November 8, 2015
Rev. Tina Walker-Morin
Pilgrim Congregational Church, UCC
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable to O God, our strength and our redeemer. Amen.
This morning I have a message for you on choices.
As some of you may or may not know, back in college I was a competitive field hockey player. I played for Old Dominion University down in Virginia. We were a good team, ranked in the top five every year for NCAA Division I Field Hockey. My parents loved that I chose to play at Old Dominion because it was only a ½ hour away from home. This meant they could be at every home game, which back in the day were played on Saturday and Sunday each weekend at 1:00pm. My parents also were great travelers. They would drive all up and down the east coast to watch our team play.
In my entire college field hockey career they only missed two games. I remember one time the team was traveling up to play at the University of Connecticut. This was a far trip so we flew, leaving on Thursday afternoon, so we could get a practice in on Friday and then the games on Saturday and Sunday. That Friday afternoon after practice I went to a pay phone to call my parents. I remember standing in the hotel lobby on the pay phone talking to them. Their flight to Connecticut was being delayed and it looked like it was going to be canceled. Knowing them I said, do not drive up here. I knew them and I knew what they were thinking. Since they had the weekend off of work, they might as well drive up to see us play. We ended the conversation with them saying “we will see”.
So Saturday morning comes as part of our pregame activities we have what is called a walk through. During this walk through, often done in the hotel parking lot, we warm up, run around, stretch and then go through some plays. As we are finishing up and I am walking back to my hotel room I see two people reclined in their car seats. Yup, it was my parents. The drove late Friday night into early Saturday morning to get up to Connecticut for my game. My parents sacrificed sleep, time, energy to show up and show their love and support.
Sacrifice we use this word freely now a days. I remember hearing in reference to field hockey, “you have to make sacrifices to be great.” But is that really what sacrifice is all about? Giving up something so that we can achieve personal satisfaction? …What does sacrifice really mean?
In our scripture today there are two contrasting models of behavior. First, a warning against the scribes who are proud and greedy and “for the sake of appearance say long prayers” (Mark 12:40) and secondly a widow who we assume is humble and generous.
Who is this widow and why does her story follow Jesus’ denunciation of the scribes? The scribes are self-righteous. They want to be seen and greeted with respect, which is why they are wearing their long robes and request places of honor and the best seats in the synagogues. They are looking for the praise and respect that their title holds.
The widow on the other hand comes the synagogue quietly going about her business. Widows during this time are low on the totem pole of societal rank. Women were viewed as mentally and physically inferior beings, even as irrational and superstitious. Women needed husbands and sons to have any social standing. So this woman is not only financially poor but is likely without family because her sons would have given her some economic stability. It is men in this society and particularly men with wealth who gain all the attention and fan fair, not a poor widowed woman.
Jesus is sitting across from the treasury (Mark 12:41) as this woman approaches. The way the temples were constructed during this time were very segmented. I like to think of them as a maze puzzle. The outer most area is for the gentiles, then you take a step into the area where women were allowed and further in is where the men of different societal standings and priests were permitted to attend. So everyone is around the area where the women are because that is known as the treasury and you have to pass through there to get to more inner circle. The treasury is the name for the space as well as the collection bank, where people pay to enter. It is similar to us depositing money in the bank. The bank is the building as well as our actual bank account. So these collection “boxes” are called trumpets because of their shape. When a person drops coins down the trumpet they made a loud sound. So the more you dropped in the louder the sound.
Now imagine this widowed woman dropping two coins into this trumpet. Two coins which were equal to only 1/64 of a laborers daily wage (not a lot of money!). These coins probably barely made a sound and likely went unnoticed among the rich pouring out their wealth. No one noticed, no one except Jesus. Jesus noticed that she “out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on” (Mark 12:44).
She made a sacrifice. Her actions are lifted up as a model of exemplar behavior. Widow gives all she has “without fanfare or desire for glory, but out of faith”. This leads me back to my earlier question, what does sacrifice really mean? I did some research and in the Old Testament we are taught that Sacrifice is killing an animal for a God, or it is sacrificing the life of anything to a God. That is true and that is what we are told our ancestors believed but what does sacrifice mean to us today?
I believe a sacrifice is done out of love. A love for one another, a love for Jesus and a love for God. After the widow gives she has nothing…except complete trust and love in God. The great theologian Fred Craddock states, “The cannon by which Jesus weighs her gift is not sentiment, but the comparison of one’s gift to what one has remaining for oneself.” She gave not to gain something or in comparison to what she has left, but that by giving she has had to give up something, relinquish, or sacrifice.
My former chaplaincy supervisor once told me a story. She was working on the Alzheimer’s floor at a nursing facility when she met a couple. This husband and wife had been married over fifty years and the wife had developed Alzheimer’s. The wife was now living at this nursing facility and everyday her husband came to be with her. Her disease had progressed so much that she no longer recognized him or any other family members, but still he came every day. One day a young nurse asked this man, why do you still come every day? Don’t you know she does not recognize you or even know who you are? The man paused and looked up at this young nurse and replied simply, “yes, but I know who she is.” This devoted husband knew what sacrifice was. He could have gone each day and played golf with his buddies, gone fishing or to the movies but instead he came every day to be with his wife.
True sacrifice is done out of love and is done not for self-benefit. My parents drove all night to be at my field hockey game. They sacrificed their sleep, time and money to come see my team play and it was not so they could brag about me because being a backup goalkeeper for a good part of my career I only played sparingly. They made the sacrifice out of love.
Every day we witness sacrifices, our veterans during their time of service and after dealing with the pain and reality of their service, a parent working two jobs to make ends meet, a parent foregoing their medication so they can feed their children, a wife tied to her home so she can take care of her beloved, or a spouse working extra, giving up family time and financial security so the other one can attend school. Sacrifices are choices, choices where you have to give something up, relinquish control in a non-self-serving way. Sacrifices are done out of love and for no acclaim.
Every day we make choices. These choices show what is important to us whether it is how we spend or time, energy or finances. What are your choices saying, have you made any sacrifices or has someone made sacrifices for you? I am sure along the way either you have or someone has for you. See the love behind those sacrifices and know that true sacrifices are done out of love, and love is from God, for as we are taught in I John 4:7-8 “Beloved let us love one another, because love is from God…for God is love.”
 Women’s Bible Commentary, 482.
 Women’s Bible Commentary, 357.
 Fred Craddock, Bible Commentary, Year B, 465.
 Fred Craddock, Bible Commentary Year B, 465.