Sunday 7th November 2021 – Rev Arnold Dixon

Giving your all 

Mark 12.38-44

In Mark's Gospel, this scene takes place just after Jesus has made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and in the last few chapters before his death. The crowds love him, but the religious teachers are threatened and now begin, in earnest, to try to find ways to trip him up so that they can legitimately silence him. But Jesus continues to speak out. Jesus is critical of the greed he sees in Jerusalem and its Temple; he contrasts the showy donations made by the rich elite with the tiny, but proportionally much greater, amount given by a poor widow.

If we include the story from 1 Kings, we are asked to consider two widows who give everything they have. The one who so generously cares for Elijah is left only with God's promise, delivered through Elijah's prophetic words. The generous actions of the other is used by Jesus to teach about the sacrificial giving.

 

This week we explore living and giving generously.

Call to worship

Let us open our hearts, our minds, and our eyes
to see the generous gifts of God,
and respond with praise and thanksgiving.

A gathering prayer

Generous God,
we come, individually and together,
as your people to be resourced, inspired and blessed.
We come, thankful for the self-giving love of Jesus.
Inspired by his example, may we be generous and giving,
with no reward other than knowing we are doing your will.
We ask this in his name.
Amen

 

Now thank we all our God:  Sing/ Read /pray /proclaim the words or listen to this version

Click on the Link:  https://youtu.be/42ZqYk1YwRA

 

A prayer of approach

Eternal God, you call us to this time and place,
to still our minds and gather our thoughts,
to see the immensity of your giving to us.
You are the giver of life in all its fullness;
the giver of gifts beyond compare;
the giver of more than we can imagine or comprehend.
We come before you now.
Amen

A prayer of adoration

Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
one in three and three in one, we adore you –
for you are light in our darkness;
you are the calm in our turmoil;
you are the wealth in our poverty;
the meaning in our pointlessness;
the hope in our despondency;
the meaning in our being.
For all of this and so much more,
we worship you.
Amen

A prayer of confession and an Assurance of forgiveness

A prayer of confession

Lord Jesus Christ,
we come to you in sorrow for our selfishness,
in regret for our greed,
in despair over our blindness and deafness
to the needs of those around us.
With penitent hearts we seek your forgiveness,
and your blessing to make us more generous,
more giving, more able to see, and more willing to listen.
Amen

 

Assurance of forgiveness

Our God of generosity forgives those who truly repent.
Our God lifts the burdens from our hearts
and the blindness from our eyes
and sets us free to be the people we are called to be.
Amen

 

A prayer of thanksgiving

Gracious God, for all you have poured out upon us:
we give you thanks.
For your Word that has inspired and fed your people; for those
who had vision to record it, skill to translate it and presence to share it:
we give you thanks.
For your love that has surrounded and enfolded us, that has
given us joy, confirmed our faith, nurtured our love and given us
enduring hope in the gift of the promise of eternal life:
we give you thanks.
To you be all praise and glory, for ever and ever.
Amen

 

Jesus, you are changing me: Sing/ Read /pray /proclaim the words or listen to this version

Click on the Link:  https://youtu.be/vEmlM3Gqvjg

 

 

Reading OT: 1 Kings 17.8-16

8  Then the word of the Lord came to him:  9  “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.”  10  So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?”  11  As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.” 12  “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don't have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”

13  Elijah said to her, “Don't be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son.  14  For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.'” 15  She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family.  16  For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.

Reading NT:   Mark 12.38-44

38  As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces,  39  and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at banquets.  40  They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”

The Widow's Offering

41  Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.  42  But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

43  Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  44  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

In the bleak mid-winter:  Sing/ Read /pray /proclaim the words or listen to this version

Click on the Link:  https://youtu.be/FoIETMeXC2s

 

Sermon:

How do we see generous living or giving? Food banks first appeared in the US in the 1960s. In the UK, they were rare until the early part of the 2000s, becoming much more widespread after the economic collapse of 2008. According to the Trussell Trust, more than 14 million people in the UK including 4.5 million children are now living in poverty. And there are more than 1,200 food bank centres in the UK offering support usually about three days of food at a time. Trussell Trust is founded on Christian principles, and bases what it does on Jesus' words in Matthew 25.35-36. What stories of generous living and giving can we tell? What Scripture inspires them? What further things could we do?

