Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Giving Everything We Have-- Sunday's sermon from Mark 12:38-44

Below is this past Sunday's sermon from Mark 12:38-44, "Giving Everything We Have".  You can read it and listen to it.  I went back and added in some of the notes I had hand-written in, though I didn't say them exactly as I wrote them.  As always, there are things said that aren't in the transcript.  But, even if you don't listen to the sermon, you get an idea of what was said.  If you listen, but don't read, you hear everything (but don't always get the references that are in the written version).  I include both now that we started recording our sermons.

[The reason we started recording our sermons was for those who miss the service, for shut-ins, for folks who might want to share with others.]

I will also include a few extra things in this post, such as the sign outside the church, the bulletin cover, etc.

“Giving Everything We Have”
Mark 12:38-44 (CEB)
November 11th, 2018 (25th Sunday after Pentecost, Veterans Day)
Flintstone UMC

Mark 12:38-44 (CEB)

38 As he was teaching, he said, “Watch out for the legal experts. They like to walk around in long robes. They want to be greeted with honor in the markets. 39 They long for places of honor in the synagogues and at banquets. 40They are the ones who cheat widows out of their homes, and to show off they say long prayers. They will be judged most harshly.”41 Jesus sat across from the collection box for the temple treasury and observed how the crowd gave their money. Many rich people were throwing in lots of money. 42 One poor widow came forward and put in two small copper coins worth a penny. 43 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I assure you that this poor widow has put in more than everyone who’s been putting money in the treasury.44  All of them are giving out of their spare change. But she from her hopeless poverty has given everything she had, even what she needed to live on.”
THANKS BE TO GOD.                      
Today we continue in the Gospel of Mark.  Today’s passage can be looked at in several different perspectives. 

I suggest that this passage allows us to see stewardship in a different light.  Let’s look at it through the lens of stewardship.  At the end, I will suggest some other ways we might look at this passage.  As we prayerfully consider the passage, may we be open to the Holy Spirit’s leading.

The stewardship theme comes from this passage as the widow is giving her all to the temple treasury.  What IS stewardship?  Is it only giving of our money?

No, when we talk about stewardship, we are talking about being stewards of anything that we can give: time, energy, gifts, all resources, and yes, even financial resources.

[If you ever want to know where your money goes, you can see the chart in the UMHandbook on page 25.][These are available on site at each of the three churches in the Holston Georgia Parish.]

Giving, in whatever form---be it time, energy, gifts, or finances--comes down to being a matter of the heart.  What we give, what we do comes from our hearts, from our relationship with God.

We see that in today’s passage, where Jesus points out that the widow has given all she had. 

Physically and financially, what DID she give?  She gave 2 lepta. A lepta was the smallest Greek copper coin.  It was equivalent to about the size of our dime.  Each lepta was worth about 1/128th of a single day’s pay.  One source I found noted that these coins were actually bronze, that they were minted during the reign of Alexander the Great (336-323 BC) and remained in circulation up to the time of Christ.  A lepta could buy a bath at the public bathrooms.

This is all this widow had.  It wasn’t much.  Yet it was everything.  Her choice was to give it to the temple treasury. 

The poor weren’t required to give, yet she gave.  The widow reminds us that giving is a matter of the heart. 

What do we learn from the widow who gave her all?

What does it mean for us to give our all today?

Because we have established that giving isn’t solely giving of our finances, let’s consider giving our love as one way of stewardship that which God gives us to give others.

Have we given all we have in sharing the love of Christ with others?

Who isn’t here? (Look around…. Those who normally come, but might be out for whatever reason…. How can we reach out to them?  Call?  Send a card?)

Who isn’t here?  (those who don’t already have a church home, are put off by the church, or who have never been to church--who in your neighborhood, where you shop, where you work, etc.?)

How are we doing in engaging folks in conversation, getting to know their names, building relationships, asking them questions about their lives, telling them about our faith as that relationship grows, and inviting them to a dinner, a gathering, a picnic in the pavilion, a worship service, etc.?

