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October 14, 2012–Where Does Our Money Go?

Contributed by Jay Gamelin, Lexington, S. C.


Warm-up Question

Have you ever received a large financial gift?  What did you do with it?

Where Does Our Money Go”

Quadriga Art helped several non-profit companies raise millions of dollars to support their work with poor and marginalized populations from Native American children to disabled veterans.  So why are these non-profits in debt to Quadriga?  Can this possibly be okay?

It’s hard to say.

On one side, the company raises money for programs that are meant to help others but have a high cost to run.  When these projects fail it is not the fault of the fundraiser but the management of the projects.  If the project uses all the money raised without paying the fundraising company, the project owes a debt to the fundraising company. The fundraising company cannot be held accountable of poor management in the nonprofits.

On the other hand, it is the fundraiser’s job to raise this money. The projects these non-profits create are dependent on the support of the fundraisers and it is their work to make sure the goals are achieved. If they do not reach their goals, can this be the fault of the nonprofits?

This issue raises questions about how we give and support projects we believe are worthy. When we give to something, are we sure that the money is going where we think it is?  How much of the money we give goes to the project and how much goes to administration, support, advertising, and yes, the fundraising effort itself?

As this issue is resolved through investigations, it is clear that the greater lesson to be learned is this- know where you are giving and be sure your dollar is doing what you think it is doing.


Discussion Questions

  • Who is at fault in this case?  Do you find yourself supporting the non-profits or the fundraiser?  Why?
  • When was the last time you gave to a charity (outside of church)?  How much research did you put into the charity and how they use their income?  What do you think your money is doing?
  • How do you balance your own giving?  How much of your own money do you give to causes you think are worthy?  What is a goal you have for your own giving?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, October 14, 2012 (Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost

Amos 5:6-7

Hebrews 4:12-16

Mark 10:17-31

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.


Gospel Reflection

What do we make of the rich young ruler in our gospel?  Is this a man troubled by the evils of wealth?  Is love for money the root of all evil?  It seems so, if we are to take this text at face value.  Perhaps it is easier to pass a camel through a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom.  Why?

Jesus holds up for the rich young ruler the laws of Moses and the ruler says he has followed “these.”  But what is to be noticed is not what is listed but what is not: “You shall have no other God before me” “Observe the Sabbath” and “Do not covet” are missing.  This is a remez style of rabbinical teaching, where what we are notice is not what is quoted but what is around it and we pay attention to what is not said.  By removing these commands, we look at the reality that this is not about money but rather that he has another God and it is his own wealth, that he has not honored the Sabbath (perhaps working instead!) and that this has led to him wanting more and more. Jesus recommends expelling this from his life, to get rid of this idol. Seems so easy, right?

We cannot simply remove wealth from our lives as if it were cancer.   In today’s culture, we need it for food, clothing, shelter, etc.  The issue is not the money, it’s what happens when we serve it as our god.  When wealth and accumulation becomes our goal we lose what is more important, justice and mercy. Amos says that we are to seek good, and this can be done with wealth. It has great power to do good things.  But we also need to be wise with our wealth. We need to be sure we give generously, so that it does not control us, but also wisely, so that it is being used for holy purposes. Seek the wisdom to use your monies for good so that you may control it rather than have it control you.

Discussion Questions

  • What are some things you think money is good for?  How has it been a help?  What are ways you have seen money used poorly?
  • What are projects you have been interested in giving a hand to?  What needs are in the world you would be interested in supporting financially?  Have you done this?  Why or why not?
  • Do you know of examples in your life, people or other entities, you look up to when it comes to money and giving? Does their faith affect them in their decisions?
  • What are some other things you think are great gifts of God but can quickly become idols?  (i.e. image problems, overindulgence of food, over-exercise, etc.)

Activity Suggestions

Charity Watch:

For this activity, you will need a computer connection.   Let’s take a look at some non-profits and how they use their money. Visit a site such as  Think of some non-profit organizations that you may want to consider giving to.  If you are looking for some direction, try these:  Lutheran World Relief, Compassion International, YWCA, World Vision, Kare Youth League, and Blood:water mission. How do you think they are doing? Hint: Don’t just look at the score!  Take a close look at the information such as the number of dollars that go to program as opposed to administration. Perhaps some are better than they may appear on the surface! Which might you be interested in helping?

