1 kgs 17:10-16; Heb 9:24-28; Mk:12:38-44

Turning Over Stones

Here are some stones I have overturned to see what ideas are underneath. I hope you can grab hold of something, pull -- and discover that it has some homiletic roots.

In the course of his teaching he said, Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation. He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood.

I thought I would post a rather interesting angle that you might consider preaching this weekend. It might not be exactly what you are looking for; but you may find it provocative nonetheless. In short, the following has, indeed, worked.

No priest or minister likes to ask for more money from their congregation; however, sometimes it is simply necessary. Perhaps legitimate and essential parish expenses are exceeding parish contributions. Perhaps the contributions to the parish are under par considering the income of contributors. Perhaps it is far from 10% tithing and more like 1% tithing.

If a priest or minister is looking for a particular weekend to ask for a necessary increase in giving, perhaps this is the ideal weekend. The Gospel message provokes a person to consider the level of his giving. Is it out of his surplus; or is it an appropriate percentage of his income?

However, here is the interesting angle: perhaps some of your contributors are giving too much. Can you hear yourself saying that from the pulpit?

One commentator on the Gospel this Sunday pointed out that although Jesus noticed and spoke about the donation of the widow, he does not necessarily praise her for doing so. He simply mentions the amount she has given in proportion to others. The commentator goes on to say that Jesus may have even been disappointed in her action; for it may have been provoked by guilt -- a guilt that finds its roots in the words and actions of the scribes. She may have been guilted into contributing beyond her means.

Jesus is clearly angry with the scribes and the reasons for this are plainly listed. One of the reasons is that they have devoured the houses of the widows. Perhaps this devouring has something to do with guilting the widows into contributing all they have to the temple treasury.

The modern-day point is this: Rather than simply asking for an across-the-board increase of giving, perhaps one could exercise some sensitivity and ask for an increase in giving in the following way.

Some of you have been contributing to this parish for decades and decades. You have lived a good part of your life in this neighborhood and in this parish. You have raised a family, you and/or your spouse have worked hard for decades, and you have been giving this parish a generous amount of your income for years and years. However, your lives have changed. You have grown older, perhaps your spouse has passed away, and perhaps you have found yourself on a fixed income now. Still, you have kept up the same amount of giving despite the decrease in your own income. Perhaps you would feel guilty if you gave less than you have been giving for these many decades. Perhaps you would feel disloyal or remiss if you adjusted your contributions according to your fixed income. Perhaps you have fell victim to some hardships and you have thought that it is still your duty to keep up the level of your giving despite your current financial situation.

My advice to you? Give less. Give according to your means. Not necessarily out of your surplus; but not everything you have either. The church does not want to see you neglect your needs of everyday sustenance.

The Church does not want you to neglect the everyday needs of your family. In short, some of you should be giving less.

However, some of you may not be contributing what is just according to your particular treasure -- your particular income. This may not be a premeditated and conscious decision on your part. But, just like those who have gotten stuck in a pattern of contributions from their past that they should not be asked to sustain any longer; there are some of you who may have also gotten stuck in that same pattern. However, you are now in a position to support your church to a greater degree. You simply have not paused to think about it.

This weekend can serve as a time to pause to think about what we contribute. Is it too much according to your financial situation? Is it too little according to your financial situation? Or is it a proportionate, healthy and generous contribution approaching a 10% tithing?

We are not asked to neglect our every day needs of sustenance. We are asked to support our church according to each of our own financial situations.

A gutsy message? Perhaps. However, when is the last time you heard a priest or a minister suggest that a person consider giving less money to the Church? It certainly gets the attention of people and causes them to pause to seriously consider where they fall in terms of their giving.

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