Moving from Abundance to All
The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd |:| November 11, 2012
Our gospel lesson is on I have heard since I was a child and it always finds its way in or around stewardship Sunday . . . convenient how that happened.
When I would hear or read this passage it would go back and forth between two ways of thinking –money, and time and talent. The passage was about money when I was finding myself giving financially but less of my time and talent. Then when I was giving more of my time and talent, with less giving of money, the passage must have been talking about my time and talent . . . naturally.
It’s funny how texts mean different things to us at different times. In reading this passage for this Sunday I saw this passage in a new light. A light that is more wholistic than my previous understanding and interpretation.
In the second half of this passage, we learn that those at the temple treasury were giving out of their abundance and the widow with her two coins gave all she had. The imagery in this passage is money as an offering, no question there, but if we leave it at that imagery we lose sight of a broader meaning to this passage.
The first group gave out of their abundance, out of what was easy, second nature to them, that which allowed them to keep face amongst those in the temple. It is not hard to understand why those in the first group gave out of their abundance. Those of us here today have done the same. The abundance I’m referring to doesn’t have to be monetary but can be broader than that. A person’s abundance can be in their time, their resources, their skills, their network, their intellect, their care, love, and support. Each of us has an abundance of something in our lives which comes simply to us and from which we offer to God.
These offerings are good. As we see in our text, Jesus does not dismiss the offerings out of abundance but he does say there is more to be offered.
As we look at the widow, she gave all she had. This offering was a risk on her part for many reasons – as a widow, she had no family to protect her or financial support, so giving her 2 coins would have only added to her vulnerability. Plus, the offerings were given in the open and put in a coffer which would make a sound when money was placed into it so her two coins would have been heard by all in the Temple and she would have been seen as offering a shameful amount.
No doubt about it, this widow’s offering was all that she was.
In looking at the broader meaning of this text, Jesus is calling his disciples to not give out of their abundance, but offer their entire lives as offerings, even those areas that require us to be vulnerable, humble, and to take a risk.
I don’t know about you, but I am left uneasy by this broader meaning of the text . . . I am left uneasy because it requires me daily to open all of who I am to God and make my entire life and being an offering. It was easier when I could check off boxes marked time, money, talent and place it in my stewardship envelope and call it a day.
Seeing Jesus’ broader message moves each of us to look at ourselves and identify what we’ve held on to so we could keep face amongst those in the church, what we’ve kept because to offer it would mean being too vulnerable, those aspects of self we have compartmentalized from God because there is shame connected to them.
For each and every person our 2 copper coins are going to be different. For some the 2 coins are a bad relationship which has left them un-trusting. For another it could be a skill or gift they are too nervous to share. For others its receiving the gift of hospitality. For some, it might be having a resource a neighbor could benefit from. For others it’s their limited time or scarce income.
Each of us have areas of our lives where we want to heal our own brokenness, we find aspects of ourselves less than worthy to be given to God, too scared to admit our worth of actually being an offering. It is in those areas we are to nestle into the reality that those are part of who we are. We need to claim full selves and take those steps to the alter and place every last bit of us down on the alter as a sacrificial offering to God.
Let us see the vulnerability and risk of the widow as an example to come alongside of rather than placing her & her giving on a pedestal where she is out of reach. It is not uncommon for us to see someone give so greatly of their person-hood that we place them on a pedestal and say “that was just who they are & aren’t they great for it, but that’s not me.” If we put this woman’s giving as an ideal so great we elevate her to being on a pedestal we miss the opportunity to join her way of giving. It would be way of giving. It would be easy to continue to give out of our abundance and keep distance between us and the widow, but we see Christ calling us to a deeper way of offering. May each of us join the widow in giving all we have – in all the we are.
Offering all that we are – like the widow did – can be a scary existence. Thankfully, this passage gives us hope for how the church – this group/body of believers – ought to respond to our offerings.
In the first portion of this passage, we are warned about the behavior of the scribes. We are told that the scribes had begun to act so terribly that they even began to devour the homes of the widows. We are to take this warning to heart!
We as the church are not to devour each other but rather receive one another with grace, earnestness, mercy, peace, and love. When each of us live in to the reality that our life, ALL of our life, is to be an offering to God, the church is to be like Christ, not the scribes, and care for one another well. To treat our life and the lives of those around us as the holy offerings they are and not exploit, cause neglect, or dismiss these offerings.
The Scribes and the Pharisees thought they had church figured out. They thought it was about being good, one up-ing each other to show who was the holiest, giving out of their abundance so they could be the best. In this passage we see that the Scribes did not have church figured out but that the widow did. She gave all of herself… simply herself. We as the church are to create space for one another to offer ourselves fully, not just the good sides of us. Christ and the Widow teach us how to be church – receive one another well and give our lives to God.
This passage of the widow and her two coins has a broader meaning for me today and I hope for you too. Thanks be to God each of us have the chance to move beyond our offerings out of abundance and to a place where we daily examine how we can live our full being as an offering to God. And thanks be to God for giving us a chance to daily be the loving church for one another.
Stewardship is more than money, time or talent. It’s about the fullness of each of our lives. It is never ending. As we examine our lives for the areas we are holding back from God and offer them – the offering of ourselves, all that we are to God, never ends. For God is calling us to live fully with the Spirit and daily give our 2 small copper coins to God.
May we live each day as a living offering of God as we become continual stewards of all our existence. May we offer as the widow did.