to arrive early. He did. He sat by the road and soon heard the music and acclamation as the royal retinue approached. The beggar edged further out onto the road. Soon an official at the head of the arriving retinue approached. The beggar held up his empty sack. The official said "Wait" and went back to the enclosure in which the maharajah sat. Soon he returned. "His highness asks that you give him a gift of what you have." The beggar was stunned. Slowly he pawed through his meager supply of corn and handed over five pieces. The official thanked him and returned to the royal one with the corn. He then returned, took the beggar's small pouch of corn, and put his hand in it. "His royal highness returns your gift." That night, after the whole affair, the beggar went home, angry, to his poor space beneath a bridge. He muttered curses about the maharajah. He took his small sack of corn out and began to prepare his meager supper. But wait! He noticed a glint in the corn. He pawed through the corn and drew out ... a nugget of gold. Pawing more frantically now, he drew out another nugget of gold ... then another, and another till he had five nuggets of gold. He pawed frantically, looking for more, but no .. Only five pieces of gold. Then the beggar slapped his forehead. "He gave me one piece of gold for each piece of corn I gave him. Only five. What a fool I am. I would be a rich man if I had given him all I had." (Jerry Fuller, PRCL, 11/11/00)
There once was a man who gave his all. He made himself as poor as that widow. In fact, He gave up everything to become destitute for us. Like the poor widow, he had no financial wealth to contribute to the temple. Instead, He sacrificed himself for us. He gave his all, everything for us. Jesus found a cause worth His all. God made a total commitment to us all, "He gave his only begotten Son that who ever believes in Him should not perish." That is God's commitment to us, what about ours to Him! Have we committed our lives to God. Have we surrendered our will that God's will be done in every area of our lives. If we trust God, if we love His Son Jesus Christ, If we love His Church, then we shall not have any problem, any deficit in our budget, any lacking in our pledge drive. We shall give our time, talents, our money and our lives joyfully with a sense of gratitude to our God, to our Lord, to our Master and Savior Jesus Christ.
How do we see our commitment to Christ church? As an occasional place to gather, a social meeting place with spiritual overtones. De we see the church as the house of God? The place where God resides to perform the wonders of His mighty love? Do we see it as an agent of God's grace where sinners can be saved, the broken hearted can find comfort, the sick can find healing, the desperate can find hope? If so, I invite you to surrender your lives to Jesus Christ.
God blessed this woman. In this one act she showed herself to be more of a disciple of the Lord than many of the great men of the faith who have had their names blazed across the pages of history. God took note of what she did and God takes note of us as we give our lives, our tithes for the service of God.

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