TEXT: MARK 12:38-44/HEBREWS 9:24-28/1 KINGS 17:8-16
THIS WIDOW TRUMPETS TRUST IN THE MIDST OF UNCERTAINTY!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

In many and various ways God spoke to His people of old by the prophets, but now in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son.  Dear hearers of the Word made flesh:

Jesus teaching in the outer court – the court of the Gentiles had ended.  With the Twelve, He passed within the low marble wall which fenced off the inner precinct from the intrusion of non-Israelites.  In this second court of the temple Jesus sat down and watched the people putting money into the offering box.

Historical sources describe 13 gift-chests in this section of the temple.  They were placed at intervals under the surrounding colonnade.  These offering receptacles were narrow at the top and wide at the bottom.  They were called trumpets because of their shape.  Each trumpet was marked with the purpose for the offerings it received.  Most were for what was legally due such as temple tribute, materials, vessels and burnt offerings.  The remaining trumpets were for voluntary gifts – surplus of sin and trespass offerings.


TEXT: MARK 12:38-44/HEBREWS 9:24-28/1 KINGS 17:8-16
THIS WIDOW TRUMPETS TRUST IN THE MIDST OF UNCERTAINTY!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

In many and various ways God spoke to His people of old by the prophets, but now in these last days he has spoken to us by His Son.  Dear hearers of the Word made flesh:

Jesus teaching in the outer court – the court of the Gentiles had ended.  With the Twelve, He passed within the low marble wall which fenced off the inner precinct from the intrusion of non-Israelites.  In this second court of the temple Jesus sat down and watched the people putting money into the offering box.

Historical sources describe 13 gift-chests in this section of the temple.  They were placed at intervals under the surrounding colonnade.  These offering receptacles were narrow at the top and wide at the bottom.  They were called trumpets because of their shape.  Each trumpet was marked with the purpose for the offerings it received.  Most were for what was legally due such as temple tribute, materials, vessels and burnt offerings.  The remaining trumpets were for voluntary gifts – surplus of sin and trespass offerings.

There were no electronic deposits!  There were no checks sealed in envelopes to place quietly in a collection plate.  There were only copper, silver, and gold coins that rattled down the throats of these Shopharoth – these trumpets.  People would simply walk up and drop in their coins.  The giving was visible and often other people would mill around and watch – perhaps reacting to a sizable gift!

Passover was at hand.  Wealthy worshippers were numerous and liberal.  God gave them a lot and they gave back a lot – 10% for sure and even more – some faithfully – some perhaps for show!  Many rich people put in large sums.  And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.

At this point Jesus called a committee meeting of sorts – a trustees’ meeting – an elders’ meeting – a congregational meeting – if you will.  And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box.  For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”   

In this event, the Son of God teaches proportional giving – with total clarity!  It is not the chief point of His teaching here, but it is unmistakable.  Giving a percentage of the blessings God gives  -income - possessions – is always God’s command for His people.  It works for everybody – growing or shrinking with assets and paycheck.  It is an action Christian parents should teach their children from their earliest years.  To omit teaching proportional giving is to censure the love of Jesus for His little ones – young and old.  To omit percentage giving says – “Jesus – I know more about the money You let me use in this brief life than you do.”   

They all contributed out of their abundance.
  Notice Jesus does not say that their abundance is a bad thing!  His point is simply that they would still be able to eat their meals and improve their homes and take their trips and pursue their hobbies after giving large sums.  These are not evil things.  God never condemns being rich or growing richer as He so blesses.  The fact that they had wealth remaining after giving large sums is not a sin as they worked and lived and sought to enjoy the life God gives “under the sun.”  In fact, it would have been possible for someone to have given 100% to the temple and not to be praised by the Lord as this widow was.

The letter all our members recently received expressed these same truths.  As the trumpets in the temple directed proportionate gifts to specific purposes, that invitation expressed the rich purposes your gifts support her.  It is not our tradition to make written pledges at Luther Memorial.  It is our prayer that God richly bless each of us with first-priority prayerful thoughts for our partnership in the Gospel as this year ends and in the coming year!

Although expressed here with crystal clarity, proportional giving was not Jesus’ chief point in this time of temple teaching.  In matters of money and giving, man easily looks at the outward appearance.  God however looks at the heart.  That was Jesus’ chief point in this time of temple teaching.  Even as He took note of and commented on the proportion of gifts given in His temple, His chief point was faith in God in the midst of uncertainty.  They all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”   

How do your finances compare with the widow’s?  She stands out so sharply on the canvas – solitary and alone – in strong contrast with the many people milling about.  She is detected by the Lord’s eye in the midst of the surrounding crowd.  She had lost her husband!  She had lost her secure source of income.  Her poverty was absolute!  Yet, what a trumpet blast has issued down through the centuries from the sound of her two almost worthless coins clinking down the throat of that Shopharoth!  

