“Christianity’s Contradiction”

Mark 12:38-44

11 November 2018

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard, Pastor

West Walworth: Zion & East Rochester United Methodist Churches

 

Mark 12:38-44 (http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=408599693)

 

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

 

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

 

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Prayer.

 

Christianity is full of contradictions.

If you haven’t noticed,

You haven’t been paying attention.

 

I recall a seminary professor teaching our class that

A church building is a reflection

Of the God the people worship.

 

A modest building would reflect a simple, unpretentious God.

A cathedral would reflect a majestic, powerful, awesome God.

A fully accessible building communicates a God that welcomes and accepts everyone,

While a building full of stairs tells some that “you’re not welcome here.”

A stone-cold building,

Like an altar that is set back or separated from the congregation,

Reflects a distant, unapproachable God.

A pulpit that is high and lifted up may mean the primacy of scripture,

Or it may mean class and clergy privilege.

A building in disrepair, cluttered, or not clean communicates

That we’ve surrendered to apathy,

We’ve thrown in the towel, and

We’ve just given up believing in our God.

 

What does our building say about the God

In whom we place our faith?

 

I believe in a majestic, powerful, awesome God,

Yet, I’d rather we be serving meals for the hungry

And building homes for the homeless

Than buying a pipe organ or installing Tiffany stained glass.

 

I believe in a loving God of mercy and grace,

So, it just about kills me to see that it is costing us $12,000 for a new furnace to be installed this week.

I’d much rather see our resources used to expand worship attendance;

Making disciples of Jesus Christ

For the transformation of the world.

 

I’d much rather see church funds used to send short term missionaries abroad to feed and clothe families, build houses, fit people to wheel chairs, and communicate the fact that

God loves them and we love them, too.

 

But, winter is coming.

Our sanctuary has to be heated.

 

Christianity is full of contradictions.

Disciples of Jesus have to make choices.

Often those choices are hard, sacrificial, sometimes contradictory.

 

The choices we make

Communicates the priorities we make in life

And the God in whom we believe.

 

I choose to wear long robes when leading worship.

It was a decision I made years ago;

Fully aware of Jesus teaching about the scribes in the Gospel of Mark.

Unlike the scribes,

I chose to wear liturgical clothes when leading worship,

Not to draw attention to me,

But to reflect a reverence and respect in my approach to God.

Yes, the money used to pay for this stole

Could have been used for the poor;

Instead, I made the intentional choice

To purchase these robes, stole, and cincture

That you may approach God with the same level of reverence, respect, and awe of God as I do.

 

The question that must be addressed is

Who benefits; myself or God?

Let there be no misunderstanding,

These robes are not meant for your benefit or mine.

These robes are solely meant to benefit the Lord.

 

The choices we make

Communicates the priorities we establish

And the God in whom we believe.

 

It is my choice to talk about money and giving.

Stop complaining that all you hear from going to church

Is begging for money.

I choose to address money and giving because

The Bible has 900 more references to money than to sexuality.

(Pulpit Resources, 2003)

I address money and giving because

It is the most frequently cited topic that Jesus preached and taught about.

I address money and giving because Jesus teaches

“Where your treasure is, there will be your heart also.” (Matthew 6:21)

 

Money and giving is called stewardship;

And it is Gospel.

 

My wife, Cynthia, and I made the decision a long time ago

To tithe to the church.

Ten percent of our income is given in a charitable contribution to the churches I serve;

That’s before taxes, before other bills are paid, before we have any left over to spend on our children or ourselves.

It took us a while to get there, like it does most people,

But now that we tithe 10% of our income to the church, there is no going back.

 

Allow me to be crystal clear;

I’m not boasting.

We don’t tithe to make ourselves look good in your eyes or anyone else.

We don’t give to support a budget or program or a building.

We don’t contribute out of obligation.

 

We tithe because

Our trust is in the Lord,

Who has provided, is providing, and we are confident that the Lord will continue to provide for all our mortal needs.

 

We tithe because

The grace and love of God needs to be shared,

The Gospel needs to be propagated,

Jesus Christ must be glorified.

 

We tithe because

God’s kingdom must be spread,

For this generation,

And for generations to come.

 

Tithing is way more satisfying than any luxury we might like to imagine.

The happiest people on the planet are those who are generous,

Who give to the tithe, and beyond.

 

I personally invite you to join my family in living the tithe.

The tithe boldly proclaims, our trust is in the Lord!

The tithe boldly makes the stand that this is God’s kingdom!

And it is a kingdom of

Love and grace,

Justice and peace

Forgiveness and salvation.

 

Disciples of Jesus are asked to make choices;

Choices that are sometimes hard, sacrificial, or contradictory.

 

Our choices have meaning.

Our choices mean something.

Our choices communicate what we value,

What we believe,

In whom we place our faith.

 

The widow gave “out of her poverty everything she had, all she had to live on.” (12:44)

Where would her next meal come from?

That was not her concern.

She had no need to trust in her own resourcefulness.

Her trust was in the Lord.

She believed the Lord would continue to provide

She was confident that she would be fed.

She gave everything.

And so can we.

Amen.