Meditations, Reflections, Bible Studies, and Sermons from Kowloon Union Church  

“Putting in Your Two Cents”

A sermon preached at Kowloon Union Church on Sunday 11 November 2018, the twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost, by the Rev. Dr. Judy Chan. The scripture readings that day were I Kings 17: 8-16, Hebrews 9: 24-28, Mark 12:38-44.

Today’s Gospel story is one often preached on Stewardship Sunday, near the end of the year. The idea is to get the congregation thinking about what they will pledge to the church for the coming year, whether that means money, time or talent. Let me make clear that Pastor Phyllis and Pastor Maggie have not asked me to preach a Stewardship sermon this morning. All they asked for was a sermon. But sermons are based on a Biblical text, so I will need to talk about money.  But rest assured, the message today is about more than money, even if that’s where it starts. So let’s start.

Jesus is with his disciples in Jerusalem. They are at the part of the Temple where people gave their offerings. Scholars say it may be the area called the Court of Women, not because it was a special place for women, but an area where women were allowed to go. At the Temple there were a dozen or so metal chests for offerings. Each chest had a particular use – one for new shekel dues, another for old shekel dues, another for bird-offerings (I think that means money to buy the birds, not the actual birds themselves!), others to buy wood or frankincense or gold for the Temple, and lastly six freewill offering boxes. Obviously a busy place.

I don’t know if this was also a popular place to go people-watching, but there Jesus was with his disciples. And many devout Jews too. The rich were dropping in lots of silver and gold coins. Even if you couldn’t see exactly how many, you’d know it was a lot by the sound. The offering boxes weren’t like ours today, square-shaped with a slot on the top. The opening was more like a cone, like the bell of a trumpet, so when you put your money in, people could hear the coins hitting the metal. It was pretty clear then the rich people were giving big bucks.

For the Jews, even the disciples, there was nothing bad about this. People giving generously to the House of God. What’s wrong with that? Otherwise, how could the Temple operate?

In one big cathedral church I’ve been in, there was a small note next to the offering box. The note said, “Just so you know, it costs x amount of dollars a day to run this church. Your donation welcome so that we may keep this place of worship open to all.”

For the disciples, then, nothing unusual was going on that day at the Temple treasury. But then Jesus points out someone else, someone they probably would have missed altogether. It’s a poor widow. She goes over to the freewill offering box, puts in her two small coins, and leaves. If Jesus had asked his disciples at that moment, what just happened, they might have said: “A poor woman put in a bit of money.” On the surface, there was nothing remarkable about her or her offering.

Yet, Jesus says a surprising thing in this story sometimes called the story of the Widow’s Mite. Not ‘might’ like strong, but mite, m-i-t-e, meaning very small, tiny, miniscule.  What the widow gave to the Temple was just a few copper pennies in stark contrast to the gold and silver that the rich lavishly poured into the Temple coffers. But which person did Jesus praise?

The widow, right? Why? Because she gave everything she had out of love and devotion to God. She had only two cents left to her name. She could have given one, but, no, she gave both. By Jesus’ calculation, she gave more than all those rich people put together, because the wealthy still had plenty left over in the bank, but she had nothing.

So, what’s the lesson here for us today? I thought it was obvious when I first read the passage. Then I found out there are similar stories like this in rabbinic literature as well as other cultures. So, I asked myself just what is Jesus trying to teach here? Is the lesson:

-          To give away everything we have to God or charity to demonstrate our faith? That doesn’t sound right, does it? Then we become the objects of charity. Jesus never asked the poor to become destitute for his sake.

-          Is the lesson then that the amount of offering we give isn’t as important as the amount we still have left in our pocket? That sounds very legalistic, as if we can measure spirituality by percentages. If anything, Jesus was never a slave to religious laws, especially those we use to puff ourselves up.

No, I think what Jesus is saying here needs to be understood in the context of Mark. This is part of the last public teaching of Jesus in this Gospel.  So, in effect, I believe what he’s saying is: Look at this poor widow and remember her. Because this is exactly what will happen to me in few days’ time.  I am that poor widow – forgotten, abandoned, powerless, living day to day. God is the only one I can depend on, so l will I offer up everything I have, even if it costs me my very life. And as we know, that’s exactly what it cost him.

So, let’s be clear: the story of the Widow’s Mite is first and foremost about Jesus – His sacrifice for God and our salvation. Any sacrifice we make as humans pales in comparison to Calvary, but the closest example Jesus can find that day is a poor widow at the Temple offering box. The poor widow who put to shame all the mighty and powerful around her because their sacrifices cost them nothing. That’s why Jesus said when you remember her, you remember me. And truly wherever the story of Jesus is told, you also hear about the poor widow who foreshadowed the ultimate sacrifice of our Lord and Savior.

What does it mean then for you and me to remember this poor widow today?  Is there anything that’s relevant to us in the context of 21st century Hong Kong? I think so, if we are willing, if we dare to consider we might be that poor widow too. How? Let me count the ways.