When does giving stop? The saying ‘charity begins at home' is often used to limit what we give or do, and to whom. But, as the 17th-century clergyman Thomas Fuller said (and others since): ‘Charity begins at home but should not end there.' Charles Dickens amended it another way: ‘Charity begins at home, but justice begins next door.' How do both these sayings help us to understand the story of Elijah and the widow, or Jesus and the widow at the Temple? Can you think of practical ways to respond to God's generosity to us?

In 1956, with the wounds of World War Two still raw, Shanti Solomon shared an idea with six other women of different nationalities. Inspired by Jesus' story of the widow who gave all she had, they formed the Fellowship of the Least Coin a movement of prayer for peace and reconciliation, at first around Asia but now worldwide. The idea was that, regardless of social and economic status, or nationality or history, women could have fellowship and find reconciliation through simple actions and prayerful lives. And for each prayer said, at least one coin of local currency was given, and when collected this supported projects around the world.

One day, Ivor sank into a pew, short of breath from asthma, and he listened. He started to attend regularly, and over time made a few friends. He lived in the local authority care home, where he always welcomed visitors to his room for a cuppa and a chat. Then, tragically, his only son died in an accident and Ivor asked the minister to conduct the funeral. Several months later, a solicitor rang to ask if the minister could officiate at Ivor's funeral. He had died suddenly. Oh, and he had left his entire estate to the Church £350,000. After much prayer and consultation, Ivor's generous gift everything he had funded a new community space. Called ‘open doors', it provided hospitality for anyone and everyone.

 

Thought for the week

Read out in place of a sermon if you wish.

Some people love ‘people watching', being in places where people gather – shopping centres, airports, waiting rooms, and so on – studying their gestures and mannerisms, imagining their journeys and destinations, or their reasons for being in that place. If you are one of those people, you have something in common with Jesus. Jesus was a great watcher, not just of people but of all that was around him. And he often drew on what he saw to teach his followers about God's kingdom. He would use something familiar, something that everyone could see if they cared to look, to talk about something unseen.

In today's story, Jesus was watching people as they made their money offerings to the Temple. And among them he saw a woman who was careful and thoughtful in her offering it was not much, but it was pretty much all she had. Perhaps this sacrificial act struck a chord, reminding Jesus of the days that lay ahead, of his own self-offering, and of everything he must soon sacrifice.

Jesus was drawn again and again to vulnerable people, to outcasts, to those who had little or no status or wealth. Perhaps he saw a heart of faith and trust revealed in their actions, despite the circumstances and challenges that faced them. Perhaps he wondered whether the disciples saw the same as he did, and whether they would understand his sacrifice.

If you do watch people, perhaps they remind you of events in your own life some good, some less so. Perhaps they encourage you to reflect on your own circumstances, choices and actions. If you saw an action of overwhelming compassion or generosity, like that of the widow, would that stir you to do something similar? But there's more to it than just the doing of the action itself. You never know when your life, your actions, will stir something in someone else. If that ‘someone' was people watching you, would they see something to inspire them?

 

For the healing of the nations : Sing/ Read /pray /proclaim the words or listen to this version

Click on the Link:  https://youtu.be/SMkS9LuCikc

 

Prayers of intercession

You could use the first part of these prayers to focus on the beauty of our planet, with a time of silent reflection between each section. You could accompany the words with appropriate images.

The second part is a more traditional set of intercessions with a COP26/climate challenge theme.

The final section could be used independently  e.g. by placing a large map on the floor and marking the people and places in need of prayer with tealights as they are named.

