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Sermon for November 11, 2018: One copper coin (The Rev. Dr. Deborah White)

Updated: Aug 14, 2021

This is a true story:

There once was a house of worship. It was like many houses of worship. People came there to spend time together, to be reminded of the things they believed, to get encouragement to try to live well and maybe to learn a bit more about their faith. Some of them only came for Sabbath services, while others, spent lots of time there, enjoying fellowship, praying together and helping others in their community of faith and beyond. Some people came looking for a better understanding of themselves and the world around them. Others came because they needed help, while still others came because they felt called to help others. Some came simply because it’s what they had always done. Some believed in what the church taught with their whole hearts, while others secretly questioned God. Some people weren’t sure what they believed. Still, they came to the house of worship.

Some people who came to that house of worship sat in the front pews and recited the prayers with loud voices, while others sat in the back and were heard only by themselves. Some people believed in the power of their prayers and the prayers of others, while others said them without understanding what they meant. Some people listened eagerly for the words of the worship leader, hoping for some encouragement and inspiration, while others suffered impatiently through the leader’s message, wondering how on earth stories about people from far away times and places could possibly apply to them.

Sometimes there was singing in the worship - and some people sang loudly and with conviction, while others held their tongues. Sometimes there was silence and some people wished there was more of it, while others found it uncomfortable and boring. There were readings from Holy Scriptures, and sometimes they were interesting and seemed relevant and helpful but at other times seemed strange and confusing. It was a house of worship and some people got something out of it and some people didn’t.

There was always a collection. Some people gave the same amount of money every week and some people put in different amounts, depending on their mood or what they had in their pockets, or both. Some people were shy when they put their contributions into the collection, hiding the amount they were offering. Others didn’t. Some people resented being asked to contribute, while others wished they could give more. Some people saw their offerings as payments for services rendered. They had certain expectations of what they should get in return for their donations and when they were disappointed in the house of worship and its leaders, they adjusted their offering accordingly. Some people did not give at all. It was a house of worship, just like many others, with worshippers like many others.

There was one member of the house of worship that most of the other worshippers never saw. That’s because he was embarrassed to go to regular services. You see, he didn’t have any nice clothes to wear. He did not have a home to put clothes in. This particular worshipper lived in one of the outbuildings of the house of worship. Some of the other worshippers knew this. Most people did not. Most people did not know that although this particular worshipper did not regularly go to services, he had read Holy Scripture. Most people did not know that although this worshipper did not sing in the house of worship, he listened to all of the music that came from the house of worship, and some of it made him feel close to God. Most people did not know that although he very rarely entered the house of worship, he was familiar with the sanctuary not made by human hands – the Holy Place opened to all people through the free sacrificial offering of Jesus Christ.

Most people did not know that at least once a week this worshipper visited the worship leader to talk about the beauty of creation, the nature of humankind, and the need for people to be kind to one another. Most people did not know that despite having had a difficult life, this worshipper continued to love and praise God. Most people did not know that despite having been mocked and scorned many times because he was different than others, this worshipper continued to recognize God as the one who keeps vigil over the people, who offers a heritage for each person, and who encourages love between mothers and daughters, sons and fathers, and children and the adults who love them. And although he sometimes had no food himself, this worshipper continued to believe in a God who provides to those who ask.

It would be reasonable to think that because this worshipper did not regularly attend worship, he did not contribute to the life of the church. This was not true. You see, this worshipper was at the house of worship more than anyone else, so he took it upon himself to watch over and protect it. When strangers came who looked like they might do harm to the house of worship, he spoke to them and told them they should treat the house of worship with respect or leave. He brought things to the house of worship that he thought it needed. He did what he could.

This would have been enough. It would have been more than enough, but it was not all. Because this worshipper did not think about donating to the house of worship as most other people did. He was never asked to contribute, so he felt neither resentful nor guilty about making an offering. He rarely attended worship, so he had no expectations of the structure of the worship service, the worship leader, or the other worshippers. He did not anticipate receiving anything, so he appreciated everything he received. He was simply very grateful to the people of this house of worship. All of them- even those he did not know, which were many. He did not care which ones were inspired and which were tired. He did distinguish which were fearful and which were faithful. He did not separate those who worshipped with their heads from those who worshipped with their hearts. He only knew that these people were part of this house of worship – that they were part of the place where he had found shelter, comfort, and support – part of the place where he experienced the presence of God.

So, each time he found himself with money – whenever he was able to work or received offerings from others – he gave a portion of that money to the house of worship. Without fail, each and every week, the worship leader received an envelope with a sum of money, and a note. Sometimes the notes were updates on his life. Sometimes they were thank-you cards. Sometimes they contained questions. Sometimes they included drawings. Sometimes there was a handful of change in the envelope, and sometimes there were several large bills. The amount varied, because he always gave in proportion to what he had; the more he had, the more he gave - but the message never changed. The message was always, “Thank you.” The message was always, “I am one of you.” The message was always, “You are a blessing to me.”

Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, [he] has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but he out of his poverty has put in everything he had.” May we go and do likewise. AMEN.

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