The Poor Widow - Sam Buehrer - Sylvania UCC - Nov112018

November 11, 2018


Sermon                           “The Poor Widow”                  November 11, 2018

by Samuel Buehrer

 

1 Kings 17:8-24

8Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 9“Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” 10So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.” 11As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” 12But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” 13Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. 14For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.” 15She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. 16The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.

17After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill; his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. 18She then said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to cause the death of my son!” 19But he said to her, “Give me your son.” He took him from her bosom, carried him up into the upper chamber where he was lodging, and laid him on his own bed. 20He cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I am staying, by killing her son?” 21Then he stretched himself upon the child three times, and cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again.” 22The Lord listened to the voice of Elijah; the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. 23Elijah took the child, brought him down from the upper chamber into the house, and gave him to his mother; then Elijah said, “See, your son is alive.” 24So the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.”

Mark 12:38-44

38As 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, 39and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! 40They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

41He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43Then 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. 44For 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.”

 

 

Sermon                           “The Poor Widow”                  November 11, 2018

by Samuel Buehrer

 

A very devout Christian woman went to a pet store.  She saw a parrot which she adored and decided to buy.  The owner said, “Lady, I couldn’t sell you the parrot.  He was owned by a sailor and he cusses a blue streak.”

But the woman could not be dissuaded.  She believed that the parrot, with Christian love and firm discipline, could be re-trained.  She took the parrot home.  The parrot began cussing and swearing.  She warned the parrot that she was going to put him in the freezer for 10 minutes to teach him to hold his tongue.

When the parrot continues to swear, the woman put the caged parrot in the freezer.  After ten minutes, she took him out.

The shivering parrot seemed remorseful.  “Pppplease llllady,” the parrot said, ‘Wwwwould yyyyou tttttel mmmme jjjust oooone tttthing?   Wwwwhat dddddid tttthe ttttturkey ddddo?

This is a fun little story, but I tell it to you today to get you thinking about what it means to be alive and what it means to be frozen.

In the texts for today, we encounter a story of the widow’s mite, where Jesus observes a widow giving essentially everything she has for the sake of the gospel.  Jesus compares her to the scribes and other religious leaders who appear to give a lot to the workings of the temple (the church) but who in reality give just a pittance of their wealth for the sake of the work of the church. 

The story of the widow’s mite has always challenged me.  I have had difficult times in my life when finances were tight, but I have always felt blessed compared with the circumstances in which this widow finds herself.  I cannot remember a time when I was down to my last two pennies and did not know where my next meal was coming from.

Since today is Stewardship Sunday, the Sunday when we present what we pledge to give to the church for the coming year, we look to the story of the widow’s mite in the gospel of Mark and the story of the widow of Zarapeth to be  a teaching tool for us as we address Stewardship Sunday.  In both stories, the widows who by all appearances have little to offer, become the model for what it means to give.  But to use these texts only for this reason would do a disservice to the text, especially the widow’s mite story.  This story is not about our financial giving, it is about something far greater.   It is really about life and what it means to be fully alive. To understand this, it is worth noting where this story is located in the context of Jesus’ ministry.  The story is not located in the Sermon on the Mount where he teaches all the various aspects of what it means to live a good and righteous life.  The story is located in holy week, following palm Sunday, following the cleansing of the temple and right before the narrative that tells the story of his passion, the story that takes him from the upper room to the cross and beyond.  It would be most unlikely that one of Jesus’ final teachings would be about money and giving to the church (temple).  In this context, the story is not about money but the story of the widow is Jesus’ story.  Just as the widow is giving her all, Jesus is on a journey where he has been giving his all so that others could experience the abundant life.  In fact, just a few days later he will literally give his life for our sake.  By drawing our attention to the widow, he is showing us a model for living.

Not long ago I was introduced to someone who challenged me in a similar way that the story of the widow challenges me.  I was introduced to a fellow by the name of Steve North and had an opportunity to have lunch with him.  Steve runs a ministry in Toledo that is called Lifeline Toledo.  Steve is in his second career.  He gave up his first career to answer the call to ministry.  Once ordained, he was called to serve a local church but it became apparent to him that he was being called to something other.  As he saw society changing he saw that the church had to change as well to remain relevant….So about ten years ago, he left that church and the salary that came with it and moved his family to Toledo to begin a ministry in the heart of the city.  Over the past ten years, he has had 4 heart attacks but none of them stopped him so he says he is good to go for the long haul.  In those ten years he and his family have had to move 10 times, two of which were due to fires where they lost everything they owned (one fire was intentionally set by arson), early on the denomination in which he was serving chose not to support him because he was too entrepreneurial. But despite all of these setbacks, the ministry has taken root and has become a vital ministry that serves a wide variety of people, from the poorest of the poor to the extreme wealthy. It was clear to me that Steve is fully alive.  He is passionate about life.  He has found his calling where his gifts are being used to make a difference in this world. 

Few of are called to do what Steve is doing, but all of us have been given our own special gifts and talents.  The question is whether or not we will give freely of them and become fully alive by doing so.  Or will we become like that turkey in the freezer, frozen and no longer living.

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