What is a practical action you can take today, this week to become a better steward of what God has given you to give to others?  Whether that is giving of your time, your energy, your gifts, your money, think about something practical you can offer.  Write it down. 

As we look at this passage and consider how it speaks to us, in Dancing with the Word, Rev. Janet Hunt noted three reminders that this passage might offer:

  • A reminder to pay attention to those we might normally ignore — to pause long enough to hear the stories behind the most obvious one.  For oh, don’t you just wish Jesus had stopped her and asked her where she lived, what routines made up her every day, how long since her husband died, or what finally compelled her to come and give away her last bit of money that day?
  • A reminder to all of us of what really matters in this world?  That it’s not the size of the gift that matters, but the manner in which it is given?
  • A model for all of us of what it is to be utterly dependent?  Oh, I expect this is a position not a one of us would envy but that all of us are called to as we live in our relationship with God.
She then went on to offer to some reflection questions:
  • What do you think Jesus is trying to teach in his using the widow’s gift in his teaching today?
  • Can you think of examples when someone has given their ‘all?’  What did that look like? What does ‘giving your all’ look like for you?
Lastly, as we look at this passage, maybe there is a glimpse into Jesus.  Jesus points out to his disciples this widow who is giving all she has, literally “the whole of her life” (verse 44).   She is giving this to a system that is corrupt and condemned.  From here in Mark, Jesus goes from public ministry to the temple discourse to the passion narrative.  Jesus gives the whole of his life to a system that is corrupt and condemned.  What can we learn from the passage if we look at it in this light?  We can see that we too are called to give our all, give everything we have, give the whole of our life for a world, a system that is corrupt and condemned.  (ideas and notes from Feasting on the Word, Pete Peery, 287, 289)

Because of our relationship with God, we freely share the gift that we received and we do not judge who is or who is not worthy of such a gift of what we have to offer.  We are called to offer what we have. 

James Edwards reminds us in The Gospel According to Mark: “No gift, whether of money, time, or talent, is too insignificant to give if it is given to God.” (382)

We remember that it all belongs to God to begin with and that what we are giving is not ours, but God’s.

May we be the church that Jesus calls us to be, to bring hope and healing to a world that desperately needs it.

May we give everything we have for the sake of sharing the good news with others, recognizing that Jesus knew how to take time apart to rest, pray, and prepare in order to be able to give all that he gave.  Jesus gave of himself from his relationship with God.

We, too, are called to be diligent in taking time apart to rest, pray, and prepare as we follow Christ’s example, giving from our relationship with God.

The widow’s example is all about discipleship.

As we give from our relationship with God, we will continue to grow as disciples of Christ, continuing the ripple effect of making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

May it be so.






Comments and feedback are always welcome.  I'm interested to learn about you and your journey.

May there be adventure on your journey,


Monday, November 12, 2018

Centering Prayer-- a great practice

Last week I went up to Sewanee for a continuing education course sponsored by the Beecken School of Theology: A New Spirituality of Leadership: Using Family Process to Deepen & Revitalize Congregational Life.

One of the books on the reading list was by Paul David Lawson: Old Wine in New Skins: Centering Prayer and Systems Theory.  (By clicking on the link you can read some of the book.) As it was the shorter of the two books, I was able to read it while there.

I found this book interesting and informative.  Though I have practiced Centering Prayer for quite a few years, I have not seen it shared in this context.

Since I was reading about centering prayer and how that might be helpful to leaders and congregations, I decided it might be a good idea to practice some centering prayer while there.

Friday morning I opened up my Centering Prayer app from Contemplative Outreach on my phone.  I needed to change the background since summer is now gone (that tells you it has been a little while since I last used it) and I also changed out the prayers I use from the ones I had been using.  Once I had all the settings in order, I embarked on my 20 minute journey of centering prayer.

Below is the background I chose for now (fire), along with the new prayers and the beginning and the end of the session.

Centering prayer is one of those practices that brings calm and quiet to my soul.  It gives me peace and strength.

I miss not being in group centering prayer and hope to get back into that too.

For now, I'm grateful for the app that allows me structure to focus on my own.