 

PART 1

Generous God
you have created a home where all people can live in peace,
our big blue planet
so beautiful and yet so fragile.

Generous God, you give us
the ground under our feet
solid and strong
fertile and full of things that jump, crawl, wriggle and walk
bursting with plants that grow and trees for fruit and shade.
Earth to shelter and protect us.

Generous God, you give us
times and seasons;
the sun to warm our days
and the moon to light our night-time ways;
stars that sing and planets that spin.
Unknown reaches of time and space,
full of mystery and dreams.

Generous God, you give us
the air all around us
blue and alive with birds and insects
things that squawk and sing; that buzz, flap and croak.
Air invisible but essential to life
fresh and full of movement
wild wind and gentle breeze;
air that speaks to us of the Holy Spirit's disturbing call.
Air for us to breathe.

Generous God, you give us
water flowing and free
full of fish that swim
and whales that roam in the deep
seas, rivers, streams and lakes,
water that quenches our thirst and gives life to the plants.
Water that we cannot live without.

Generous God, you give us
choice and responsibility
where earth, air and water are matters of life and death.
May we be generous in sharing
and open hearted to the needs of developing communities
ready to limit what we have so that all may share fully
in the fullness of life you give to all.

 

PART 2

God of all creation,
you ask us to care and not to destroy;
to share and not to abuse what you have given to us.
You ask us to cherish the earth not to abuse it
and to use earth's resources fairly and not to waste them.
Forgive our failures and renew our commitment.

God of all creation,
May we use your gifts wisely and care for the earth.

Generous God,
you have placed us in community
in our churches, families, schools and neighbourhoods
where we learn that we are stronger together.
You created people in your image,
so amazing and capable of so much that is good,
yet also capable of going choosing the wrong thing.
Give us ears to listen to one another,
hearts to care for each other's pain,
and hands ready to heal the hurts of our world.
As world leaders meet to discuss climate change,
may your Spirt of truth and justice lead the way
to a more compassionate, a more equal and a simpler way of life.

God of all creation,
May we use your gifts wisely and care for the earth.

Generous God,
you give us all that we need for life.
May we learn to live with the same generosity that you show to us,
using resources for our need and not our greed,
and offering what we can to improve the lives of people who struggle.
May we never be closed to the parts of the world that are troubled,
or closed to the sufferings caused by our greed in the developed world.
Give us and our world leaders generosity of spirit,
so that we can walk in another person's shoes.
May we begin to see that we share one home
and that our actions can improve or damage life chances for others.

God of all creation,
May we use your gifts wisely and care for the earth

Generous God,
you count the hairs on our head
and care for the smallest of the creatures on earth.
May we live as though our days belong to you,
using the gifts of our time and our talents to serve our neighbour,
and make a difference in the world.
May we hear the cry of those in pain.
We place into your hands people who are ill
and we ask for your healing…

May we also pay attention to the cry of our earth for healing,
and the fears of the peoples in areas most at risk including:
Lagos in Nigeria; Yemen; Haiti; United Arab Emirates; Manila in the Philippines; Kiribati; Japan; the Netherlands; India and Sri Lanka and so many more…
We hold the peoples of these areas in our hearts
together with the hopes and dreams of children and young people.

God of all creation,
may we use your gifts wisely and care for the earth.

Amen

 

Take my life, and let it be:   Sing/ Read /pray /proclaim the words or listen to this version

Click on the Link:  https://youtu.be/Gf11rReeWIs

 

The Lord's Prayer

Our Father,

Who art in Heaven

Hallowed be thy name

Thy kingdom come,

Thy will be done in earth,

As it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses,

As we forgive them that trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom,

The power, and the glory,

For ever and ever.

Amen

 

A sending out prayer

Generous God, make us generous.
Make us generous in joy,
and generous in love.
Help us to remember what we have done today.
Remind us, every day,
that we need to share our love for you with others,
that we need to give and live generously –
for you are generous God, our God.
Be with each one of us and all whom we love,
this week and always.
Amen