Sermon Archives

Sunday, November 8, 2015
The 24th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 27, Year B)
The Reverend Vicki Hesse, Associate
The Economy of God

In the Name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Good Morning!
Thank you for welcoming me to CCGP!  
This last week has been an exciting time
to meet so many of you,
to sense your eagerness,
to learn of your faith, and
to hear of your gratitude
for this parish community.

Thank you for inviting me to serve with you and
for the opportunity to be transformed and to grow together in God.

A few years ago, as a seminarian,
I was invited to participate in weekly
“house mass” and potluck supper
hosted by one of the seminary professors.  
Anyone was invited,
and there were people from nearby churches
who came each week.

The service was very meaningful,
but quickly it became apparent
that I could not afford to bring a fancy dish
and the kitchen in my basement apartment
was too sparse to make great dishes.

It seemed the potluck “system” that existed
supported those who could provide big dishes;
I sensed that perhaps my
embarrassingly small contribution to the potluck would not be sufficient.  
I decided to stop attending.
Gratefully, a friend of mine invited me
to step back and notice.

“Can’t you just be the recipient?” she said
“Allow yourself to participate and
to eat with joy…
All those people who made big casseroles
and hot dishes need someone to eat them!”  

How liberating!  
My part was to give my presence and prayers, and
to “receive” the offered dishes with gratitude.
In that exchange, I learned something
about the economy of God:
that giving and receiving
is grounded in movement of Love
in movement of Love.

And in our gospel text today,
Jesus teaches something
about the economy of God.
It’s not an easy teaching because
we want to feel good
about the widow who gave everything.
Jesus also invites us to look critically
at the scene, with perspective.

We enter this reading
as Jesus teaches the crowds
to notice and to beware of the scribes – the ones,  
– “who love: to walk about in long robes,
to be greeted at the market,
to sit in the best seats and
to eat with prestige at banquets.”
Jesus describes a group of people
who participate in social life and system
in order to gain privilege and status.

And for anyone in the crowd
who has been paying attention,
the scribes’ acts of gathering distinction
are opposed to Jesus previous instructions
– you know, the lessons about
being the “last” and “servant” of all,
renouncing one’s own desires,
taking up the cross and following him.
Recall earlier in the gospel,
Jesus commissions his disciples and says  
to take nothing:
no bread, no money, sandals but only one tunic, and
not to accumulate wealth.   
Jesus’ critique of the scribes is harsh –
but he gets even harsher…

Jesus takes a seated position
“facing” the temple treasury.
This positional description
anticipates that shortly in this gospel,
Jesus will be “facing” the temple mount
and predict its demise.  

Facing the temple treasury,
Jesus pays attention. Perhaps:
•    He sees the trumpet-shaped chests placed around the hall of the court
•    He sees people throwing money in and
•    He hears the coins, clanging when they land
•    He hears voices declaring both the amount and the purpose for which the offer was intended.  

As Jesus watches,
a poor widow put in two little coins,
the smallest coins in circulation.
(pause) clink. clink.

Wait, what?

At this critical point,
Jesus calls the disciples (and us)
to the teachable moment.
See, while the widow’s action
can be interpreted as admirable
and particularly pious
compared to those who are
putting lots of money in the treasury,
Jesus invites us to pause and notice more...

Jesus does not teach
about the measure of the gift.
Jesus does not
offer the widow special approval.
And what else does Jesus point out?
Jesus does call attention to the contrast:
“they gave from their abundance”
and “she gave out of her poverty, all she had.”
Jesus does allow that scene’s contrast to sink in.

Sometimes we need to stop and notice.
In addition to affirming the poor widow’s gift, there is another perspective.

In his remarks about the contrast,
Jesus critiqued the system
that motivated the widow to give and
Jesus condemned the social conditions
that made her poor.
The system that was supposed to
protect the widows, the most vulnerable,
did not do so. And worse – it exploited them.
This system was not God’s reign.   

The lesson that Jesus was teaching?
To notice. To recognize. To pay attention. AND
To open our hearts to be transformed
To ask what is God’s desire
To respond with love and compassion.

When we notice,
when we pay attention,
when we pause and consider another context,
perhaps we can recognize God’s activity.

Pause

Sociologist Marcel Mauss
researched a market system
that exists with tribal cultures in Polynesia.  

He paid attention to how
giving, receiving, and reciprocation of gifts
bound people together in the social fabric.  
“To refuse to give,
to fail to invite,
to refuse to accept,
is to reject the bond of alliance and community.”  

Other researchers have named
a striking characteristic of such an economy:
the mobility of the gift.
 
“Whatever has been given
is supposed to be given away and not kept…

If kept, something of similar value
should move in its stead.
The only essential is this:
*the gift must always move.”  

In this way, social connections
of alliance and community between all persons
are celebrated, strengthened, and affirmed.
The gift must always move.

In contrast to a dominant market economy
of buying, selling, and concentration of wealth,
God’s economy is about
the circulation of wealth.

And how liberating this is!  
When we notice and pay attention,
we recognize that giving is first and foremost
the activity of God the giver –
and we humans are the receivers of that gift –
giving gifts that always move

God’s giving allows life
to emerge, flourish and be sustained.
God’s giving provides
abundance of earth and ecological richness.  
God’s gifts move
with love
and flow through our lives;
Our role is participation: re-giving and gratitude.

Together, we notice.  
We pay attention. We participate. and
We praise God from whom all blessings flow and flow and flow...
Amen