Sunday, November 8th, 2015 – 24th Sunday after Pentecost
Gower Christian Church, Gower, MO
Scripture: Hebrews 9:24-28, Mark 12:38-44
Hymns: “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”, “I’m So Glad (Jesus Lifted Me)”, “The Church’s One Foundation”, “Blest Be the Tie That Binds”, “Just As I Am”, “Here, O My Lord, I See Thee”, “The Earth Is Yours”
This sermon was different from most. I did not use a manuscript for this one, and in fact, ad-libbed most of it. If it seems different tonally or structurally from the norm for me, that’s why.
“All We Have to Give”
Okay, I’m gonna do something I’ve never done before. I don’t like my sermon, so I’m gonna trash it and preach as the Spirit leads, because that’s what I’m feeling this morning.
In our Gospel reading this morning, we hear about people who gave out of their wealth versus a widow who gave all that she had to give, and I’m gonna tell you a couple of stories – one’s about a guy named Patrick, another about a guy named Michael. But before we get there, I want to acknowledge a couple of things.
First, of course, is that we got to celebrate this week, celebrate the World Series championship of the Kansas City Royals. And that was great. That was fantastic, staying up way past my bedtime, watching the end of Game 5. Caitie and I came home from her ordination service, we were tired, and we weren’t going to watch the game, but we turned it on, it was the eighth inning, they were down 2-0, and we said, “Well, this is when things usually get interesting.” So, we stayed up, we watched the game, we watched them WIN, and it was great! It was great to see 800,000 people filling the Crossroads District on Tuesday to celebrate that win, and it was amazing to see as humble a person as Salvador Perez be awarded the World Series MVP trophy. You think about how excited he gets to play the game of baseball, and it was wonderful to see.
That said, the Kansas City Royals? We don’t know them in person. And as fun as it is to watch a team like that win, it’s not quite as emotional as being a fan of a high school sports team. The Bulldogs had a rough night on Friday night. I wasn’t in Lathrop for the game, but the beauty of technology means that I was able to watch almost the entire game on my phone. And the Bulldogs went out there on Friday night, they were tired – it was the end of three grueling months of football – and they gave everything that they had to give. And yes, it was probably a long bus ride home from Lathrop for them, but we should be proud of them – they’re a bunch of good kids, and they gave all that they could.
Let us pray.
Lord, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight, my rock, and my redeemer. Amen.
So, let’s talk about Patrick Tillman. Patrick was a young man who grew up and wanted to play football. He was excellent in high school, got a full ride scholarship to Arizona State University. He impressed all throughout his college career. He was one of the most well-known players on that team, along with Jake Plummer, and together, they led the Sun Devils to the 1997 Rose Bowl against Ohio State University.
Pat Tillman was drafted in the seventh round of the 1998 NFL draft by the Arizona Cardinals, and he immediately showed in the NFL that what he did in college was no fluke. He was one of the best defensive players in the National Football League for his very brief career, and in the summer of 2001, he signed a very lucrative contract that would’ve basically made him an Arizona Cardinal for life. He was set for the rest of his career.
And then September 11th happened.
Pat Tillman’s brother was in the Army, and Pat said, well, if he can serve, so can I. He walked away from that lucrative contract with the Arizona Cardinals, walked into a US Army recruiting office, and signed the paperwork to join the US Army. He went through basic training, went to Ranger Leadership School, passed through it, and was a US Army Ranger. He was sent to Afghanistan, where he fought alongside his brother, fought alongside many soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines in the War on Terror, until one day in early 2004, when he was hit by friendly fire. He was killed.
Pat Tillman had everything he could’ve ever wanted, and he walked away from it all. He truly gave all that he had to give.
In the Gospel text today, Jesus and His apostles have come to the temple after probably two years on the road. If you think back all the way to just after Easter, with the exception of the series where I preached on Revelation, I have been preaching out of the Gospel of Mark for the last seven months. And Jesus and His apostles have constantly been on the move throughout those passages, going from Jesus’ home in Capernaum, to Jericho, to Jerusalem, to Gennesaret, all over Israel, traveling constantly, spreading the Word, teaching, preaching, and healing.
