Saturday, May 25, 2019

“The Foundation for Sacrifice”

            As we celebrate Memorial Day this weekend, it is fitting that we focus on the foundation for sacrifice.  Memorial Day is a special day set apart to remember and give thanks for military personnel who died in the service and defense of our country.  So, this Sunday, I want to explore sacrifice.  Specifically, I’m interested in the question, “What empowers someone to make a major sacrifice?”

            My scriptural basis for thinking about sacrifice is the story of the poor widow’s offering in the Temple, found in the Gospel of Mark:

Jesus “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.’”

In this story, Jesus and his disciples visit the great Temple in Jerusalem.  In the Temple, they go to the “Court of the Women” where the Temple treasury is located.  It is at the Treasury that people stop to make their financial offerings to God by dropping their money in one of 13 treasury chests, called Shofars.  This was usually a good place for people watching. 

            Jesus and his disciples sit down, across from where the Shofar-chests are located.  Frequently, rich members of society would deposit large sums of money.  However, as the various people came and deposited their offerings, a poor widow meekly crept up to the treasury and deposited two small copper coins, which together were worth about one penny.  Two such coins were practically worthless in the economy.

            However, Jesus turns to his disciples and says, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury.”

            We can imagine that Jesus’ disciples were initially perplexed by his observation.  Surely, Jesus had witnessed the vast sums of money which the wealthy had placed in the treasury.

            Jesus responds by observing, “For all of them [the rich] have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

            Again, as I reflect on sacrifice this Memorial weekend, my question is “What empowers someone to make a major sacrifice?”  Consider all of those who gave their lives in the service and defense of our country.  Perhaps some of their comrades turned and fled that day.  Yet, they remained and gave the ultimate sacrifice.  What empowered them to make their sacrifice? 

In my proclamation, I will suggest that what empowers and enables major sacrifice has to be a deep love and a great hope.  In order to make a major sacrifice, we must have a deep love for what (or who) will be the beneficiary of our love.  Secondly, a major sacrifice must be grounded in a great hope that the sacrifice will actually make a major difference.  So, the military person who dies in the service of our country must have a deep love for our country and also a great hope that their sacrifice will make a huge difference.  As a nation, we are grateful for that sacrifice.  Similarly, the widow in the Temple must have had a deep love for God and also a great hope that her sacrifice would make a huge difference.

I once had a Bishop who was fond of saying that he thought all United Methodist clergy should be willing to do three things at a moment’s notice:

1.      Pray
2.      Preach
3.      Die for Jesus

I have always thought that I would be able to pray or preach at a moment’s notice.  But, I think that the only way we could say with certainty that we were willing to die for Jesus is if we were presented with that scenario.  Many Christians have been willing to die for Jesus—both in the past and sometimes even today.  I, personally, have never been confronted with that possibility.

            Still, I think that the Bishop’s challenge raises an important question for me and all other Christians:  How deep is our love for Jesus and how great is our faith (hope) in Christ?  Do we have the depth of love and faith exhibited by the poor widow?

My church is Christ United Methodist, located at 4530 “A” Street.  We have three worship services on Sunday mornings at 8:30, 9:45, and 11:00.  The 8:30 and 11:00 services feature a traditional worship format and the services are held in our Sanctuary.  “The Gathering” at 9:45 is held in our Family Life Center (gym), and it is more informal and interactive.  Join us this Sunday (May 26th), as we commemorate Memorial Day and reflect upon the foundation for sacrifice.

Everyone is welcome and accepted because God loves us all.