On occasion it is my great honour to lead worship and offer a message at my small country church in Renton Ontario. This was one of those weeks so here I will offer to you a slightly edited version of my message this week. If you are not a Christian you may not identify with all of it but I hope there are truths in it for everyone. In the message to the children each person was given a poppy and two pennies. Hopefully you have a poppy you are wearing this week. Take a minute and find two pennies before you start to read.
The scriptures used as reference were these. They are linked for your convenience.
Who are the people who have sacrificed for you?
Those names on the wall at the back of the church and the names on the cenotaph? They did.
Did you have a mother who said she liked the chicken neck but you now know it is the most worthless part of the chicken and certainly the hardest to eat? Did you have a father who worked in terrible conditions in a mine or factory to bring home crumbs?
Where have you made sacrifice?. Have you given up trips and opportunities so your children could have more in life? Have you worked in your garden to save money? Have you lugged things that have damaged your back, worked hours that robbed you of sleep?
The story of Ruth is one of bravery and sacrifice. A young woman whose foreign husband has died and left her childless could stay in her own country and marry again but instead chooses to leave her home, with the old woman who is her mother in law. They go to a strange land. She chooses to turn her back on her own gods and follow the God of Naomi whose very laws reject the Moabite. When she gets there she she works for her mother law as a gleaner.
Without an heir Naomi is shunned and so she has to live the life of the poor, gathering what she can and living off the generosity of others. She is a widow, who, in that culture had no hope of being redeemed.
Naomi asks Ruth to take a huge chance and lie at the feet of Boaz on the threshing floor in hopes he would consider taking her as his wife. He has to buy that right from another closer relative but he also takes a chance and wins the right to marry Ruth. She gives him a son and in turn Naomi is redeemed and again able to join her society.
Ruth and Boaz become the parents of Obed, who is the father of Jessie who is the father of David. That a king comes from the line of a Moabite should not be but because of Ruth’s sacrifice and willingness to risk everything it was so.
In Mark, Jesus shares the parable of two people who came to offer their gift. In our economy of people who give millions to build hospitals the widow’s mite may be pretty insignificant. There are people who don’t have much to give in church and they are often criticized because they don’t contribute.
I‘m sure you agree with Jesus that the widow’s two pennies is more a sacrifice than the gift of the rich but do you really?
When a man gave his $1000 to our church at our annual beef supper he was applauded for his gift. I wonder why we didn’t applaud the family who struggled to give their $18 a plate and volunteered their time to the event as well.
The reality of giving in the church is that it is supposed to be private information. No one is to know what anyone else gives except those who handle the money. They are entrusted to hold that information in confidence. Why? Not just because it is the law of the land but also because it is contrary to the teaching of Jesus. Each gift has it’s own merit.
In the United Church the minister is never to know who gives what amount. I remember some people in the church when I was child believing they should have more of the minister’s time because they gave more money than others. It is for exactly that reason the minister is not to know what anyone gives. The ministry is to be given out equitably to all the congregation and is to show no favoritism.
I’m sure the finance people of many churches could tell of cases where those who appear to be rich do not give as much as those who have much less. When I worked as the bartender in the Yacht Club in Port Dover the joke was the longer the boat, the shorter the tip. So it sometimes is with the wealthy. Some can be very greedy people.
Whatever we give it is not the size of the gift that counts as much as the sacrifice of self which it represents.
The text in Hebrews explains the sacrifice of Jesus. Sacrifice is about the offering of blood. That may mean the life blood of our hard earned cash, it may mean time you cannot really afford. In the battlefield it is about giving up our lives or at least a part of them for the freedom we do not deserve.
In our faith it is about Jesus giving up his life so that we can know the freedom of living without guilt and shame.
Wear that poppy with pride this week. Pride that you have freedom because others died for it.
Take those two coins and put them somewhere to see each day. When you look at one remember it is not what you give of your wealth that is your sacrifice but rather what you give out of your poverty. Remember when you see the second that you are worth so much to our Creator that he sent his son to die for you.
Let us not take our freedom for granted.