SERMON ON MARK 12:38-44 - FR. JOSEPH C. ALSAY, SAINT AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH, OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA
A Sermon Delivered by The Reverend Joseph C. Alsay, Rector
St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
November 7th 2021
All Saints/Stewardship In-gathering Sunday
“Give Your Whole Self”
She gave her whole life---everything she had to live on. Tw small copper coins, two pennies really, but it was everything she had.
It’s unimaginable. Shocking even. Can you imagine coming to church one day bringing your check book and signing over a blank check? Or placing all of your credit / debit cards in the offering plate? Bringing your valued possessions – your car title, the deed to your home, all of your electronics- and handing them over to the religious leaders who are dressed in long robes and preparing to pray long prayers? Even the most generous givers could not imagine doing so.
It’s stewardship Ingathering and All Saints’ Sunday. What a combination. This story is often used to encourage people to give more, to be like the widow who gave everything she had. But if we compare the widow’s giving to our own giving in the church, we have missed the point of the story.
So, let’s take a step back and look at this story
Again. This widowed woman, living at the margins of society, unnoticed by the religious elite, gives “all that she had to live on.” If we translate it literally it means: “her whole life.” This phrase is from the Greek word “Holos” the root word of holistic.
These days it’s very hip to be “holistic.” A holistic approach to health care specializes in the treatment of the whole person, taking into account the mental, and social factors, rather than just the physical symptoms of the disease.
We and all people who care for us, are to pay attention to our “whole self” not just our physical self.
So rather than look at the widow and her mite as a stewardship icon, today I invite us to understand this woman and her gift in a new way. She gave her “whole self.” This is not just about two coins, but it’s about Jesus seeing her offering and getting others to notice it too.
Not just her limited money, but het whole self- emotional, spiritual, vocational, social everything. He notices this woman on the margins, someone who is easily overlooked and overshadowed but the religious who are used to places of honor and power, and Jesus invites the disciples to honor her gifts and respect the life she has to share.
Because we cannot live our holistic, best self, without caring for others too. That is what Jesus calls us to do. If we look at the widow as an example of giving everything- something none of us will ever be able to do, we are stalled even before we reach for our pledge card. But if we lament with this woman the circumstances of her day and our own, we are joined with Jesus in caring for her. God will not stand for such abuse- especially within the community that is meant to care for widows and all who are oppressed. God see her, God cares about her, especially when it’s clear nobody else did.
The good news is that God sees our struggles too, recognizes our challenges and cares about us when we are hard pressed o make ends meet. And at the same time God calls us to see others in their vulnerability too: those discriminated against because of their ethnicity, the hopelessness of those who cannot find work, the many who battle addiction, and those who are weighed down with grief. God invites us to look around and see each other, those in our community, and those beyond it and challenge and advocate for a system that doesn’t leave anyone behind.
Over the past few weeks, I hope you had an opportunity to look at and listen to the video of your fellow members. The one thing that stuck me, was the constant mantra and emphasis of St. Augustine’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, acceptance, and outreach to those most need.
You may not be aware of the fact that your faithful commitment in 2021 to give to the holistic work and ministry of this congregation was manifest in many ways.
Of the 70 churches and institutions in the Diocese of Oklahoma, St. Augustine’s gave the MOST to the 2021 Bishop’s Appeal to the historic Vernon A.M.E.
Maybe that’s because we take seriously the concept that discrimination of any people due to the color of their skin is a most heinous and detestable sin. We dared to make a difference in a life and ministry of a congregation that survived the ravages of the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot – the worse in America’s history.
It was due to St. Augustine’s consistent and generous giving, even in the midst of the throws of the pandemic that our brothers and sisters at the Jesus House, received the much-needed supplies to make sure that those trying to recover form various addictions and looking for a place to sleep were able to do so. It is because of our steadfast commitment to this organization we will be honored in the Spring of 2022 with a well-deserved award from the Jesus House.
And most recently, the congregation of Santa Maria de Virgin recognized the monies given by St. Augustine’s was the largest to date, given to help with the repairs of their roof. A project that we will engage in further in the upcoming Advent season.
We did these outreach projects not to be prideful or to have SAC name emblazoned in stars. We did so because this community understand why we sacrificially give. We’ve been blessed to be a blessing.
In today’s gospel story Jesus speaks truth to power, admonishing those in authority to open their eyes and see something new, even in those from whom the least expect it.
The widow’s offering of her whole self, foreshadows Jesus’ own giving of his whole life for the sake of the world. It is the mystery we claim and barely understand, the holy one who knows our own vulnerabilities and brokenness, is the very one who gives us new life. God wants nothing more than to give God’s whole life-for us. This is essence of God-giving love, giving hope, giving God’s whole self so that we may have life and live it abundantly.
Various Clergy and members of St. Augustine contribute to authoring the blog on a variety of topics.