There are many worthy places to support. It is our job to seek where our heart meets the needs of the world. No one can give to every worthy place, instead decide where your heart is called and get determined to give what you can to support this call.

Closing Prayer

The earth is yours and everything in it, Lord, ourselves, our time, and our possessions. Help us to use what you have given us to be signs of life and good. Lead us to those places that need us. We turn over what we have to you, in the name of Jesus. AMEN.

November 3-9, 2010–Doing More Harm Than Good?

Contributed by Jen Krausz, Bethlehem, PA

Warm-up Question

How do you decide whether to help someone?

Doing More Harm Than Good?

Nine months after a devastating earthquake killed over 250,000 people, many Haitians and international experts say that the millions of dollars given in aid has actually caused infrastructure and business shutdowns, and may be hurting the nation more than it has helped.

After the 7.0 magnitude earthquake, food, shelter and medical assistance poured into the already poor country.  American and French doctors came and treated thousands of injuries.  Although many Haitians still live in tents after their shacks and cement brick homes were destroyed, most people now have access to food, clean water and basic medical care.

The unfortunate and unforeseen drawback of all this generosity, however, is that existing hospitals, stores and pharmacies have had to shut down because there is much less demand for their products and services. Some fear that the aid will actually leave the country worse off than it was before.

Nurse Beth Middleton says she has doctors handing her resumes, forced to live in tents despite their education and experience. “The healthcare that was in place before the earthquake was crippled by the relief effort,” she says. “Pharmacies closed because of all the free drugs, and doctors lost all their patients.” The middle class is finding it hard to find jobs, she says, and pay for their housing and their kids’ school fees.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, over 12,000 non-governmental organizations have provided aid. Some of these are doing good work, but it is difficult to tell what many are doing, if anything at all. Furthermore, some say these organizations are not doing very well working together or working with governmental agencies to best help the people of Haiti. Some fear  that many organizations will pull out of Haiti without making sure that the people are able to help themselves.

Dig a little deeper:

Discussion Questions

  • Do you know anyone who has helped or donated money to the Haiti relief effort? (The ELCA has donated over 4.6 million dollars to Haiti Relief—
  • How does it feel to help someone, whether face-to-face or by giving money?
  • Have you ever seen someone get helped and be worse off afterward?
  • How can we Christians help in ways which leave others better off and ultimately independent?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, November 7, 2010 (All Saints Sunday)

 Daniel  7:1-3, 15-18

Ephesians 1:11-23

Luke 6:20-31

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

What a hard teaching some of this is for those of us who live in America! You might not feel rich, but the average American is in the top 1% of the world as far as income level. All those “woe to yous” could very well apply to us. That’s something to think about next time we go to the all-you-can-eat buffet, isn’t it?

Jesus isn’t saying that we will be punished for having stuff or that it’s wrong to eat a big meal. It’s when we focus on getting more stuff, or better stuff, while neglecting the really important things in life that Jesus has a problem with us. If our focus is on caring about people, taking care of our responsibilities, helping those who truly can’t help themselves, and loving God, then we will be blessed. And if we focus on material things and ourselves, then we’ve already had our reward. That’s pretty simple.

The last part of this teaching is definitely the hardest. Loving those who love us is hard enough. But loving our enemies? Doing something nice for someone who is going to turn around and stab you in the back is just about the hardest thing Jesus asks us to do. It goes against everything in us! It’s exactly the opposite of what the world does and expects us to do. Are we really supposed to just let people take our stuff and not do anything about it? Who does that?  Almost nobody.

Elsewhere in scripture Jesus makes it clear that Christians are supposed to be different from the rest of the world. (See, for example, Matthew 5:13-16) We’re supposed to go so far beyond the way the rest of the world behaves, that the world will look at us and say, “Maybe they are really about something real and special.” When we are unlike anything else in the world, people sit up and take notice. Some even get drawn in when they realize that they want what we have.

