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Hebrews 10:11-14, 19-25; Mark 12:38-44

I have here two blank pieces of paper. One is a check, and you know what to do with that. The other is the little sheet inside the bulletin that says, “All I have…” This one is much harder: it’s an invitation to share all that you have to give, the gift of your very self. With this paper, I invite you to think of something you can share, other than money), here or elsewhere. It could be to care for someone ill, to volunteer your time and skills, or to bake cookies for your neighbor. It can be something you’re already planning, or something you’re thinking about trying. You’ll have a little while to think about it.

Speaking of gifts, I’ve been thinking this week about the election day bazaar that didn’t happen this year. This is the first time in who knows how long that it hasn’t been held. Here’s why: we knew that many of our women felt overburdened, and the October newsletter asked who wanted to be part of the bazaar. The lack of response to that question told us that this event seems to be done. I want to acknowledge the despair that some of us feel about this. Is this another indicator of what we can’t do anymore. What does it mean for Presbyterian Women and this congregation? Some of us are confused, asking why this project should end when there’s energy for other things. Is it right that one project should end in favor of a different kind of service?

I give thanks for women’s contributions to the church, and for our PW in particular. Women have always given heroically to the church and its mission, even when only the men could technically be “in charge.” The majority of HCPC’s external mission giving is done through PW, and that giving will be hurt by the loss of this fundraiser; perhaps something else will come up to fill this gap. But I understand what so many women evidently felt, that they were not willing or able to step out, seemingly alone, and feel like the only one (or ones) helping.

That’s the question in Jesus’ conversation today: whose job is it to give themselves to the church? He has argued with the religious leaders and here says more negative things about them. He says they’re concerned to be popular and well-liked, but they make their progress on the backs of widows and other vulnerable people. He talks to the crowd about the spiritual power of one gift, but also about the danger of a religious system that asks relatively much of the poor and less of the rich. He seems to be saying that it’s not right to make this woman be the hero. Perhaps he wanted to ask her why she felt the need to break herself for the temple. Not that he would begrudge her devotion, but I suspect he might have asked, “Is this joyful and good?”

Perhaps her giving was truly joyful and good, coming from living trust in God who cares for orphans and widows, and who will keep that promise through God’s people. Then Jesus’ anger at the religious leaders – God’s anger – comes from his insistence that we fulfill God’s call to care for widows and others in need. This is how we live out our faith as the church, by doing what God is doing. What’s more, our giving teaches us to trust as this widow did. We see God provide for us just as God provides for others through us. That’s part of why we gather to give.

The reading from Hebrews reminds us to gather regularly, to encourage each other’s good works, to share our hope with each other. We’re invited to live out our faith in this trustworthy God. We’re fortunate to gather in this place and stand in this tradition, and I’m certainly blessed by your support for these ministries – but I’d rather see the building fall down, the institution disband, and myself waiting tables, than see the church become unhappy because we’re giving in a way that isn’t joyful. Our giving is not about supporting an institution, it’s about trusting and rejoicing in God.

We’re here for no other reason than that: to trust and rejoice in God. Frederick Buechner said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” The widow must have found gladness in her giving, or at least she was truly seeking it there, and that can be its own joy. If you don’t find joy in giving to this church, we may need to do without your money so you can give to something else that fills you with that deep joy. And if it’s not money you have, but giving something else gives you great joy, then do that – here or elsewhere. It’s not about the building, or the institution, or me. It’s about the habit of meeting together, encouraging each other, sharing what we have and what we are with God’s people. That’s what the whole thing is about.

That’s what this blank paper is for: it’s our chance to live our faith by giving. I invite you to write (with or without your name) something you want to offer God’s world, something you want to give God’s people, and preferably something other than money. You could offer this to and through this church, or to God through the rest of the world. The way you do it is not the point. The point is to know and celebrate what we each give, offer, and share. If you’d like support and encouragement – or a particular blessing in worship – then do write your name and I’ll try to follow up with you. Either way, I want to acknowledge what we have to give, offer, and share with the world.

Of course, we’ll take that other stuff too – we have plenty of uses for your money – but give it from your joy, not so you give yourself pain. If you’re at your limit, let someone else cover what you can’t give. We can wait on God’s Spirit to do move someone else who is more able, or to speak to the through what feels like a lack of resources. We can trust God’s Spirit to help us live, serve, and encourage each other. I’m most interested right now in what we have to give, these gifts of ourselves on these little pieces of paper. May we give them joyfully, lightly, and to the glory of God.

Amen.

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