Sunday, December 16, 2018

Demonstrating Faith


Demonstrating Faith
Tony E Dillon Hansen
11 November 2018

A reflection based upon 1 Kings 17:8-16 • Psalm 146 • Mark 12: 38-44

Will you pray with me? May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight O Lord, our Rock, Our Redeemer.  Amen.

Happy Armistice Day and I salute all veterans for our honorable service this weekend.   I hope someday that we really do value peace.

Our story today brings us to Jesus telling a couple things.
First Jesus, in no uncertain terms, condemns the scribes of his day.  The scribes are the elites of society that tend to demand everything with everything as a ritual: a show even.

They get the best seats, fine wines, choice food, but Jesus is calling this out as somewhat idolatrous in that they have surrounded themselves with these goods and forget what they are supposed to be doing.  To Jesus this is just a big show and someone needs to expose the reality of it. The scribes are supposed to be taking care of the people in all parts of the community not just float their egos. They have walled themselves off from the poor and the common people they serve and then call it “society”. 

That is not what God wants of the people. God wants a community that takes care of and interacts with each other.  

Further, the impression that Jesus sees is that they are giving large sums not as a demonstration of faith rather a kind of pretentious advertisement to everyone of their good fortune.  This is not a check you can put in an envelope discreetly.  At the temple, their wealth shows up in livestock, grain and real coin.  Jesus calls this behavior out.  For this idolatry, Jesus will later call out the destruction of the temple.

That raises a question then.
Why give?
For duty? Tradition? Personal redemption?
Or do we turn these into opportunities to brandish affluence?

When you give, what do you hope to happen?
That leads to this question, What is the purpose of our faith?
To hope and eventually get what we want -- or is it to be in the community?

That is, How do we demonstrate our faith?

Then along comes this poor widow. In this society, even more than today’s, women cannot have property and have no means for income without a man in the household or being a prostitute. We see this in the stories of Ruth, Naomi (Ruth 1) and Zarepheth (1 Kings 17).

How much can you buy with a penny?

This story reminds me of my youth when the church would give us these boxes of envelopes for giving money to the church. 
Now as a youth, our family was lower middle class , blue collar, two-income household just to scrape by. 
Let’s just say these envelopes did always get used by us kids.
For me, I had great joy when I would have 5 bucks in my pocket and the priest is up there asking for a piece of that which I don’t get very often…
There were these promises of heavenly rewards and such.
Yet, despite not having much, when I did and I could share, there would be some joy in that.

Why is the contribution important?
Partially to me, I was finally a participant in the community. I did my part.
Does wealth define your faith?

That was why my dad, I and host of many wanted to serve in the military
-- as a way to be a part of the community by serving the country. 
Like many fine soldiers and first responders, we come from lower middle class and poverty and we know what our community faces daily.
(I have seen People getting evicted, having nothing to eat, experiencing racial injustice, gay slurs, and simply being ridiculed for not having money. )
When you don’t have much, as in not having money like others, we can offer what we can
-- our life and limb in service so that others may not have to.

Of those veteran military and first responders, as I said before, I salute you.

In this scripture, the widow is likely giving her literal last penny. Why would someone do that?
What does she hope to get from her gift?

What is truly remarkable about this scene is how much this woman demonstrates her faith by giving the last cent.  You see the smallest action, the smallest bit of hope might be the motivation we have to be better than we are today. 

We know that a gift to good organizations can be rewarding and can go a long way. Especially through the church, that kind of gift can reach out into areas of the community in ways that you and I cannot imagine.  That is one way we can feed the homeless, give shelter, provide care to battered women  or to vets with PTSD, or even to help provide rides so people can go vote. There are just a host of things that money can do.  Our Psalm 146 reminds of this.

So if you give, realize what that can do for the community that you live, and it is ok to feel honor in that giving.  Yes, praise the Lord.

The widow challenges us with this and Jesus essentially asks how do you show your faith?
It comes down to this,
Jesus reminds us this is not a sport or contest to see who can give more because the gift whether the smallest or the largest has to come from your heart.

Was the woman crazy for giving her last cent or was it like buying a lottery ticket with that last bit?
Maybe it was her duty and willingness to participate in community. 
Maybe it was honest to goodness faith.
Maybe she was hoping for a little bit of God’s miracle
because God’s miracle is not just for one country, elites or people with means. 

You can have the miracle, the hope and the faith that this widow has. 
You have God working around you and inside you now. 
You just feel it in your heart and that gift is real.

Better yet, always remember that  
You and I are a blessed miracles of God, blessed children of God, right here.
Demonstrate the faith in your heart.
“Praise the Lord oh my soul”

Thanks Be to God.

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