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A Real Offering

March 19, 2017

Sunday Oculi

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.  But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

Mark 12:41-44
The topic for today according to the Lent’s time reflection is: “ready to surrender”. We want to see if we truly value the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross to save us. We want to value everything God does for us and because He offers us the forgiveness of our sins without us deserving it.
Perhaps with this preaching text you may think: ‘the pastor is going to preach today about money! It is perhaps a good opportunity today to preach that the members give more for the church since it always needs it!’ If that is your thinking today I have to say that you are wrong. The preaching text for today I did not choose it. This corresponds to the preaching text for this Sunday Oculi and if you have the Losungen you can check it in the German evangelical lectionary that we follow every Sunday. On the other hand today’s topic about the widow’s offering goes far beyond than simply giving money. The central message for today is not just about money, it goes much further. Jesus wants you to give him your life, your whole being to him. Jesus wants our church to stand up and say: ‘we want to follow Jesus not only with the money we have and with all the material gifts with which God has blessed us abundantly, but also with our whole being. We want to put Christ and His commands in the first place in our lives’. That is the main message for today.
But nevertheless let us see the wonder that an insignificant money offering given with surrender, love and faith can make:
‘One Sunday morning, the pastor of a church went outside to meet a group of children who could not enter Bible School because the building was very crowded. One of those children was a little girl named Jenny, she was six years old. When the minister saw her, he took her in his arms, put her on his shoulders, and took her to the church looking for a place so he could participate in Bible School.
The next morning, as he walked toward the church, the Pastor saw Jenny again and stopped to talk to her. He told her that he hoped that one day the church could build a new, large building in which there would be enough rooms so that all the children who wished to attend could be accommodated.
Two years later, little Jenny passed away suddenly and the Pastor was asked to preach at hers funeral service. After the service, Jenny’s mother gave the minister Jenny’s small purse, with fifty-seven cents. She told him that Jenny had been saving her cents to help the church build a new Bible School building. The Pastor took the fifty-seven cents and took them to his church and told the congregation about the little girl he had been saving money to help build the new Christian Education building. The people were so inspired and moved by Jenny’s gift that they began to give faithfully and generously until they built a wonderful building with enough rooms so that all the children they wanted could attend’.
I’m sure Jesus would say that Jenny gave more than anyone else to build that great church. She gave everything she had.
The Gospel of the widow’s offering is well known to many. And we can even find different explanations and applications for different moments in our lives and communities.
In verse 44 there is a brief description from Jesus that says, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on” .
If the widow put everything she had, what she would live from? Was it that the widow was about to die or did she have some other help? Where would her help come from? From whom does all proceed? Shouldn’t she have to say rather to herself and to God: ‘I need this money to live and that is why I cannot give it today!’
Verse 42 shows how the widow gave. So, what were two very small copper coins actually worth back then? So a small copper coin called a lepton was worth 1/128th of a denarius. A denarius was a day’s pay for an unskilled manual worker, so in modern money, assuming $100 a day is an equivalent salary level, then the two leptons were equivalent to about two dollars.
What can you do with two bucks these days? Not much, perhaps, but you can do something – and a poor person can probably make $2 go quite a long way. It was just the same in those days – a lepton could have bought you a loaf or two of low-grade barley bread, or enough raw barley for you to make a dozen or so loaves of bread – enough to last you for a couple of days.

Maybe next to the widow dollar would be the $ 10 of the merchant, the $ 100 of the owner of a factory, or the five of a worker, maybe 100 times more than what the widow gave. One may think she gave nothing. But she didn’t have a fixed salary. She did not receive a pension, although the Law of Moses ordered to take care of the widows. (Ex 22: 21-33). If she gave something, it really was a contribution, but something that cost her and that is a true offering.
The question is how we could transfer it to our days. Today there are pensions, social assistance, insurance, etc. Poverty today in our country is an exception, although today there are many who speak of a “new style of poverty” that has to do with a standard of living that was beyond compare in ancient times or even with other less developed countries in our today’s world. Not affording to have a television set, because one cannot buy it today is considered a sign of poverty. If we compare the situation of the widow with ours, we should give at least a ten percent of our income each Sunday. But can we compare this way? Is it not more important to rescue the widow’s attitude and to inspire every one of us today?
“The widow did not know what tomorrow will bring. Even if she had had a little money, she wouldn’t know if she would have money the next day to buy food. She lived in constant insecurity. In this insecurity she gave himself completely to God. She trusted God; she threw himself into his arms. She gave God what she could give. She did not keep with anything, because she simply trusted that God would reward her for her trust.
We must also make it clear that sometimes we might be in danger of thinking of God on ‘tit for tat’: that is, God helps me, because I give him something. That way the thing does not work. God doesn’t allow himself to be pushed. God rewards us according to our faith in him and our surrender in the first place. God doesn’t act like a money market desk. God helps but those who first believe in Him and have already surrendered their lives to Him. It is understood that the widow brings her offering in the first place because she knows that everything (100%) comes from God and comes with a grateful heart and with confidence. Whether she gives that offering or not is not the most important thing for her. For the same gratitude and for her deep trust is that she can give everything she has. Now we could ask the question:
Do we have reason to be grateful, as well as the widow? Can a worker be grateful? The widow had lost her husband-but why should she thank God? The unemployed lost his job-why should he thank God? In each case we must see that life is longer than the actual situation. What happens to us at the moment is not everything. On the contrary: the fact that we have life is already a huge gift. The fact that we can live relatively safe, that is to say that we don’t have to be living in the street (literally speaking) is a reason to give thanks to God. God is working in our lives, even if it is not always visible. How can we express our gratitude to God today?

 

The widow’s offering is not only about money, but also, especially, with offering a gift for a sacrifice of love that costs us. What can we as Pilgrim Church be giving God that goes beyond our comfort zone and convenience for the growth and spreading of the gospel from our church? What do you think would be for us members of the Pilgrim Church the widow’s offering that God is asking us to test our faith and for him to begin to truly bless us?
However, we don’t have to stop thinking that God too can be drawing our attention to every one of us so that we begin to take care of our Pilgrim church with more love to him as we trust the material things that God gave us and gives us for His work. He is waiting not only for us to sustain our church even more abundantly with money but also with our time, our prayer, our commitment, our positive thoughts and faith, with the words of faith we declare about the church, with the content of our conversations!
God can begin to bless this church very richly, and even to make it grow wonderfully, but it is up to us to begin to do the wiser things for this church according to what God asks and those things who please God, not only that please people.
I as a pastor and a member I am interested in our church growing and multiplying, and for this I want to serve God with my money, my talents and above all things with what God is asking me to undertake as a priority in this church. I know that some people may don’t like the way I could approach my ministry. But I want to please God more than men as we read in the Scriptures (Gal 1:10) And I want the best for this church, I want God to bless this church but for that I have to be obedient first to him. And I hope that the majority of the faithful believers of this church can accompany me if they really want to see the Spirit of God working in this church.
God is asking surrender to him if we want to go forward, God asks us to put him and his church first, God asks us not to look so much at our wishes and preferences and personal comforts, but to think how many more families can get to hear the gospel from our  church every Sunday, if indeed what we do, we do it for him and not only to satisfy our desires that sometimes might not match the will of God. We need more people, more members like the widow in our  church, not only with money but especially with their total devotion and love for Jesus and His church.
Are you ready today to surrender to God through this congregation that God gave you, as the widow did? Do you want to give God today something that costs you?; According to our answer God is going to bless this church.
May God give us wisdom and courage from above and not from the world, so that we can continue see a church alive and wanting to grow. Amen.

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