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While Jesus was teaching in the temple, he said, ‘How can the scribes say that the Messiah is the son of David? David himself, by the Holy Spirit, declared,
“The Lord said to my Lord,
‘Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet.’ ” 
David himself calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?’ And the large crowd was listening to him with delight.

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 market-places, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour 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: 35-44, NRSV

Preached Sunday, March 11, 2018 at Westfield Church by the Rev. Jonathan Chapman. Sometimes, I don’t write out my entire sermon in manuscript form. Every once and a while I go with bullet points, as you’ll find in this sermon.

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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.”

  • It’s called the story of the widow’s mite.
  • It amounts to six verses.
  • We don’t know more about her than what Jesus’ tells us.
  • Traditionally held as an example of sacrificial giving
  • But really, this is  a text about noticing, about being noticed.
  • But before we notice what’s in this text, we need to notice what’s going on in the bigger picture.
  • Gospel of Mark = oldest gospel
  • And in the gospel of mark, there’s this big secret for the first 2/3 of the gospel. It’s a secret that we, as readers are in on, but one that the people living the gospel, those in the story, are seemingly oblivious to
  • The big secret is: Jesus is the son of God.
  • By the time we encounter the widow and her two coins, the secret is out. And tensions are high.
  • The pharisees and scribes aren’t happy about what they perceive as a threat to their power and control; to the way things have always been.
  • And Jesus has been taking them head on.

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.”

  • He’s teaching at the temple when we encounter him today: “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.”
  • If I was a scribe or pharisee, I’d take those as fighter words, too.
  • And then Jesus does something remarkable by today’s standards. He notices.
  • He notices a widow going to add her two copper coins to the treasury.
  • Now here’s a place where tone matters.
  • Have you ever gotten an email or a text message that just worked your last nerve until you realized you were reading it the absolutely wrong way? That’s one of the challenges with electronic communication: it lacks tone.
  • This passage is in the same boat.  The most common interpretation of tone is one that centers on reverence for the widow’s sacrificial giving. How dedicated she must be. What an example she is to each of us still today. And maybe there’s some truth in that.
  • But we could also read Jesus’ words another way: sorrowfully, with a tinge of righteous anger: Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.”
  • The next line is one we like to throw away. Jesus tells us that she has given everything she had, all she had to live on.
  • Jesus isn’t really an exaggerator.
  • In church circles, we often hear a phrase tossed around: the cost of discipleship.
  • Bonhoeffer, the 20th century theologian/would-be assassin of Hitler wrote a book by that title. And—spoiler alert—the cost of discipleship is everything. It takes everything.
  • Following Jesus isn’t for the faint of heart or for the faint-hearted.
  • It’s not for the cheap
  • And I aint just talking about money.
  • Following Jesus demands all we have.
  • “all she had to live on”.
  • Removing barriers between us and Jesus
  • Authentic giving is sacrificial giving of time, talent, treasure.
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