I’m a “Fine Arts” guy. (Although, if you know me very well at all, you may have serious doubts about the “Fine” part!) I have been involved in “The Arts” at some level pretty much my entire life. I acted for the first time on stage when I was in First Grade. I was Snoopy, full costume including papier-mâché head. (By the way, did you know that “papier-mâché” is French for “chewed paper”? Doesn’t sound NEARLY as “fancy” when you make it a bit less “Francey”, does it?!) It was in front of about 300 people…and I was hooked. I started playing drums when I was 10. I continuing acting and playing music through High School. I earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Acting, adding Magician and Juggler to my performance resume along the way. (But I played the drums so much in my Freshman year of college that everybody thought I was a music major!) I graduated and set out to change the world through acting and music. Just like that little ol’ ant who thought he could move that rubber tree plant, I had, just HIGH hopes!
But the world had other plans. Did you know that it’s HARD to make a living as an actor? That MIGHT be why, at any given moment, something like 93% of all actors are…out of work! So, I began to drift through a series of jobs. I was fully capable of them- I got promoted several times in different settings. But I hated them. Something was missing. Nothing I was doing was fulfilling and it certainly wasn’t changing the world! But as I have shared before, God had other plans. And along the way, I FINALLY began to see them. God still wanted me to help change the world…just not like I thought. Not even REMOTELY like I thought! And THAT’S how we ended up HERE!
So many people, when faced with a challenge or question, automatically ask, “Why?” But God challenges us to instead ask, “Why NOT?” Today, we wrap up our 4-week sermon series, “Why Not?” Three weeks ago, we started at the most basic human level- why not face your fears? Two weeks ago, we moved one step out as we asked, “Why not deepen your faith?” Last week, we took another step and asked, “Why not make a greater commitment?” Today, we finish the journey as we ask the big question, “Why not…change the world?”
The setting for today’s primary Scripture is in the Temple Court in Jerusalem. Jesus has been teaching and preaching. It was the custom that, at certain times, people would come and make their offerings to the Temple Treasury. That’s where today’s rather brief story picks up.
Luke 21:1-4 Luke 21:1-4 As Jesus looked up, He saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” He said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”
This story is often referred to as “The Widow’s Mite”. The word “mite” refers to a Greek coin- a lepton. Two lepta were worth one quadrans, which was the smallest, least valuable coin Roman coin in circulation in Judea. Two lepta were worth about six minutes of an average daily wage in first-century Palestine. Translate that to the current minimum wage in the state of Illinois and the widow’s mite is worth about 83 cents.
So, the rich people are giving their “gifts”- translation: “lavish donations”- into the Temple Treasury. And in the midst of the opulence, up toddles this little old lady: white hair, glasses, sweet smile- The Widow. And what does she give? Her measly little 83 cents. One quadrans. Two lepta. Her mite. Compared to what the rich folks were giving, it was easy to see that and think, “why bother, old woman? That ‘gift’ won’t do diddly. It won’t even do 10% of diddly!” I could picture the “Upper Class” laughing at her. “Oh, how terribly DROLL! More brie, Reginald?”
But Jesus sees things differently. He sees the intent BEHIND her gift- WHY she gives as opposed to HOW MUCH she gives. And He openly states that- she gives more- MORE- than all the rich people standing there. They gave out of their abundance- it didn’t mean anything to them. On the other hand, she gave out of her scarcity- it meant everything to her. Imagine the “buzz” THAT created among the “upper crust” who were standing around, feeling so good about what they had done. “SHE gave more than US? I. Don’t. THINK. So!” They were trying to look good. She was trying…to change the world.
It’s SO easy to hear that term- “change the world”- and instantly tune it out. Scoff. Sneer. Chuckle. Pat me on the head and say, “OK, Pastor, that’s…nice! Change the world! Yep- great thought!” And then, walk away, shaking your head and wondering what I drank for breakfast!
But we CAN change the world. We can make an even bigger difference than we already are. And, I would argue, we’re making a big difference in Mercer County, and beyond, right now. If you’ve looked at the Ministry and Mission Opportunities sheet that we’ve been including in the bulletin the past few weeks, you see a LONG list of ways that we are reaching out in the name of Jesus. There are over 30 different ministries and missions listed there. And frankly, I GUARANTEE we missed some…which is why there is the catch-all “other” listed!
And if you look at that long list, you will notice 2 things: 1. There are LOTS of ways to serve God and 2. There is a huge VARIETY of ways, using a wide variety of skills, gifts and graces, to serve God! Maybe your gifts fall into the financial/numbers area. Great! We have a Finance Team (I’m not a fan of the word “Committee”!) that puts together the yearly budget and manages the month-to-month income and outgo. They work to create a yearly Stewardship Campaign. They are the chief stewards of the church’s finances. We also have an Audit Team. They meet once a year- ONCE a year- to go over the church’s financial records and make sure everything is in order.
Maybe your gifts are more in the administrative area. We have The Pastor-Parish Relations Team. They are the “human resources department” of the local church, responsible for the paid staff of the local church. They support the staff, manage hiring, set salaries and more. We also have the Endowment/Memorial Team. They oversee our Endowment and Memorial funds, deciding how those monies are used to connect people to Jesus Christ.
Maybe you’re more comfortable in the kitchen. We have a WORLD of opportunities there- Wednesday Night Fellowship meals, Caring Hearts meals, Youth ministry dinners, Vacation Bible School meals, CIA luncheons, funeral luncheons, special dinners, The Fellowship Café, the Bakery Delivery Team- the list goes on.
Maybe you’re more into planning and creating. No problem. We have the Journey, the Safety Team, the Follow the Star Holiday Bazaar, the Adult Library AND the Children’s Library, Trunk or Treat, The Blood Mobile, Homecoming Parade, Christmas Parade, Children’s Pageant, Live Nativity…DON’T get me started!
Maybe you like working with kids? Have we got a DEAL for you! Senior High Youth. Junior High Youth. FUEL Children’s Ministry- which REALLY needs your help. Sunday School teacher. Vacation Bible School. The nursery. Maybe you want to work with young adults and families. Ashley would LOVE to have your help. Maybe you like to teach adults. There are always opportunities for more adult Bible studies.
Maybe you have a heart for prayer. There is not one, not two but three weekly prayer groups you can participate in. Maybe you like to build relationships. The Missions Team, Outreach Team and the Visitation Team would all LOVE to talk with you! Music? Choir. Bell choir. Not one but TWO Praise Bands. Special music. Technology? The sound booth. Help with tech issues around the building. Worship? Scripture reader. Usher. Greeter.
You get the idea. And I am SURE I only scratched the surface. There is not ONE person in this congregation who couldn’t find a way to use their gifts and graces to serve God by serving others. And guess what? Serving God by serving others…changes the world. How? One person at a time!
So, for the last time in this sermon series, I’ll ask- why not? Why not face your fears? Why not deepen your faith? Why not make a greater commitment? Why not change the world? I mentioned last week that there are 168 hours in a week. We spend 1 of those hours here on Sunday. (And before you start, some of you are leaning over to the person next to you and saying, “He clearly doesn’t pay very good attention! I’m here FOUR hours on Sunday!” I know- work with me! I’m trying to paint a picture here!) Individually, we are really not capable of much. But together, with God, we can do anything.
The Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes says, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” We are a cord of three strands. I’m all in. I’m fighting for my life with Stage 4 Anaplastic Thyroid Cancer…and a second type of cancer thrown in for good measure…but I’m all in. How about you? Will you step further out of your comfort zone and see what God is capable of…through us? What do you have to lose…but your old way of life? What do you have to gain? A whole new world! Why not? Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.