In case you didn't know there was 'an app for that', you can find information on it on the Contemplative Outreach website here or on your phone's play store.

If you want to learn more about Centering Prayer, click here.

Peace and blessings on your journey, 


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

The Greatest Commandment-- sermon from 11/4/18

This past Sunday was All Saints' Day and Communion Sunday.  The passage that I preached from the lectionary was from my favorite Gospel, Mark: Mark 12:28-34.

What is written below isn't exactly what is shared, but because we've started recording our sermons, you can hear them now too.  I will post the recordings at the end.  I will also post a couple of pictures that I am referring to, for the visual learner.

I am grateful for a voice that spoke up at Flintstone UMC that reminded me at one point in the sermon to add another category to "love thy _______ neighbor."  I did.  I added it right then and then added it at the next church.  I had not meant to leave that category out, but was thinking in basic categories.  Things aren't always so basic.

Another reflection is that as I was leaving FUMC to head to SUMC, they were singing "Pass It On".  That song gets me.  I stayed around for an extra moment or two to soak it in.  It probably got me more than normal on this particular Sunday, because it is one of those camp songs I grew up with and this past weekend was a camp reunion weekend.  Because of technology, I was able to enjoy some of their gatherings, but not all.  I was pretty busy with an awesome weekend myself, with a family wedding in which I was incredibly honored to be not only the Aunt of the Bride, but the Officiant.  Rev. Aunt is what I called myself in some of the pictures. :)

Today I saw a quote by Brené Brown that goes along with the sermon, reminding us of everyone's humanity.  My 5th grade teacher, Beth Beckler, posted it.  Brené Brown's writing and speaking challenge and encourage me.  Here is the quote:

“Here’s what I believe: 1. If you are offended or hurt when you hear Hillary Clinton or Maxine Waters called bitch, whore, or the c-word, you should be equally offended and hurt when you hear those same words used to describe Ivanka Trump, Kellyanne Conway, or Theresa May. 2. If you felt belittled when Hillary Clinton called Trump supporters “a basket of deplorables” then you should have felt equally concerned when Eric Trump said “Democrats aren’t even human.” 3. When the president of the United States calls women dogs or talks about grabbing pussy, we should get chills down our spine and resistance flowing through our veins. When people call the president of the United States a pig, we should reject that language regardless of our politics and demand discourse that doesn’t make people subhuman. 4. When we hear people referred to as animals or aliens, we should immediately wonder, “Is this an attempt to reduce someone’s humanity so we can get away with hurting them or denying them basic human rights?” 5. If you’re offended by a meme of Trump Photoshopped to look like Hitler, then you shouldn’t have Obama Photoshopped to look like the Joker on your Facebook feed. There is a line. It’s etched from dignity. And raging, fearful people from the right and left are crossing it at unprecedented rates every single day. We must never tolerate dehumanization—the primary instrument of violence that has been used in every genocide recorded throughout history.”
- Brené Brown, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

“The Greatest Commandment”
Mark 12:28-34 (CEB)
November 4th, 2018 (24th Sunday after Pentecost, All Saints Day/Communion)
Flintstone UMC, Simpson UMC

Mark 12-28-34 (CEB)

28 One of the legal experts heard their dispute and saw how well Jesus answered them. He came over and asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”
29 Jesus replied, “The most important one is Israel, listen! Our God is the one Lord, 30 and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength. 31 The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourselfNo other commandment is greater than these.”
32 The legal expert said to him, “Well said, Teacher. You have truthfully said that God is one and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love God with all of the heart, a full understanding, and all of one’s strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself is much more important than all kinds of entirely burned offerings and sacrifices.”
34 When Jesus saw that he had answered with wisdom, he said to him, “You aren’t far from God’s kingdom.” After that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.
THANKS BE TO GOD.                      
Today we celebrate All Saints Day and Holy Communion as we gather together to worship in spirit and in truth.

Both All Saints Day and Communion are opportunities for us to remember.  We remember those who have gone before us long ago over the ages to those who have passed more recently.  The great cloud of witnesses of the faith include those we have never met as well as our friends and family members. 

