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LSB Proper 27B Sermon – Mark 12:38-44

November 9, 2015

November 8, 2015 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“They all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

The widow’s coins were few. The widow’s coins were of little monetary value. The widow’s coins became a small part of the Temple’s treasury. Those facts are not in doubt. That is what the Gospel Writer describes for us: “Jesus sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.”

But Jesus’ commentary about the widow’s coins speaks of them in a much grander way: “And He called His disciples to Him and said to them, ‘Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.’” Jesus states that the widow’s two copper coins worth a penny were a larger offering than the bags of shekels that others were depositing into the offering box. His statement runs counter to fact. How is a penny more than a dollar or a shilling more than a pound? How is one dollar more than a wad of hundreds? Jesus’ statement runs up against all that is known and understood about currency and coinage.

But Jesus doesn’t speak in terms of purchasing power or troy weight of coins. Instead, He speaks about these offerings in terms of percentages: “For [the others] all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” She put in everything she had—that’s a total giving. There was nothing left in her purse. She had nothing remaining on deposit anywhere. No, every bit of money that this widow had was placed into the offering box.

The widows in both the Old Testament and Gospel Readings stand as paragons of faith. Their trust and reliance on the LORD’s goodness and ability are placed before the Church as an example to remember and to imitate. Hearing about the widow’s offering in November might immediately bring to mind the matter of stewardship. After all, it is that time of year when the pledge cards are distributed to you. The question is asked: “Will you support this congregation?” This is certainly good and right to ask. And it is good and right for you to answer by completing a pledge card or remembering what you had done in Lent during the Consecrated Stewards emphasis.

But even more so, both the Widow of Zarephath and the Widow in the Temple are examples of what it means to believe and trust the LORD’s promises. Recall how the Old Testament Reading ended: “Elijah said to her, Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, “The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.’ And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the LORD that He spoke by Elijah.” The widow’s action of taking all her flour and oil, making a bread cake, and giving it to Elijah all stem from her belief in the LORD’s Word that had been spoken to her by the prophet. Her trust is in the promise that the LORD had made to her about what He would do.

The Widow in the Temple’s act is just as audacious. It is daring. She has put herself at the full mercy of the LORD. She is now dependent upon the LORD to supply her coins to be able to purchase anything in the future. Her trust is that the LORD will take care of her earthly needs in the ways that He has devised and that He uses. She believes the declarations made by and about the LORD: “He upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked He brings to ruin.” That faith drives her to place both coins into the offering box. That faith is what Jesus commends.

So what are you called to trust in? What is to drive your actions? That is a matter of what has been said by or about the LORD to you. Do those statements speak about His providential care? Indeed, they do. Just for example, today’s psalm speaks of that: “Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry.” And there are other statements of promise about the LORD granting what is needed for this body and life.

Your trust in the LORD’s promise of providential care is why you offer the petition in the prayer that Jesus taught His disciples: “Give us this day our daily bread.” That petition is spoken because you believe the testimony given about the LORD’s supplying what is needed for living each day. Your trust in that also leads you to be generous to others—to help your neighbor in their physical needs. Why is this done? Because you believe that the LORD will provide you with what you need. And you also believe that the LORD has established the relationships that you share with other individuals, that you are His instruments in the world through which He works to achieve His will. This is done in the vocations that have been assigned to you from the LORD. Again, you trust what He has said; that trust leads to your acts of faith.

But even more than trusting in the LORD’s providential care, you also have faith in His graciousness that affects your standing before Him. That trust is in the acts that the LORD’s Christ has completed. This is what was testified to in the Epistle Reading for today: “He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him.” 

In a way of speaking, the work that Jesus performed for you was to place Himself in the offering box. The One who possesses heaven and earth, who owns all things and is richer than all, gave everything that He had. Out of His abundance, Jesus offered Himself, so that those who had no life, no righteousness, and no hope could receive all those things. That is the graciousness which the LORD has shown to you.

The testimony about the LORD’s graciousness exhibited in Christ becomes foundational for your life of faith. First, you trust that this act has taken place. Second, you rely on that sacrificial act which has been completed for you to be the reason why you are righteous in the LORD’s sight. Third, you believe that the same Christ who established your right standing before the LORD will also return; that return will usher in fullness of redemption, including your share in the life of the world to come.

So what effect does that have on you? How does that drive your actions? It makes Jesus your object of worship and praise. It makes Him the source of your help and aid. It causes you seek out the benefits that Jesus offers to you in His words of promise. This is what you come to the sanctuary to hear, to have splashed upon you, to have lift the burden of guilt from you, and to be consumed by you.

The LORD’s graciousness exhibited in Christ causes other actions that you perform. It leads you to be audacious like the widows you heard about today. You know that your place in eternity has been secured through Jesus’ work. That changes the way you view this life, knowing that this is not all there is. So you need not be fully focused on what is here and now. You can relinquish things that are just temporal, because you will be a recipient of eternal things.

Jesus’ example of generosity shown to you becomes a life that you imitate. The mindset that was in Jesus was to become a servant for your benefit. That mindset is established in you who have become Jesus’ disciples and have been regenerated and renewed by the Holy Spirit. So you can readily take up roles of service for others. Those roles might be positions in the congregation, just as our congregation goes about selecting people for different offices. Service can be offered through the organizations that our congregation is connected with. Or it can be just as simple as interacting with those who live around you and looking to help them. Such giving of oneself is done as you have received Jesus’ giving Himself in totality for you.

But what undergirds all these actions? Trust, faith, and reliance in what the LORD promises and accomplishes does so. You have heard those promises and actions through the LORD’s Word being spoken to you. You have received the LORD’s providential care and His graciousness. That has changed how you think and how you act. It makes you like the widows mentioned in the Scripture Readings today. Let their example of trust, faith, and reliance be what you imitate. For so you will act as they did and as the LORD commended.

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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