Heart

Normally when we hear today’s Gospel lesson “The Widow’s Mite” we can count on a stewardship sermon. It probably no coincidence that It seems to come around in the fall, “Stewardship Season.” This is the time of year when most churches like us here at Good Shepherd are gearing up or well underway on their stewardship campaigns. This Gospel is perfect entre into a proportional giving sermon. I have good news for you today! This is not what I want to talk about. Instead, I want to talk about what I think is the real point of our lessons today, which is what is going on in your heart!

In our Gospel from Mark, we heard the story of a poor widow. It’s kind of redundant to call her poor and a widow because, being poor was very pretty much certain when a woman became a widow. We know that once the husband has died, the woman’s only means of provision dies with him. The widow is then left to struggle and depend on others to keep her from starving. So, what is the reason that someone who has nothing would feel compelled to give all that they have? And then why does someone who has plenty only give from their excess?

The answer lies in their faith and their heart. Let’s take a look at our Gospel lesson, to see the tale of 2 completely different examples of giving. If we look back in Mark’s Gospel to the earlier chapters, we find Jesus had just had several run-ins and debates with the religious leaders. He knew what was in their hearts and now He was calling them out; “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the market place, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widow’s houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers-they will receive the greater condemnation.”  Jesus was saying, that their hearts just weren’t right. In other words, the things that they did was about was all about their position and their appearance.

He then moved into position where he could watch the people putting their money into the treasury. He observed the wealthy dropping in large sums of money.  Everyone else in the crowd saw them as well. That was the point, they wanted everyone to see them. I read in my research that it was a pretty common practice to have people blow trumpets so that people would stop and watch them make their offering! Then in complete contrast we have the poor widow with only a penny to her name come forward to make her offering. No one noticed her except Jesus. No one even paid attention to her, she was invisible, she was the one people walked by without seeing. She no longer had a husband, she was unvalued in their society. She quietly, without any fanfare dropped her 2 mites into the box. A mite was the lowest value coin, 2 mites equaled a penny today. I don’t know about you, but I typically sort the pennies out of my change and throw them in a jar. I don’t recall ever collecting them and changing then into something larger of value. I’m not sure where they end up. It’s hard to imagine being that poor isn’t it?

Let’s look at another poor widow from our Old Testament lesson, this poor widow didn’t even have a penny, the Lord sent Elijah to Zarephath to a poor widow who had nothing. She and her son were on the verge of starvation. They only had enough oil and meal to make one small cake and then they would die. They didn’t have any money, they were without means of purchasing anything more. The Lord sent Elijah to them, asking for everything that she had left. He assured her that if she would trust, and feed him, her meal jar would not run out. She trusted him, took at big time risk, and did what we he asked. We know that they ate for many days after. They ate until the rains came. Their meal jar was not emptied, and the oil did not run out. I’ll admit I am awed with that level of faith. I wonder where did that kind of trust and faith came from? How did she know that the prophet would come through?  

What is the point of these stories? Why would the Lord send Elijah to this particular widow? We know that He didn’t need the widow to feed Elijah, He could have done it Himself. Remember back in Exodus how God fed the 1 to 1.5 million people of Israel for 40 years in the desert. In the same way, does God need our money? (His money) Certainly, the answer is no, He doesn’t need it! So, what then is the point, what does He want?

What He wants instead, is our hearts! You see, if our hearts are right, the money will take care of itself.

When I read these lessons, I try to see myself in the characters. I try to see who I am in the story, what would be my position and how I might behave, would I be motivated to act the same if in the same circumstance.  

Let’s consider our world today and our community, let’s look at others and ponder some things that we can all relate to: Do you wonder why people serve on certain boards? Why they are asked instead of you and me? Why, do people give to certain charities and others not? What drives them?  I have had the opportunity to serve on boards over the years and recently have begun thinking about why I was asked to serve in the first place and why did I agree. Was I asked because of the potential of a financial gift or was it for what I might contribute to the direction of the organization? Then, did I say yes because I wanted to appear important, like wearing a badge or a metal, for people to see me? You know, to be a big shot! I see certain people’s names listed on fund raisers and letter heads, I’ll admit, I wonder what is their motivation? Please don’t get me wrong here I am not judging them, only me.

I will say thank goodness for those who can give and are willing to support. We need them, and to be honest we are all certainly better off because of their generosity even if their motivation isn’t completely pure. These lessons cause us to question If I am doing things from selfish motivation, how do I move to selfless motivation. How can I change my heart?

Let’s look at it this way: How do I move from doing things because they are the right thing to do even if I don’t want to? To doing the right things because that is I really want to do! 

How does my heart change? Scripture teaches us that only God changes hearts. Before He can do that, we must make room for Him in our hearts. He cannot reach us if our hearts are filled with our own wants and needs. Then, we look to Him by praying and reading the Bible. It is in lessons like those we heard today that can reach us. We hear examples of right behavior. Sometimes by watching others and the hard lessons that they learn.  

Last week I shared that the Bible was God’s story book, telling the stories of His family, their lives, their successes and failures.  He wrote them down for us so that we can read them and inwardly digest them. (making them part of our own stories). If we ask the Holy Spirit to come and show us what the scripture is saying to us, we can and will be transformed, our hearts will be changed. It doesn’t happen overnight it is a journey that we travel together, living out in community, even by watching one another.  One of the charities that Laura and I have supported over the years is Care Center. Our giving there began when we dropped off furniture items that we no longer had any use for. They gave us a blank receipt that we could use on our taxes. The value we chose to claim was up to us. Sometimes its amazing how valuable some old junk is. (I think you know what I mean.).  Laura and I had seen the food barrels at the church, we had heard about some of the things that they were doing in the community. We knew some people involved there. As we came to know quite a few from Good Shepherd. So, we decided that we should support Care Center with a contribution other than all old junk. After all, it was the right thing to do, right. Then something happened that changed everything. Mark Parlier an architect and member of Good Shepherd did some design work for Laura and I at our house. When I asked him what I owed him he said, “make a donation to Care Center and get involved.” About that same time a little over 6 years ago, I was asked to join Care Center Board. I dared to get involved and became part of Care Center, through that involvement God changed my heart. I have served as board president and chaired several committees. The point is, God will transform our hearts if we dare to give him an opportunity. The other thing I came to know is that the example given me by other people, watching their selfless acts touched my heart and helped with that transformation. God was using other people to reach my heart, and though us He can reach others. That is what God wants from us. He wants selfless changed hearts.

God blessed the women in our lessons. In these single acts they showed themselves to be more of a disciple of the Lord than many of the great men that we read about. Men with their names blazed across the pages of history. God took note of what they did, and in the same way, He takes not of us. Of one thing I am sure, I do not believe these women starved. God takes care of His own.

Before I close, I must say one more thing”

Today November 11, we celebrate Veterans Day, this year is the 100th anniversary of the end of World War 1. We also have a group of Veterans in the congregation here today. They do understand sacrifice and serving, they do understand selfless acts, giving all that they had. They left their dreams, their homes, jobs, and love ones. Many left home as teenagers and returned as adults. In the wars since World War 1 many millions of Americans have served. Too often, returning without the proper respect that they deserve. We really haven’t done a good job taking care of our veterans, I apologize.

Today is the day that we remember and honor you and all those who served our country!  We remember them all, those who returned home changed forever and those who made the ultimate sacrifice, with their lives. Today we remember. Today, here and now we say thank you! Could, I ask the Veterans to stand so we can recognize you?

God Bless you all!

Amen