And so, you have to imagine that when they have the moment to take a break, as they did this day at the temple treasury, the apostles are probably grateful. They’re probably like, “Finally, a moment to sit down! Perhaps eat lunch, have a cup of coffee.” While the first evidence of coffee drinking didn’t come until the 16th century, it did first appear in the Middle East, and if church leaders were anything back then like they are now, I’m willing to bet that Jesus and His apostles drank PLENTY of coffee (if it was available to them).
So they sit down, and they’re just sitting there, going about their business, but not Jesus. Jesus was always watching, and He was observing the temple treasury that day, as people came in to give their offerings. These days, when contributions are made to the church, it’s easy to be discreet about what you’re contributing. With checks, online bill-pay, and even churches that take credit cards, nobody ever has to know how much or how little you contribute to the church. Unless the church publishes who gives how much – which has been done by some churches, even though it’s completely inappropriate – or unless you trumpet how much you give – which is inappropriate in that Jesus himself said that you shouldn’t put your piety on display – nobody really knows. All checks look the same. A check for a thousand dollars looks just like a check for ten, and unless you’re snooping someplace you shouldn’t be, you’d never know.
However, in the 30 AD or so setting, Jesus would’ve watched as these wealthy men came in with large sacks, because all money back then was coins. And they put these large sacks in the temple treasury, great gifts! And I’m sure that they did it out of the goodness of their hearts, for the glory of God. And then this widow comes in with her two small coins – as the Gospel of Mark says, worth a penny – and she puts them in. Jesus makes a mental note, and a few minutes later, decides to have a talk with the apostles.
So then, there’s Michael. Michael P. Murphy. Brilliant guy. Highly educated – bachelor’s degree from Penn State University. He went through the Navy Officer Candidate School in Newport, Rhode Island, and then to Basic Underwater Demolition School in Coronado, California, and he came out a US Navy SEAL. This guy’s really smart, and he’s in really good shape – I’m sure he could beat me up!
LT Murphy is in command of a Navy SEAL platoon, six men. Chief Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell, his second in command. I’m sure some of you have probably heard this story. LT Murphy and Chief Luttrell are leading their platoon on a mission in Afghanistan, and they come across an Afghani goatherd. Chief Luttrell’s immediate instinct is, this guy might be a spy for the Taliban, we need to kill him. LT Murphy disagreed. But because LT Murphy was a guy who led by example and not by dictatorship, he allowed his team to vote on it. They decided to let the goatherd go.
A few hours later, they were ambushed. Sure enough, the goatherd had gone and reported their location to the Taliban. They came under fire, and the team went down quickly – wounded, killed, one by one. That’s when Michael Murphy decided to take the team’s radio up to a nearby hill, and start trying to radio to a nearby Air Force base for support.
So Jesus talks to His apostles, and He asks, “Who gave more?” Of course, the apostles just watched these men put in probably sizable sacks of money. So they say, “Of course, the men gave more, and Jesus said, “No, no. They gave out of their abundance; this woman gave all that she had to give.”
And you know, Caitie and I got to talking about this passage last night, because she’s preaching it today as well. And she said, “So, what then happened to that widow afterwards? She gave everything she had to give, now what will she do?” What we concluded was that that becomes a lesson in the church using the abundance from those wealthy men to help out those who gave all that they had to give. But that’s not the point today.
The point is, this woman was willing to give everything that she had in service of the church. And so Jesus says, she gave more. She gave everything she had, and in the end, that is more than just giving off the top.
So, Michael Murphy’s up on top of this hill, and he gets in touch with the Air Force. They dispatch a rescue helicopter, but he’s hit and mortally wounded. Marcus Luttrell is the only one left alive. He jumped off a cliff to escape and fell over 100 feet. He suffered internal injuries, as well as numerous broken bones. If you’ve seen the movie Lone Survivor, that’s his story.
Michael Murphy was eventually awarded the Medal of Honor. He gave all that he had to give.
Now I’m not advocating that we have to give our lives in order to satisfy Christ. I’m not saying that we have to give up everything that we have in order to satisfy God. But we have to be willing. We are called to be willing to give everything that we have, because after all, Jesus first gave everything He had, for our sake.