Discussion Questions

  • What part of the gospel reading seems the hardest to you? Which part do you most identify with?
  • Have you ever done something nice for an “enemy” (meaning someone you don’t like, or who doesn’t like you, or who has treated you badly in the past)? What happened, if anything, as a result?
  • As a Christian, what makes you different from other people you know?
  •  Do you think God wants us to help people even if it makes them dependent or if it makes their situation worse? Is it possible that sometimes the best way to help someone is to do nothing so that they learn to help themselves?

Activity Suggestions

One way to truly help people is to provide the resources they need to become independent—to help others help themselves. There are organizations which do this.  For example, Heifer International provides animals to families struggling with poverty. Providing something as simple as a flock of chicks or a goat enables that family to make an income from the eggs, the milk, and later the meat of those animals. Part of the agreement in receiving an animal is to share its offspring with neighbors, “passing on the gift.”

Brainstorm ways your group or class could help someone in your community or elsewhere in the world. There are probably organizations right in your community to which you can donate money or volunteer time—your leader or pastor may be able to help. Even writing letters of encouragement can be a great help to someone in need

Dear God, Thank you for hard teachings. May we have ears to hear them. Help us to be willing to do the hard things, to show love even to our enemies. We pray that others will sense your presence in our lives as we follow you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Closing Prayer

Dear God, Thank you for hard teachings. May we have ears to hear them. Help us to be willing to do the hard things, to show love even to our enemies. We pray that others will sense your presence in our lives as we follow you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

September 22-28, 2010–Will Work for Food

Contributed by Claudia Bergman, Erfurt, Germany

Warm-up Question

How does one grow radishes?

Will Work for Food

If you were looking for an internship this summer, you might think you know what the most sought-after places were: Capitol Hill, newspapers, and fashion magazines. But think again. This year, there was a run on internships that involved living in group housing or tents, earning little or nothing, and getting your hands dirty.  Students looking for internships, career-changers, and people who love to cook now turn to farmers to show them how to turn the soil.

Why do people volunteer to bend their backs for hours on end to pick radishes, get a sunburn from picking weeds between tender spinach leaves, or cook lunch from scratch for 200 hungry workers every day? Apparently, it is not just about getting the foot in the door with a future employer. Many of the interns at farms are looking for their calling in life or striving for a hands-on connection to the land. Asked about his motivation, Evan Dayringer, a farm intern with a math degree from Michigan State University, said, “It felt good to have some work that was real.”

The rise of Community Supported Agriculture has contributed to this run on farm internships. The more people get exposed to fresh organic vegetables, the more interested they become in learning how to grown and distribute them. An example is Angelic Organics in Caledonia, Illinois, led by the now famous Farmer John. Through its Learning Center, Angelic Organics offers volunteers an opportunity to work with the farm animals, grow vegetables, learn bread baking, help with the dishwashing at the cooking classes, develop resources, or do office work and outreach. The name of their newsletter is Let’s Grow!, which summarizes what farmers and interns at farms are all about.

Discussion Questions

  • Does your family have a vegetable garden?
  • How often does your family eat fresh or home-grown vegetables?
  • Do you notice a difference in taste between a meal cooked from fresh organic vegetables and a TV-dinner that might have the same basic ingredients?
  • Do you know people who can fruits and vegetables, make their own jams, or bake their own bread? What, do you think, is their motivation?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, September 26, 2010 (Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost)

Amos 6:1a, 4-7

1 Timothy 6:6-19

Luke 16:19-31

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

What a strange story! It is as if Luke envisions two worlds. The first world is similar to the one we know. It is a place where the rich and the poor, the fortunate and the underprivileged, compete for society’s resources. The rich people indulge in everything that our wonderful world has to offer, while the poor people do not even have enough to heal their wounds and feed their physical hunger.