You see, Christian giving is always a matter of faith – of recognizing what God is doing for us – even in the face of the utmost earthly uncertainty.  This amazing giver – this woman of faith did not give in - to uncertainty.  She did not despair when all seemed against her.  Rather, her gift trumpets trust and faith in God right in the midst of uncertainty!  

For her it was much like the widow of Zarephath – a region stricken with drought and famine.  Elijah called out to her, Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.”  And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.”   And she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug.  And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.”   Elijah responded in part – “Thus says the Lord the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’”

Dear Christians, we know a little about the rest of this story.  God did provide for the household of the widow of Zarephath many days.  She did not die of starvation at this time and God did again send rain upon the earth.  Yet, despite the miraculous food He provided for her through Elijah, there was appointed a time for her to die – and after that comes judgment.

We don’t know as much about the immediate rest-of-the-story for the widow who gave her last two copper coins in the temple.  No happy earthly ending is recorded for her – a wealthy benefactor – a well-to-do widower – Jesus and His disciples providing for her.  A denarius was one day’s wage and her lepta about 1/64 of a denarius.  She was scratching out a living and her entire bankroll amounted to 15-30 minutes of wages.  Unlike the widow of Zarapheth, she did not give so that she would have a next meal.  She gave trusting that God would care for her even if she starved to death.  In so doing, she did not give in to “uncertainty” in despair.  She gave in trust despite the overwhelming uncertainty she faced.

You also face uncertainties and financial unknowns.  University students are saddled with increasing even imprisoning loads of debt.  Incomes and interest rates are down for workers and retirees.  Expenses are up.  Headlines include the looming debt crisis of Europe and a possible financial cliff for our nation.  What’s going to happen next?  We don’t know!  But we do know that the offerings of God’s people are always given in the face of uncertainty – an exercise of faith.

Jesus is the man of faith who also knew financial uncertainty.  He had no place to lay his head.  He lived by the good graces of others.  He was tempted just like we are with fear and worry – also the money kind.  He even had to endure the pilfering of his limited treasury by Judas.  Yet, as Jesus gave His proportionate gifts in the temple – they were given in faith – perfect faith in God’s care.  

That causes us once again to think of this widow in the temple.  She probably didn’t even realize that God who she was worshipping was so near to her that day – sitting there - in the flesh!  She didn’t realize that He was watching her give in trust and faith.  She was rich toward God – rich in trust – rich in faith.  Her small yet total gift reverberates all the way down to this house of worship today.  In fact, the report of her faith will fall on millions of ears today.  The question of importance is – as it falls on your ears today – will it lodge in your heart and affect your life in this time of uncertainty?  The question is the same for me.

God grant it!  For Just as Jesus was watching what was given in the temple – so God the Father was watching as Christ handed over the temple of His body just a short distance from the widow’s gift.  What Jesus offered there was placed not into a trumpet shaped offering chest.  Rather, His body was placed into a garden tomb – the opening of which trumpets the opening of your tomb on the last day.  Yes, it is appointed for you once to die.  God already knows the day and the manner of your death!  Yes, then comes the judgment.  But Christ has defeated that ugly enemy of death and received your judgment as your substitute.  The sacrifice was made in full – once for all!  It is finished!

In a manner of speaking, God the Father said I am gathering a couple of sticks to prepare for my Son a place where He may die.  It also was near the city gate.  If done according to Roman procedure - one stick was often a post set in the ground.  The other stick was the cross beam often carried by the condemned to the place of execution.  Unlike the widow at Zarapheth whose life the Lord miraculously sustained – the Son of God appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.  By His Holy Sacrifice - your sin is put away.  Your sin of imperfect giving is put away – you are free to give to Him.  Your sin of worry and fear in the face of this world’s troubles and uncertainties is put away – you are free to trust Him.  Just like the jar of flour was not spent nor the jug of oil become empty, so the blood that flowed from the Savior’s limbs and side – will never lose its cleansing power to put all your sin away!    

Think of Elijah’s plea – Bring me a little water…that I may drink.  Jesus showers you with a little water combined with His Word - that is the water of life – covering you with Himself in the waters of baptism.  Think also of Elijah’s request – Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.”  As the risen Christ serves you at His table, the morsel of bread He brings to you is His very body.  The very Bread of Life puts your sin away!  

He has a future for you!  It is secure with Him!  He has entered into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.  He will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.  

God help us to more eagerly wait for Him.  God help us to more faithfully and cheerfully give to Him – recognizing how easily uncertainties can rob us of calm trust and loving purpose.  God help us to hear and calmly rejoice in the beautiful trumpet note that Jesus singles out for us on this day.  

He sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box…And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny
.    

In the name of Jesus - AMEN.  

 

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a