Number One:  Standing before God, we’re all in the same boat as the poor widow, whether we believe it or not.  We don’t like to see ourselves as helpless and poverty-stricken. But, really, what do any of us have to commend ourselves before Almighty God? What do we possess that didn’t come first from the hand of God? Everything - family, friends, education, jobs, status, health, material goods – these are gifts from our Creator, essentials that we depend on that could also disappear in an instant. Haven’t we heard too many stories like that recently? Accidents that wipe out a whole family, disasters that destroy every trace of a village or town, diseases that leave its victims a shell of their former self. Instead of being grateful that these things didn’t happen to us, remember nothing in this life is truly secure, except the grace of God. In reality, we all live and move and have our being day to day only through God’s mercy and goodness. The poor widow knew that keenly and so should we.

The second way we remember this poor widow is to accept her low status in the world as our own. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying being penniless and powerless brings you closer to God. Poverty wasn’t a blessing in Jesus’ time nor our own time. Someone astutely said, “Poverty is like being punished for a crime you didn’t commit.” That was true for the poor widow, but despite all the obstacles, she still embodied many of the traits of a true follower of Jesus Christ. And we need to have them too. A follower who doesn’t seek the honor and glory of this world, a follower for whom ‘humility’ is second nature, a follower who comes to the House of God not to be seen by others, but to see and be seen by God.

A third way we can remember the poor widow is when we give our own offerings. You know there are many humorous sayings about giving to the church, not exactly from the Bible. For example:

-          God loves a cheerful giver, but God will also accept money from a grouch.
-          If it’s more blessed to give than to receive, most people are content to let the other fellow have the greater blessing.
-          If money is the root of all evil, why does the church keep asking for it?

Well, OK, it’s the love of money that’s the root of all evil, but you get the idea. We joke about money because it’s uncomfortable to talk about what many consider a private matter between the giver and God. After all, doesn’t it say in the Bible to keep your giving a secret if you want a heavenly reward? Yes, the Bible does say that, but I would be the first to confess my secret isn’t that I give too much to the church, maybe I have the opposite problem. So, what encouragement can I offer you and me that doesn’t leave us feeling worse than when we came in this morning?

This took some time to figure out. But when I look at the poor widow giving her last two cents to God, what I see is a prayer. Her offering is a prayer without words showing God just how much He means to her. Her offering is a prayer not from her mouth but from her heart that says “I love you this much.”

That’s what our offering is too – it’s a form of prayer – wherever and however we give it. Our offering is a way of telling God just how much Jesus Christ means to us, a prayer that whispers to our Heavenly Father “This is how much I love you.” I hope then that your offering and my offering will always truly reflect how thankful we are for every blessing we’ve received from God, including our salvation in Jesus Christ, His church, and Kowloon Union.

Let me close by playing a song that expresses everything I’ve tried to say this morning, only better. It’s called “Take, Lord” by the English composer Margaret Rizza. The words are based on the famous Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola. I give him the last word in hopes that one day this too is my honest prayer to God: “You have given all to me, To you, Lord, I return it. All is yours, all is yours, Lord, Do with it what you will.”


“Take, Lord” , music by Margaret Rizza

Take, Lord, receive all my liberty,
Take Lord, receive my memory,
My understanding and my entire will,
All that I have and possess. (2x)

You have given all to me,
To you, Lord, I return it.
All is yours, all is yours, Lord,
Do with it what you will.

Take, Lord, receive all my liberty,
Take Lord, receive my memory,
My understanding and my entire will,
All that I have and possess.

You have given all to me,
To you, Lord, I return it.
Give me only your love and your grace,
That is enough for me.

All is yours: do with it what you will.

# posted by Heddy Ha : Sunday, November 11, 2018


May 2004|July 2004|September 2004|November 2004|December 2004|April 2005|July 2005|August 2005|September 2005|October 2006|November 2006|December 2006|January 2007|February 2007|March 2007|April 2007|May 2007|July 2007|August 2007|September 2007|October 2007|November 2007|December 2007|January 2008|February 2008|March 2008|April 2008|May 2008|June 2008|July 2008|August 2008|September 2008|October 2008|November 2008|December 2008|January 2009|February 2009|March 2009|April 2009|May 2009|June 2009|July 2009|August 2009|September 2009|October 2009|November 2009|December 2009|January 2010|February 2010|March 2010|April 2010|May 2010|June 2010|July 2010|September 2010|October 2010|November 2010|December 2010|January 2011|February 2011|April 2011|May 2011|June 2011|July 2011|October 2011|November 2011|December 2011|January 2012|February 2012|March 2012|August 2012|September 2012|November 2012|December 2012|January 2013|February 2013|March 2013|April 2013|May 2013|June 2013|September 2013|October 2013|November 2013|December 2013|February 2014|March 2014|April 2014|May 2014|June 2014|July 2014|August 2014|September 2014|October 2014|November 2014|December 2014|January 2015|February 2015|March 2015|April 2015|July 2015|August 2015|October 2015|November 2015|December 2015|January 2016|February 2016|March 2016|April 2016|May 2016|June 2016|July 2016|August 2016|September 2016|October 2016|November 2016|December 2016|January 2017|February 2017|March 2017|April 2017|May 2017|June 2017|July 2017|August 2017|September 2017|October 2017|November 2017|December 2017|January 2018|February 2018|March 2018|April 2018|June 2018|July 2018|August 2018|September 2018|October 2018|November 2018|
Archived sermons by the Barksdales

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?