This sermon was preached at Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Holladay, UT on Oct. 25, 2020. It can be viewed on our YouTube Channel Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church SLC.
We are in our Generosity Focus with our theme: Rooted in our past, embracing our Future. This first week is Reimagine.
The texts were:
Leviticus 19:9-10, 25: 8-12
Mark 12: 38-44
Luther only wanted to make a statement, not start a revolution. Martin Luther, 503 years ago, posted some statements on a church door in Wittenberg, Germany, as he had done before, hoping to open up a conversation regarding the church system. The system that he had participated in his whole life, the system he actually loved, the system that had been in place for centuries, although with some evolution and nuance, the system that Luther believed was failing thousands of people. Luther considered his statements logical and obvious harms being perpetrated on innocent people who were reliant on the system and the structure to daily life it provided. But in truth, Luther’s statements were a vision, a reimagination of how the system, the world, the community of faith could operate. Luther saw through and beyond the system to something else, to something new. They were his statements of a reimagined life, of faith, daily living and community. That kind of reimagining, Luther soon found out, is always a threat to those in power in the system. Keeping the system stable and keeping those whom the system privileged comfortable was paramount at any costs. If some people were exploited, well, that’s just the way life works isn’t it? Nope, said Luther. When challenged by the powerful of the system, Luther was offered two choices, stay quiet and stay in the system, or be cast out from the system. Luther recognized that there was a third choice, and that was to follow his faith in God and God’s mission, risk everything to challenge and transform the system. Luther’s reimaging captured the imagination of many around him and the system was forced to alter. Many were upset, scared, bewildered, and angry that the status quo was shredded, for after Luther’s statements of faith, life was never the same again.
Statements that change the world can be made with words, spoken or written, but sometimes statements are made with what seems to be simple actions. Jesus called attention to this fact in our Mark lesson today. Jesus highlights the statements that the scribes, the supposed leaders of the Temple, who were tasked with caring for the people spiritually and physically, really were. Their long robes and overly ornate prayers were statements of status quo, power, elitism, and privilege. He also pointed to the statements of the rich people giving to the Temple treasury, and how they made a show of the amount they gave, a revealing of their bank statements so to speak, and how the scribes often privileged and fawned over those who gave copious amounts, even if it was really only a sliver of their actual wealth.
Jesus carefully watched the widow approach the treasury deposit site. Widows, who were often poor, as a woman’s only status and power were in relationship to a male family member, were exempt from giving to the Temple as the Temple leaders were supposed to be caring from them. The Torah teachings are clear that widows, the poor, orphans and resident aliens, immigrants and refugees are to be provided for from the Temple treasury and the community. The widow put in her two coins, all that she had, even though it’s a pittance. Jesus honors her but maybe not for the reason we think. Yes, it’s an act of faith, yes, it’s a statement of giving all that she had, but here’s what I think Jesus is really saying: it’s a statement of reimagining. It’s a statement of defiance and calling out the system. No, she didn’t get in anyone’s face, no she doesn’t write an angry note to state her disappointment with the leaders. Those two coins might have come from the treasury to begin with, and weren’t enough to help her at all, and so she gives it back. She knows that the scribes are supposed to be caring for her, and not just her, but all in need, and they are giving some, but not enough. It was a token. It was enough to soothe the conscious of those with all the power and wealth. See we gave them something! It’s not our fault that they can’t actually live on that! It’s Rome’s fault! But the widow knows better. The widow is reimagining what true community looks like. What equal and just distribution of wealth could be. She is reimagining beyond the Roman Empire and beyond the institution of the Temple- to the kingdom of God. She’s recalling our Leviticus text of Jubilee and offering a vision of trusting God AND trusting each other to provide for all needs, including the earth.
Jesus pointed out this widow to the disciples and to us so that perhaps we too can reimagine. What statement of God’s vision do we want to offer in this time and place? We have to reimagine beyond our broken and human political system, beyond our broken and human institutional church and offer a vision to the world of God’s kingdom. Luther, while by no means perfect and he had his flaws, was attempting in his own way to do this. It’s the foundation of our faith tradition-to reimagine the world that centers the kingdom of God and not the kingdom of the world, of human greed, selfishness, and egocentricity. When we center the kingdom of God, we center a vision of wholeness, justice, mercy and community, not for some but for all.
I have been ruminating more and more on how my life can be such a statement of reimaging life ushering in the kingdom of God in our current world. I truly believe that as a world and a Church we are in a time of reimaging and our statements of faith with words and actions matter. Nothing will be the same after this pandemic, and do we have the imagination, like the widow, Luther and Jesus, to join what God is already up to? We must reimagine our statements of faith that our communal lives together are more important than our individual rights, so we wear masks, curb our activities to necessities only, don’t hoard, and offer patience and compassion with leaders and each other. Reimagine our statements of faith that in our lives together white supremacy, racism, homophobia, misogyny is a sin, that our consumer culture is killing and harming us and the earth, that there is enough for all, and that yes, we will have to set aside our own power, privilege and entitlement. Reimagine our statements of faith that enable our bank statements to match our vision of abundance. Our statements of faith matter, for our statements can reimagine the world, bring down unjust systems and reveal the mercy and grace of God for us all.
God’s statement is clear, God’s living statement is Jesus who states in words and actions what God reimagines the world to be. Jesus’ statement is to reimagine a world where death isn’t the final word, where God’s will is done, all humanity and creation exists in health, interdependence, mercy and hope and the tenacious love of Christ binds us together. You are loved, you are beloved, go and be love. Amen .