Mark 12:41-44 (The Message)
Sitting across from the offering box, he was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. One poor widow came up and put in two small coins—a measly two cents. Jesus called his disciples over and said, “The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they’ll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn’t afford—she gave her all.”
Down through history, this anonymous woman’s story speaks. For some it is an encouragement, a shining example; to others, it is a source of shame because of their own smallness and selfishness when it comes to sharing. We do not know the circumstances of this woman’s life, except that she was poor, that she was widowed, and that she gave all she had. But Jesus drew special attention to her – to her generosity, and her obvious faith and devotion to God. His words showed that it’s not necessarily the amount we give, but how willing we are that matters.
I wonder what Jesus would say if he saw what I wrote on my First Church pledge card. He wouldn’t say I gave all I had, but I hope he might say, “Good job. I’m glad you’re a part of my continuing work in the world.”
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for understanding my circumstances. Help me to be honest with you about what I can and cannot do, and help me to be honest with myself about those same matters. Thank you that through my participation in the church, I am joining with your people in all generations in helping your story be told, and your will be done. Amen.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Tomorrow is commitment Sunday at First Church. How do you feel about it? Is making a financial commitment to the church something you feel forced to do? Something you dread? Is it something you take lightly? Or is it something you’re excitedly looking forward to?
The writer of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus endured the cross not only for our salvation, but “for the joy set before him.” How could the agony of the cross be considered joy? Because of what he was accomplishing, because it was what he was called to do, and because of the joy that comes in faithfully following God’s will, despite the cost. What joy might come your way if you increased your commitment to support the church with your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness – and what joy might come through that commitment into the lives of others?
Prayer: Giving God, thank you for all you have done for us in Jesus. Help us as a church family to find joy through following you faithfully. Help me to keep my church membership vows by supporting your work through my prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness; for in so doing, I hope to experience joy in this lifetime and the next. Amen.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Today is the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. You’ve probably noticed the many special investigate reports, documentaries, and magazine articles leading up to this commemoration.
Republicans and Democrats alike – as well as most historians and cultural anthropologists – agree that something happened to us as a nation that day. A young, shining leader was cut down by an assassin’s bullet and somehow, the hopes and optimism he represented seemed to die as well. Within a few years assassination would claim the life of President Kennedy’s brother and civil right leader Martin Luther King, as well. In the years since then much has been said and written about these leaders, their assassins, and conspiracy theories. The sad and simple fact, however is that we live in a world where bad things can and do happen. Nameless thousands of children die every day of hunger and preventable diseases. Nations still threaten one another, spy on one another, and thus spending on national defenses continues to skyrocket around the globe.
Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” It seems that every part of that statement is true: we do and will have trouble, we can and should take heart, and Jesus, our risen Savior, has overcome the world. Even in the midst of fearsome and troubling times, let us not lose faith. Jesus has overcome!
Prayer: O God whose world and intentions we have messed up in so many ways,
Have mercy on us and forgive us. Help us not lose heart, help us to forgive individuals and nations, and help us to learn in new and deeper ways what it means to follow your son, who is the Prince of Peace. For the sake of the redemption you began in him we pray, Amen.
“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”
“Wherever riches have increased, the essence of religion has decreased in the same proportion. Therefore I do not see how it is possible in the nature of things for any revival of religion to continue long. For religion must necessarily produce both industry and frugality, and these cannot but produce riches. But as riches increase, so will pride, anger, and love of the world in all its branches. “
-- John Wesley (1703-1791)
This is one that troubled John Wesley, and he never found a way around it. Instead, he simply warned the early Methodists to guard their hearts and minds carefully, so that the love of money did not corrupt their walk with God. Jesus never said rich people can’t get to heaven, but he did say it was difficult. Many of us have known the struggle between God and money that Jesus described in Matthew 6.
We are just a few days away from Commitment Sunday at Bartlesville First Church. How are you feeling and reacting to this decision-making time? Are you looking for ways and reasons to not give, or are you welcoming the opportunity to support God’s work and to change lives in Jesus’ name? How are you doing with the never-ending battle? Are you willing to trust God to provide for your needs, and to use you to help others?
Prayer: Help me to act in accordance with the teachings of Jesus and the wisdom of your people throughout the ages, O Lord. When my journey on this earth is done, help me to have invested well in the Kingdom that has no end. Through Jesus our helper I pray, Amen.
Psalm 118:24 (ESV)
"This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it."
An old tale: In Budapest, a man goes to the rabbi and complains, "Life is unbearable. There are nine of us living in one room. What can I do?" The rabbi answers, "Take your goat into the room with you."
The man in incredulous, but the rabbi insists. "Do as I say and come back in a week." A week later the man comes back looking more distraught than before. "We cannot stand it," he tells the rabbi. "The goat is filthy." The rabbi then tells him, "Go home and let the goat out. And come back in a week." A radiant man returns to the rabbi a week later, exclaiming, "Life is beautiful. We enjoy every minute of it now that there's no goat-- only the nine of us."
Isn’t it true that “things could always be worse?” Many people, however focus on the few things that are not good rather than the many things that are good. Today, you are alive. You are loved by God, and there are people who care about you. Your mind and body function in a miraculous way. We belong to God forever. Aren’t these reasons to rejoice?
Prayer: Yes, Lord it’s true: I’ve sometimes focused too much on the negative, and failed to properly appreciate all that is good, miraculous, and gracious about life. Forgive me, and grant me a new, more grateful wonder about the goodness of life. Amen.