The second world, however, is totally different and seems to exist in the future end times. It is a two-layer world separated by a chasm. On the one side will be what Luke calls “Hades,” a hot, fiery, and dry place where those people live who are being punished for something. Here, the rich man suffers from thirst and heat. On the other side of that world, there will be an area where father Abraham dwells. It is a place where there is an abundance of water, cool shade, loving people, and plenty of food. Lazarus, who suffered his entire earthly life, sits at the head of the table, literally “in Abraham’s bosom,” like a tired little boy who rests close to the one he loves. Lazarus gets to eat foods that he never had before and could not have possibly imagined. He is comforted and cared for, his pains soothed and healed.

Luke imagines there to be some kind of connection between these two parts of the end time world because in the story the rich man in Hades can still talk to Abraham, who dwells on the other side. The rich man wants Abraham to order Lazarus to serve him.. But Abraham refuses. Lazarus gets to stay in the company of the father of his faith while the rich man is left to suffer.

Luke’s vision suggests Jesus who, according to New Testament tradition [e.g., 1 Peter 3:18-22], went into Hades and was resurrected from the dead. But Luke also develops a picture of the end times twhich involves a reversal of circumstances. Whoever was rich will now become poor. Whoever suffered will now be cared for and healed. Whoever was hungry will now have plenty. When the Gospel of Luke describes the end times in such a way, it follows a tradition that was widespread during the time the Gospel originated.  Jews and Christians imagined scenarios where the insufferable circumstances of the times would be turned around. These writers based their idea of the reversal at the end times on the Old Testament (the Hebrew Bible) where God is described as being the one who will return the corrupt world to the original beauty intended at creation.

What did people at Luke’s time think about the future? They thought that the just would be rewarded and the unjust punished. And how would one be able to distinguish between the just and the unjust? Our story from Luke has two answers. First, the rich are in danger of being considered the unjust, especially when they are not willing to share their fortunes.  Second, whoever listens to the Scriptures and obeys (Luke says to “Moses and the prophets”) will be counted among the just.

However one understands Jesus’ parable of a future world split between Hades and a place in Abraham’s bosom, it contains both a warning against blindness in the face of need and the promise that God’s faithfulness will still our hunger and make our hurting bodies and minds whole.

Discussion Questions

  • Do you think  a vision of the end times where there will be a divide between the just and the unjust changed peoples’ behavior in the past?  How much do you think it motivates people today?
  • How does this portion of the Gospel still speak to us today considering that most of us would be counted among the rich?
  • What encourages people to care for the poor and to follow Scripture, in your opinion?
  • Luke uses the image of a rich feast at the end times where everybody gets his or her fill and is healed of their sicknesses. How do you imagine the future in God?

Activity Suggestions

  1. Split up your group in several small groups. Hand each group a sheet with one of the following texts printed out: Luke 14:7-14, Luke 15:1-7, Luke 17:20-37, Luke 18:1-8, Luke 18:18-27. Ask each group to read one of these stories (all of which are close to the one about Lazarus) and to find the characteristics of the Kingdom of God as described in them. Compare and contrast the different visions of the end times according to these stories in the Gospel of Luke.
  2. Either together or in small groups, read the above texts about the Kingdom of God (you may also use just a selection of texts). Ask each individual to complete the following sentence: “In my opinion, the Kingdom of God will be like …”
  3. Provide materials for artwork and ask each member of your group to create an artistic image of what they think the Kingdom of God will be like. Arrange the results on a wall or a place where they can be viewed for a few weeks, if possible by the entire congregation. If you did exercise #2, you can add these responses to your mural.
  4. Arrange for somebody from a local feeding ministry to come and talk to your group about their reasons to feed the hungry. Find out whether your church is involved in a feeding ministry in your area. Use part of your lesson to collect ideas how your group can organize a food drive to benefit one of the feeding ministries nearby. 

Closing Prayer

Loving God. You fill our plates and cups every day, and we thank you for that. Yet, seeing that so many of your beloved children go hungry over and over again must sadden you.

We admit

  • we do not share our resources as we should.
  • we do not use your wonderful creation to its full potential.
  • we do not distribute the fruits of your earth justly.

