Just a word that the sermon I give on Sunday and the sermon you are about to read are not identical. I work off of notes for the sermon and sometimes those notes are a little sketchy. The theme is pretty much the same though. Enjoy and please come to services on Sunday at 9:15. We have room!
Mark 12:38-44Teaching in the temple, Jesus 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."
The phrase I like best in this gospel reading is: “ they devour widow's houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers.” Maybe “like” is a poor choice of words.
I don't ever want to be like those guys. I am not sure I know anybody like the scribes in our story. Do you? Actually I do know a few people who seem to enjoy being in the limelight. There was a man I knew in Wyoming who was a little bit like that. He wrote several books about Wyoming and you would see him at the stores and several other places trying to sell them. He did other things to get attention. He would dress up in a ten gallon hat, chaps, and a fringed jacket and go around town whenever there was some kind of celebration. I liked the guy but I always wondered why he did it. I always bought his books. I'm not sure I read any of them.
Jesus is criticizing the scribes because they were a clear example of what not to do. He tells us to be generous and not take advantage of people, especially those who need help the most. His example of generosity was of a poor woman who gave all she had. I see acts of generosity quite often while I work at the food pantry. The other day two men came in. One hadn't been there for about a year. He sat down across from me and shared with me what was going on in his life. He said that he was a wood cutter and there hadn't been many calls this year and he could use some help. He told me his friend needed help too but had been very hesitant to come. He said his friend was embarrassed. I told him not to worry and that I would put him at ease. When the friend came in, we started talking about a lot of things. I shared a little about myself and I then asked him what he did for a living. He said he was a scrapper and that business had been slow and metal prices were down. His truck had broken down and his friend had given him a ride to the center. He also told me he had grown up in Lacona and I said my family on both sides had come from there. It turned out that we are distant cousins.
He walked out of the ministry center with some food and I would like to think a good feeling about the place and the people who volunteer there. That is what we are here for, not do devour widows, but to show kindness and respect to those who are having a rough time of it.
Jesus is giving us a simple message in this gospel lesson. He is saying to be kind and generous when you give and to take no pride in your giving. None of our “possessions” are really ours. All things come from God and all will go back to God.