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Welcome to Sunshine Cathedral. This is a house of prayer for all people. All are welcome here. Whoever you are and where ever you are on your spiritual journey you bring special gifts to share. And we pray that you will find spiritual nourishment for your journey here.
The Call to Worship
For the abundance of spiritual blessings in this house of worship
ALL: Loving God we thank you
For blessing us with faith, generosity and the ability to serve the poor and needy
ALL: Loving God we thank you
Loving God, develop in us a passion to be Contagious Christians.
ALL: May our actions be motivated by love and our passion be for your people.
O gracious God,
who generously lavishes our lives with goodness,
create in our hearts a deep center of gratitude,
a center that grows so strong in its thanksgiving
that sharing freely of our treasures becomes the pattern of our existence.
Remind us often of how much you cherish us,
of how abundantly you have offered gifts to us,
especially in the hours of our greatest need.
May we always be grateful for your reaching into our lives
with surprises of joy, growth and unconditional love. Amen.
The wisdom of Aristotle
Of all the varieties of virtue, generosity is the most beloved.
Those who give freely seem to enjoy more.
The Wisdom of Suze Orman
True generosity is an offering, giving freely and out of pure love, no strings attached.
Jesus sat down opposite the collection, and watched the crowd putting money into it. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins…Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than anyone else. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she gave all that she possibly could.”
Reflection by Rev. Dr. BK Hipsher, Virtual Chaplain, Sunshine Cathedral of Second Life
Click on the audio bar below to hear the audio.
Our reading today from Mark chapter 12 is the last parable in a string of parables about how we are to treat each other in community. And this parable of the widow’s offering immediately follows this: Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”
So widows are clearly on Jesus’ mind. The plight of those who are oppressed by the privileged in society is what Jesus is focusing upon. In our reading Jesus sits down and watches people as they make their temple offerings. The story goes that many rich people were throwing in large sums of money. I think it’s important to note that Jesus was not condemning in any way, the rich who were making their offerings. He had just been talking about people who want to be SEEN as having money and power that oppress and take advantage of those who are poor. But here he is observing those who have means doing what they ought to do, offering large sums of money.
Jesus also sees a woman, described as a widow, who comes to offering… a small offering of two coins that equal only a few pennies. And Jesus calls this out as a teachable moment for the disciples. So I want to take just a few moments today to explore what I think Jesus was saying here in this teaching.
This scripture has been used and abused by many church people over the years to shame poor people into giving more than they can afford to the church. And frankly the way this passage is translated in some versions it would appear that Jesus is saying to the poor, give all that you have and when you do that you will be blessed even more than those who have much and give large sums.
But I am very confident in saying to you that I do not believe that was the intent of Jesus’ teaching. I believe with all my heart that Jesus was not saying, “Give all that you have. Give until it hurts. Give your rent money, your food money, and the money you need to pay your bills.” This doesn’t make any sense to me. I believe Jesus was saying, “Give all that you can” not “Give all that you have.” There’s a big difference in those two phrases.
Earlier in this chapter Jesus has said that the Greatest Commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself. How can we love ourselves if we do not care for our own needs and pay our own obligations? That doesn’t make any sense to me.
What Jesus was saying is that the value of the widow’s offering is not measured in the amount of money she gave, rather in her willingness to give whatever she could afford to give. Jesus reiterates that the wealthy are supposed to give from their wealth. He’s observing that no one would fault the widow for not giving her small amount but she gives it anyway.
Which brings me to me second point. Giving has its own reward. Generosity brings its own blessing. The amount or worldly value placed on the offering is of no relevance. Giving itself blesses the giver. Generosity is a spiritual practice. It opens us to the abundant generosity of God’s love for us.
Giving also reminds us that that it is blessed both to give and to receive. It’s important that we give with an open heart and receive with gratitude. When we treat others as though they do not have enough to give, even if we mean well, we are treating them with disrespect. In learning to give from a place of holiness we necessarily learn the spiritual practice of receiving with an open heart.
Jesus is not saying that poor people should give before they have met their own needs. And Jesus is not saying that the widow is blessed more than the rich who give from their wealth. But he is saying that the monetary metric that we place on how much someone gives is irrelevant to the blessing and the spiritual fulfillment we experience in true generosity.
May we be blessed today in learning to give and to receive giving of our love to others as we receive God’s love for us. Amen