42A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny.
The children’s sermon was a simple idea. I used a Harry Potter pillowcase as a trick or treat bag. Unfortunately, none of these kids were into Harry Potter, but the sound of some candy in the bottom of the bag did lead them to guess what it was. So I held out my bag to each of them and said “trick or treat!” The confused looks on their faces were choice.
When it was apparent they had no candy to give, I reached into my bag and gave them each some. Then I looked them each in the eye and said again “Trick or treat!” I confess I was surprised that they each gave their candy back.
Then I asked my simple question: “Which is more like God, the one who gives or the one who takes?”
That answer they knew.
At the end, I gave them each a piece of candy again (some little package of a fruit rollup type thing the youth director had graciously provided), and then came the most delightful moment of the morning: The kids went running back down the aisle rejoicing, “We got candy!!”
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The first question is important for the adults, too: “Which is more like God?” But there is a related question for us: “Which should be more like God’s people?”
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Christian life is not about following a set of rules; it is about embodying the character of God. It is living the values of the kingdom. It is about living the giving.
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The preaching today (both the “children’s” message and the “adult” sermon) was rooted in Jesus’ warning about the scribes and his remark about the widow giving her last two pennies. I’ve posted the text of the sermon here, but here are some highlights.
The story isn’t about the woman; it is about the scribes and the temple. It is about the scribes who, as Jesus says in our text, “devour widow’s houses.” It is about the temple system that is making the rich richer and the poor poorer. The religious system that the scribes are advocating doesn’t embody the justice and mercy of God. It doesn’t share bread with the hungry. It doesn’t clothe the naked. It doesn’t shelter the homeless. It doesn’t free those in debtor’s prison. It doesn’t welcome the outcast and the stranger. It doesn’t heal the sick or free those bound by unclean spirits. It doesn’t forgive as we have been forgiven.
So Jesus has warned his followers about the temple system that bleeds widows dry – and then points across the courtyard to a widow giving her last two cents. The text says to us simply: “Don’t be that.” … Don’t be the church of any age, rich in gold while people hunger. Don’t be the church of the self-satisfied and self-righteous. Don’t be the church aligned with the rich and powerful against the poor and dispossessed.
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The question in the children’s message was simple: “Is God more like the giver or the taker?” Learning to truly inhabit the realm of God’s giving is the challenge.