We ask you,

  • help us to share.
  • help us to work for justice.
  • help us to appreciate what we have by providing a feast for others.

God of plenty, make us people who love abundantly and give freely. Amen.

July 28-August 3, 2010–When I’m 60 I’ll Get Around to That

Contributed by Jay Gamelin, Pastor of Jacob’s Porch, Lutheran campus mission to The Ohio State University.

Warm-up Question

 What would you do with ten million dollars?  Go ahead, fantasize away!  Try and be honest.

When I’m 60, I’ll Get Around to That

Something happened to Bill and Melinda Gates.  After the Gates amassed many billions of dollars founding Microsoft and creating Windows software, the two asked themselves what all this wealth was for.  Building more houses, buying more companies, and creating more wealth seemed hollow.

It was then they met Bono, the lead singer for the band U2.  Often outspoken on behalf of the poor, Bono challenged the Gates to understand the challenge of “stupid poverty”, that is, the people who die for want of a $2 pill because they live on $1 a day.  This was enough to draw Gates away from Microsoft years before he intended to shift his focus from making money to giving it away. He and Melinda looked around and recognized the shortcoming of the way in which the world values wealth and its distribution. “Those lives were being treated as if they weren’t valuable,” Gates told FORTUNE in 2002. “Well, when you have the resources that could make a very big impact, you can’t just say to yourself, ‘O.K., when I’m 60, I’ll get around to that. Stand by.'”

So rather than continuing to amass more wealth, the Gates family began to give it away.  With a foundation that is now worth over 30 billion (yes, with a “B”) dollars and growing from a generous contribution from Warren Buffet, the wealthiest man in the world matches all gifts given by the foundation to the tune of another 30 billion dollars.  The fund focuses on ending poverty in the poorest countries and fighting HIV-AIDS and avoidable diseases in the world’s poorest economies.

The Gates saw wealth, not as an end, but as a means to an end, a way they can contribute to ending poverty in this lifetime.

Discussion Questions

  • Have you ever faced need and not been able to get what you needed?  If you have, how did this feel? 
  • If you have not, imagine what it would feel like to see extravagant wealth somewhere else while you were hungry?  What would you do to support your family?  What if you were not able to do this?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, August 1, 2010 (Tenth Sunday after Pentecost)

Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14, 2:18-23

Colossians 3:1-11

Luke 12:13-21

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

This is not a lesson about whether or not it is evil to be rich. It is not about creating a guilt trip for those who have.  Nor is it a commendation to be poor.  Poverty is not in itself a value we should embrace.  This is a lesson about questions, the ones we ask ourselves when we have.

The Gates figured out that they had much.  They had amassed a staggering fortune, in fact larger than some national economies.  They had built extravagant homes, formed companies, bought more, and done more.  Yet, despite it all, they still had much.  At this point they had to ask themselves a question: Do we continue to try to grow a fortune or decide that the value is not in possessing wealth but giving it away?  They, of course, answered the call and are now considered two of the biggest philanthropists in the world.

Perhaps it is easy to hold up the Gates family, they have so much to give.  They could give away 90% of their income and still be considered extremely wealthy.  With such wealth, perhaps giving it away is rather painless.  But more than the amount, it was the decision that we focus upon.  They faced a difficult question and answered it the best way they could.

In the text, the rich man has amassed a fortune.  Seeing his fortune grow, he was forced to ask what to do next.  His decision was to build another barn, store more food.  We can see the story and say, “Well, I would never do this!  If I were rich I would give it away!” Would you give it away?  Are you rich?  These are questions to ask yourself: How many outfits do you need in your closet to clothe yourself nicely for a week?  How many pairs of shoes do you possess?  How many cars do you need to own?  How big a house do you really “need”?  How much do you need to eat?  Do you really need that second TV?  Is cable necessary?  How many drinking glasses do you have in your home and how many mouths?

But you might say, “But this means I need to account for every dollar I spend!”  Yes, you do.  We need to be confronted with our own wealth and understand that we are the rich man.  The average American spends enough in a year on food to feed a village in other parts of the world.  This should stop us short in our tracks.

