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COPPER COINS AND THE JESUS MOVEMENT

 

REV. JODI BARON – November 8, 2015 – Pentecost 24, Year B: Mark 12:38-44

“Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For 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.” In the name of God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Has everyone adjusted to the Time Change yet? I think all of our clocks have been updated by now, but this time change thing takes weeks for the kids (and me) to adjust to, and the morning end of it is usually the tougher part. I think every morning this week I woke up in a panic thinking I was late, which was going to make my kids late, and on and on and on.

I didn’t feel that so much this weekend thought, which was a good thing.

I felt more like I was in a space suspended by time.

That’s kind of what our Diocesan Convention ends up feeling like, to me, each time I go. The rhythm is different than the business I take care of during the week, the prayer is different, the worship is different, and the company is different.

You see, our convention is a time when once a year we get together, as a Diocese, to talk about the work of the church in our area. We elect members to serve on particular committees to carry out the work of convention in between conventions.

And all of the sudden the body of Christ which is The Episcopal Church in Western Michigan becomes waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay bigger than this assembled body here present. There are delegates from every congregation from Niles up to Petosky.

This year we met in Grand Rapids.

I won’t share with you all the details of what happened, but I encourage you to seek out your representatives or any of your clergy and ask us about what we did.

I will share with you, however, a few highlights, because there was a lot said, a lot done, at convention.

Our guest speaker this year was +Stacy Sauls, Bishop of Lexington, Kentucky. +Stacy and his wife were the ones who developed the Reading Camp program that has made its way into a few different congregations within our diocese, as a way to carry out the mission of our church.

(To learn more about our Diocesan Reading Camp click here)

He was invited, however, to speak to convention because of his unique take on the sacraments. Specifically a sacrament many of us may have felt in our hearts but rarely has it ever been talked about in the way sacraments are.

I’m talking about the sacrament of the poor. (To read about this concept in more detail and what +Stacy says about it specifically see here)

Our diocese, indeed the Episcopal Church in general, has a built-in reaction to hunger in our world that manifests through various feeding programs all over the world. In our diocese alone there is everything from daily breakfast and lunch meal programs that serve free meals to anyone who is hungry.

We have food pantries for families and individuals who need a little extra help to get them through the month.

We have baby pantries to help low-income moms with diapers, clothes, books, food, formula, and car seat safety checks!

I could go on and on and on…

Our own parish, as you know, is deeply committed to this issue of hunger in our area, through our food distribution program on the second Thursday of every month, Feeding America.

And let’s not forget what we do every Sunday in virtually every Episcopal Church everywhere…

Eucharist.

The Great Thanksgiving.

Mass.

Communion.

What we are doing today isn’t the end of what we do and who we are as a part of the body of Christ.

But it is where we receive the instituted sacrament of God’s body and blood in the form of a meal, bread and wine.

This sacrament, set within the context of a liturgy that moves us from the collected body to the sent body, is the sign God has given us to reflect the inward and spiritual grace given to us once and for all on that hill 2,000 years ago.

The sent body.

Not the stay-put body.

Not the do-nothing body.

The sent body.

Because at the end of the service, as +Stacy pointed out to us, we are dismissed to go out into the world rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit, or to go in peace to love and serve the Lord, or to go forth in the name of Christ.

In our prayer books, there’s a little word next to the liturgical minister who is to do the dismissal.

In our bulletins it reads “Priest” because that’s who you have, but the prayer book intends for this job, the sending out into the world part, to be done by a Deacon.

The order within our church who is charged with having a particular care and passion for the poor and needy of our communities, who brings those needs to us, proclaims the Gospel for the context with which to read these needs, and then pushes us back out there…to be the body and blood of Jesus…out there!

That particular passion for the poor is what + Stacy was addressing to our convention.

And he equated it with a sacrament because he said that in the poor, we are graced with the spiritual presence of Christ.

That the poor are outward and visible signs of the inward and spiritual grace, just like eucharist.

Just like baptism.

And the poor, in this morning’s gospel, was also a widow.

In both parts of the reading we heard Jesus draw attention to the particular circumstance of the widow. In the first part we heard Jesus tell the crowd to beware of the Scribes who like to wear long robes and say long prayers and they devour widows’ houses. In the second we heard him draw a contrast to the “large sums” being given by the wealthy and the two copper coins given by the widow, which was all she had.

In both parts, Jesus seems to be drawing attention to something that is not seen on the outside of the person, but is a matter of the heart.

That it’s the intention behind the giving that matters not the amount.

He is drawing attention to an inequity in the sacrifice offered by the rich vs. the poor.

Now I am quite aware of this topic being one of great uncomfortability. Money is not something that most people like to talk about. And yet, money is addressed in scripture more than any other topic facing the human condition.

Why is that?

I have a suspicion that the reason Jesus takes on money is because of how important it is to know where your heart is about it.

The religious leaders, in Jesus’ story this morning, were the worst offenders of promoting an unjust system that capitalized on the plight of the poor, specifically the widows of the community.

And the wealthy temple goers were making a big notice of how much they were pouring into the alms boxes.

I picture them bring large jars filled with their offering and then slowly pouring the coins out so that each one hits the ones below with particular attention drawn, proving they are generous beyond measure, right?

And then the poor widow quietly, unsuspectingly, puts in her two copper coins, which together amount to a penny.

What can you do with a penny, is what most people say, right?

But that’s the thing that this Jesus movement is trying to counter!

When we all put our two copper coins (meaning the giving of our full tithe, which is the percentage that scripture teaches is the sacrificial threshold) together…we’ve got some serious resources to do some serious mission in the world!

So, Grace, who might the Holy Spirit be inviting us to be for Holland?

Who might be the widow that Jesus is drawing the attention of his disciples to take note of?

Who might Jesus be warning the masses to beware of due to their exploitative practices?

Who might she be inviting us to be for this bigger thing we’re a part of as a diocese, global church and worldwide anglican communion?

+Whayne told convention this weekend that the Jesus Movement, ++Michael Curry is talking about, is like a dance that we’ve all been invited to join in with.

All of us, with our two copper coins giving our all to participate in the sacraments of the church and help to change the world.

We’ve got work to do, Grace. So let’s go!