“Take a Risk, I Dare You” Mark 12:41-12:44 November 12, 2017
Stewardship Commitment Sunday
A man came to the Lutheran Church and asked to see the pastor. “Pastor,” he said, “My dog died and I would like a Christian burial for him.” The Pastor said, “I’m sorry to hear about your dog, but we Lutherans don’t do funerals for dogs. You might want to try one of the churches down the street. Some of them will do most anything.” The man turned sadly and said, “I’m sorry you won’t do my dog’s funeral, but I understand. I’ll try one of the other churches. But would you tell me how much is appropriate to leave for a memorial for the church? I was thinking of giving a $10,000 memorial in honor of my dog.” “Wait a minute,” the pastor said. “You didn’t tell me that your dog was Lutheran…”
Money speaks. It always gets attention. It got attention that day long ago in the temple.
There were 12 large horn-shaped receptacles to receive offerings in the temple. The people would come by and toss their money in the horns. They didn’t have paper money – large coins make more noise than small ones; gold and silver have a nicer ring than copper. Many coins sound much better than few coins.
People aren’t dummies. They had figured out that if you want to really impress people then put in lots of large coins. And people were doing it that day in front of Jesus and his disciples.
Then Jesus heard two faint little clunks. A widowed woman had put in two little coins that weren’t worth a lot of money. In today’s currency they might have been worth a dollar or two.
She needed the coins for herself because she didn’t have much money.
- Widows didn’t necessarily inherit their husband’s estate.
- The estate usually went to his side of the family.
She could have put in just one coin instead of all she had. It is obvious she didn’t give to make an impression, or to get recognition.
This poor woman gave EVERYTHING! Why? Because God was EVERYTHING to her:
- No husband to provide for her
- No job to sustain her
- No bank account to provide security; no retirement plan; no investments or property
ALL she had was God. To show her gratitude to God, she gave it ALL back (and was probably the happiest person in the temple that day).
Most of us have all kinds of backups: our bank accounts, credit cards, equity in our homes, friends, family, retirement accounts, Social Security.
- The truth is we convince ourselves quite often that we really don’t even need God!
- We’ve got so many other resources that God stays out of the picture—until a crises hits.
Now there are many reasons for giving to God, but the top one is that giving to God keeps things in perspective and helps us observe the first commandment to “have no other gods.”
- You see, where you place your ultimate trust – that is your God.
- Is your ultimate trust in your wealth? – Your well-being? – Your security in life? – Your investments? – Your retirement plan?
- Again, where you place your ultimate trust – that is your God.
So in your giving to God; your Stewardship becomes a matter of trust, a matter of faith. In fact, good and faithful Stewardship gets right to the center of the Christian Faith.
The poor woman at the temple had nothing but God—but God was enough for her – and it was in God that she put her trust, her faith. Can God be trusted? That’s the bottom line!
Our country’s motto, which shows up on our coins and currency is “In God We Trust.” Kind of ironic isn’t it? So do you? Do you trust God?
People from ancient times believed that since God had given them the best of God’s generous love, they should show their love for God by giving God the best they had. They trusted God by giving their very best.
In those ancient days, people had little money—they traded and bartered in food, cattle, & land. And when they made an offering, a sacrifice, they believed they were honoring God when they gave their first and their best. They called it giving of first fruits.
We need to wise up about our resources: God is not honored or praised when we give God our leftovers. God always wants our very best. The woman, in giving her last coins, is giving her very best. God gave us Jesus Christ, not only God’s first Son, but God’s only Son! And, if we wish to show our gratitude to God we need to give God our first and our best.
I believe one facet of being a devoted disciple of Jesus Christ is implementing the principle of first fruits into our lives. Let me suggest one very practical way that I have heard people in various congregations tell me that they observe. It is a very simple practice and I commend it to you for consideration. And some of you may already do it this way.
Many people have told me that the very first check they write each month or week is their offering to the church. Before they pay any other bill or put anything into savings, or buy food, they give the first-fruit of their income to God as a way of giving thanks for all that God has done, is doing and will do for them.
This is about faith. This is about being a wise and faithful steward – trusting that God will always provide.
From the Gospel story today we heard the story of a risk-taker. The widow was a risk-taker, because she risked everything – put it all on the line.
God has never been one to play it safe. A God not interested in taking risks would never have created this world in the first place; would never had sent Jesus Christ, God’s first & best, to be our Lord Savior. If God risked everything in the person of Jesus Christ for the sake of our salvation, doesn’t it seem likely that this same God might expect more than self-seeking, self-motivated, safety- conscious behavior from those who have been so wondrously blessed, and so wondrously saved?
In the past, taking a “chance” or “being a risk taker” had an entirely negative connotation.
Today we seem more willing to grasp this concept and use it as a standard way for describing life. We now speak of life as being full of all types of possibilities & the need to take risks. But talk is cheap.
The risk called for in today’s gospel lesson is the willingness to open our lives to a power beyond our own. Like explorers of old, we, as both individuals and collectively as a congregation, are on a journey. Like those explorers we must take some risks.
I believe the gospel lesson for today mandates risk taking; mandates that we be modern day risk-takers. As Christian disciples we are to be risk-takers for Jesus Christ; we are to be risk-takers for this congregation and its ministry. The risks God would have us take are for the sake of others.
So this morning I want to lay out some challenges before you; some risks for you to take. Actually I want to “dare you” as it specifically pertains to Stewardship and the giving of “first fruits, though what I challenge you about this morning can apply to almost every aspect of life.
- I dare you to truly listen to God’s call in your life.
- I dare you to answer that call. Take that risk.
- I dare you to be open to what God is planning & unfolding for your life and for this congregation.
- I dare you to take risks in your life and in your relationship with God. Take a risk
- I dare you to change your view on giving – make it your first & your best.
- I dare you to change your thinking about stewardship and the church. Take a risk
- I dare you to give from the heart & not just from your checking account.
- I dare you to get excited about what this congregation is doing and will be doing.
Take a risk.
- I dare you to step out in faith. Take a chance. Meet the challenge. Take a risk.
And if you are willing to take such risks I can guarantee you that by next year at this time you are going to want to stand up and announce what great things God has done for you over the past year. You are going to want to speak about the risk you took;
- how you stepped out financially in total faith,
- how you trusted God during this whole time,
- and how God has blessed you more then ever before.
Remember you can never, ever out give God. It is Biblically impossible. God always, always out gives us. Just look at your lives. Look how generous God has been and is in your life.
Even through your times of trouble God has remained loyal to you – never left you. You may have left God sometime during your life; but God never left you. Again, for God to do so is Biblically impossible.
So, I not only dare you to take a risk, but I dare you to increase your financial giving at this time. I can’t tell you how much to give. I have no idea how much you should give – that’s between you and God. But I can assure you that the principle of first fruits & giving of the best is as relevant a way to honor God today as it was nearly 3-5 thousand years ago.
I suggest that you prayerfully consider how much you should give. Then, as an act of praise and thanksgiving make the first check you write each month or week, or the first bit of cash you spend each week be your offering to God.
Be intentional about it. Celebrate it. Hold the cash or check in your hand and give a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the awesome privilege of showing your gratitude to God for giving you the best in Jesus Christ, and by your giving back to God the first fruits of your income.
Remember, you will never ever be able to out give God.
The challenge is before you. Great things are going to happen. Take a risk. I dare you.
@Rev. Tim Wolbrecht, November, 2017
Here’s the audio recording of the sermon. TO LISTEN, in the SoundCloud window below, CLICK (or double-Click) the red button with the white arrow pointing to the right. If that does not work, then click on the “Sermon 11-12-17” name of the sermon.