During communion we remember Jesus Christ as we share the body and blood.  It is a time set apart for us to remember Jesus’ life, his love, his teachings.

Today’s Scripture passage reminds us of the greatest commandment.

Jesus made it fairly simple to follow the most important aspects of the faith.  When asked what the most important commandment of all was, Jesus replied from the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4-9: Israel, listen! Our God is the one Lord, 30 and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength.  He then went on to say: 31 The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourselfNo other commandment is greater than these.”

The 10 commandments can be divided into either of these two commandments.

1-4—these relate to loving God
5-10—these relate to loving neighbor

What DOES it mean to love your neighbor? 

I have seen signs on social media to remind me and maybe you have too. 

One is: Love your neighbor—NO EXCEPTIONS.  Other signs I saw were in sign or t-shirt form and said:  Love thy ______ neighbor.  (FILL IN THE BLANK.)

One said:
Love thy homeless neighbor.
Love thy Muslim neighbor.
Love thy black, gay, white, Jewish, Christian, atheist, racist, addicted neighbor.

Another sign posted outside of a church had “love thy immigrant neighbor, thy disabled neighbor”.

We could add:

“Love thy Republican neighbor.  Love thy Democrat neighbor.” 

Is there anyone that you find hard to love?  Add them to the list.

Our nation has experienced hate crimes this past week—one in Pittsburgh to our Jewish family as they gathered to worship in the synagogue a week ago Saturday and in Kentucky at a Kroger grocery store the same weekend, two African Americans were killed and it was also determined to be a hate crime.

A quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.:  “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

You may have seen these signs that I’ve seen in yards locally and in other communities remind us not to hate:

“Hate has no home here”—written in several languages.

If we are allowing hate in our hearts, minds, and actions, then we are not allowing room for love.  We must make a way to get rid of fear and ignorance so that hate dissipates and love grows.

Do our words and actions reflect and embody love of God and neighbor? (Pause.)

Today’s passage invites us to the table of theological dialogue where we can engage in holy conversations.  Holy conversations allow us to listen to the other. 

One author I read this past week writes “Jesus’ response has created a space down the ages for honest conversation not only across Christian divides, but also among Jew and Christian and Muslim.” (Cynthia Jarvis, Feasting on the Word, 262.)

We need to create spaces for holy conversations with one another, especially with those with whom we don’t see eye to eye.  It is an opportunity to learn from the other and to recognize humanity in each other.

Another author stated that we can learn from Jesus’ example of teaching his disciples: “When Jesus teaches his disciples to love their neighbors as themselves, he is alluding to the intrinsic equality among humans that is basic to any conception of justice.” (Victor McCracken, Feasting on the Word, 264)

The Gospel of Jesus Christ of loving God and loving neighbor is lived out in our daily discipleship. 

As you thought about earlier who is the blank in your “love thy __________ neighbor”, think about inviting that person into a dialogue to learn more about them, their life, their story.  Having a holy conversation with that person will allow you to see that person’s humanity. 

If you aren’t sure how to have these holy conversations of listening, these courageous conversations with others, there are resources available.  Let me know.  I’ve posted and shared some of them in the past that relate to humanity and sexuality for General Conference, but the United Methodist Church has resources on holy listening and guidelines for conversations on lots of topics that might be helpful for you as you sit down with the person(s) that fills in the blank for your “love thy ___________ neighbor.”

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we seek to grow in our daily discipleship so that we can make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.  When we love God and love our neighbor as ourselves, we are part of the solution.

As you come to the table today to receive the grace offered to you by Jesus Christ, may you go forth and share it with freely with all others.



Listen to sermon at FUMC
Listen to sermon at SUMC


To read the article connecting Tom Hanks and his comment that went viral with his post to "love thy neighbor", click on the link: https://theincline.com/2018/10/16/tom-hanks-snapped-that-viral-love-thy-neighbor-photo-at-pittsburghs-saint-mary-of-the-mount/


You can find other signs that are similar for love and for hate not having a home.  A sign that we have posted in our yard is "love and acceptance practiced here".

Peace and calm in your journey as you seek to love the other,