Again, this is not about guilt for being rich.  It is about important questions: What do we have?  What are we doing with it?  What are we doing to help?  What more can we do?  These are the questions rich Christians such as we who read this study, downloaded from the internet on our expensive computers, can and should ask themselves everyday—for  tomorrow our lives are required of us and do not belong to us.  Let us use our riches to lift up others.  In this we become rich in God and not to ourselves.

Discussion Questions

  • Do you think you owe anything to anyone else if you are rich?  Why or why not? 
  • What advantages do you think someone like Bill Gates may have had as opposed to a person in a third world country?  What advantages did he have in schooling and in the infrastructure of this country?
  • What obstacles might a person in a third world country face? How much more difficult is it to give them a hand-up to achieve?

Let’s ask the question again: What would you do with ten million dollars?  What would be OK to keep?  What would be OK to give away?  How much is enough to live on?  How much is enough to give away?

Activity Suggestions

“WHAT’S IN YOUR WALLET?”:  To avoid embarrassment, let read ahead and describe the activity.  Find a volunteer to either empty her purse, a back pack, or take everything out of his pockets.  Take a look at what is in there.  Look at what is in the wallet or purse as if you were an anthropologist or perhaps an archeologist.  If you did not know this person, what could you tell about him or her?

Now look at these things as an economist.  Which of these things are necessary for life?  Which are “extra” things?  Which would this person not miss?  Which would they miss?

PROCESS:  We all have things in our lives and there are some things we need and some we do not.  Our hope is that what we have can be used not only for ourselves but to support others, all for the glory of God.  The commercial says, “What’s in your wallet?”  I think it is a good question—what does what I have say about me? What can I use these things for?  How can they support others beyond me?

Closing Prayer

For all that you have given us, thank you God.  Teach us to be blessings of the abundance you have blessed us with.  May we be more and more like you.  AMEN.


November 4-11, 2009 – Underwater meeting makes a splash

Contributed by Matthew R. Nelson and Konor Clark (9th Grade, Walla Walla High School)
Christ Lutheran Church, Walla Walla, WA

Warm-up Question:  Describe a situation when you thought someone set a good example for others?

underwater-meeting160Girifushi, Maldives — To the lowest-lying nation on earth, global warming is a serious issue. Some fear that due to the melting of polar ice caps, the islands of Maldives could be under water in less than a century. At the present, the island averages only 7 feet above sea level.

To bring attention to this fact, President Mohammed Nasheed, a certified diver, and 13 other members of the Maldives cabinet dawned scuba gear and held an underwater meetingcomplete with tables and chairs in a lagoon off the island of Girifushi. Some members took scuba instruction just to be able to participate. Three officials could not attend due to health reasons and other travel responsibilities. Using hand signals to communicate the president and those present signed a document calling on all nations to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

Nasheed, representing approximately 350,000 people on 1,192 low-lying islands, has emerged as a primary voice on climate change. He has vowed to make the Maldives the world’s first carbon-neutral nation in the next ten years, and has announced plans for a fund to purchase a homeland and relocate citizens should submersion of the islands become eminent.

The meeting was intended to issue a sense of urgency to nations that will be attending a U.N. climate change conference in December. Wealthy nations are rallying for emissions cuts from all countries, while poorer nations seem to feel that the industrialized nations should carry more of the burden to achieve recommended goals.

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you think global warming and climate change are serious issues? Can it or does it effect your environment locally or regionally?
  2. What are the obvious issues in the global warming debate? Are there hidden issues and agendas? Who benefits and who suffers with those agendas?
  3. Have you ever done something out of the ordinary to get someone’s attention? Was it effective? Why or why not?
  4. What choices do you make that have a positive or negative impact on the world around you? On your congregation or community? Do you think your contributions and choices are recognized and make a difference?
  5. How important is it to you to be recognized for the things you do?

Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, November 8, 2009.

(Text links are to oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings.)

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

Jesus was an attentive and flexible teacher, using his surroundings and immediate circumstances to weave what was clearly observable into a more challenging spiritual context and lesson. As he was teaching, his focus was on the scribes who expected to be treated uniquely because of their status and knowledge. They acted one way, saying long prayers, while benefiting from the offerings of the rich and the poor; everyone was expected to give to their treasury. They were public figures who expected respect for exhibiting leadership and their own attributes of faith.

But as Jesus sat near the treasury to teach, his focus was not on the obvious, the actions of the Scribes and the gifts of the rich, but on the almost invisible forgotten gift of the widow.

penneys170When the widow’s two copper coins fell amongst the very noticeable offerings given by others ahead of her, Jesus seized the opportunity to open his disciple’s eyes to the gift she had given. Certainly, when the treasury was accounted for, her coins would not be thrown away. They would be used. Giving to the treasury was expected, but for those who had next to nothing to give, it was a tremendous sacrifice in comparison to those who gave so little from their abundance. The widow’s contribution counted because she sacrificed more than she could afford to.

As the United Nations addresses the issue of global warming, every contribution will count towards a better future for the world. It is often simpler to look at the more populated and industrialized nations to identify issues related to carbon dioxide emissions. At the same time, a large industrialized nation might hold itself up in front of the world saying “Look, we have reduced our emissions by 10%” while continuing to be the largest polluter and contributor to the problem.

As the international discussion continues, President Mohammed Nasheed has vowed to make the little islands of Maldives the first carbon-neutral nation in the world. Their underwater meeting might amount to just two simple coins in context of the world’s voice, but their goals, if accomplished, will set a standard of disproportionate giving. It may represent a standard of sacrifice to better the future of the world; a standard that Jesus would recognize in the midst of all the pageantry and high visibility of international discussions, politics, media coverage, meetings of powerful leaders, and global actions.

Discussion Questions

  1. Do small offerings of time, talent, or money really make a difference? Why or why not? Can you give an example? (Some Sunday School offerings might amount to only a few dollars a week, but they might be given to a homeless shelter or used to buy a jacket or blanket for someone in need.)
  2. Are there ways that you think your congregation, community, local government, or state can impact the world both locally and globally through seemingly small actions or decisions? How does considering the future or people beyond our immediate community shape our actions differently than if we just think about immediate needs or wants?
  3. To what actions do the gospel and our faith lead us? (As uncomfortable as they may be.)
  4. In what ways are you challenged to live and express your faith without reward or recognition or proof that great things will happen a a result?

Activity Suggestion

  • Plan a ‘green day’ for your congregation during which ride sharing and walking to church set an example for your community — and each other. Contact local media to see if they are willing interview members of the congregation or provide local coverage. Look for other ways your group or congregation can save energy or reduce its footprint in the interest of caring for the environment and becoming healthier.
  • Search or study the following Web sites. You’ll find ELCA statements and information on the environment and global warming:
  • Create a list of common ways that individuals in your congregation can help lessen their footprint and save energy and resources. Copy and distribute the list in your bulletin or hand it out after worship. Create resources for your Web site.
  • Does your congregation pass the offering plate through the pews during the worship service? How do you feel about this practice? What alternative ways are there for us to contribute the finances and gifts we have been blessed with? Do you think your recommendations would help or hurt the church financially? Why? Why not?
  • Work to involve all ages in supporting the ministries of your congregation. Be creative in providing options that are age-appropriate and interesting. Spread the word in as many ways as possible that even the smallest of gifts or contributions help support the mission of the church. Don’t forget to interpret and describe what our mission and ministries are about. Learn more about youth stewardship at Stewardship 10-10-80.

Closing Prayer

Lord our God, as you know, we may not have the riches of the world, but there is one thing you have given us that goes beyond all material riches — eternal life. Lord let it be known that it’s not how much we have or how much we give, it’s that you have given us the great gifts of faith, love, and eternal life. Lord we thank you for your teachings and all that you have given us, even if it sometimes seems like small coins to us. Teach us to be generous with what we have, like the the story of the widow and her small coins. In your name we pray and give thanks. Amen.