So what he does is to work through his sermon text and come up with some discussion questions. Then he has a discussion with a small group. Out of that discussion he crafts his sermon. And even though he is the only one speaking in the sermon time, it is the fruit of a conversation in community.
I like the idea, and I'm wanting to put it into practice. I'm preaching in just under two weeks and I would like for you to help me. Will you have a conversation with me through comments to help me create a sermon that flows out of conversation and community?
If so, read on.
Text: Luke 21:1-4 (TNIV)
The Widow's OfferingTo me, this is a very difficult text. I'm preaching as a part of a sermon series through the book of Luke that is leading up to Easter Sunday. The main emphasis of this series has been that kingdom people will give to the poor. On Easter we will take up a collection for the poor. So this text was chosen for me as a part of this series.
1 As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich
putting their gifts into the
temple treasury. 2 He also saw a poor widow put
in two very small copper coins.
3 "Truly I tell you," he said, "this poor
widow has put in more than all the
others. 4 All these people gave their
gifts out of their wealth; but she out of
her poverty put in all she had to
Jesus has entered Jerusalem as a king and is now in the temple courts. The Law-teachers approach him in order to trap him in some theological or political point so that they can carry out their plans to arrest him. They ask him about his authority and he responds with a question about the authority of John. Score one for Jesus. Jesus then tells a parable about wicked tenants that the Law-teachers knew was directed against them. Score two for Jesus. Now the Law-teachers are really steaming.
They try the political tact and ask Jesus about paying taxes to Rome. Jesus game of show-and-tell foils that scheme. Hat trick. Now the Sadducees ask Jesus an old question about marriage in the Resurrection. This is one of their favorite baits into one of their favorite arguments. They know all the possible responses and all the ways to win. Well, almost all the responses. Jesus points out that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is not a God of dead men. Oops. Four for four.
Now Jesus pushes back again - this time he turns to Scripture and asks them about interpreting the Psalms. If the Messiah is supposed to be David's son, then how does David prophecy about the Messiah and call him his Lord? How can the Messiah be both son and Lord to David?
Not even a peep out of the smarty-pants.
Then Jesus really puts the pressure on by telling his disciples to watch out for the Law-teachers. They dress in the finest of clothes and go to the best banquets, but they "devour widows houses" and they will be punished for it.
Then we get the four verses about the widow's gift and then Jesus' disciples ask him about the temple and he spends the next chapter talking about how the temple will be destroyed. So where does the widow's story fit in all this? It's not a question by Jesus or the Law-teachers. It doesn't seem to connect to the following teaching about the temple. The one verbal queue that we have is Jesus calling the Law-teacher people who "devour widows houses".
How is this widow an example to us?
She stands in contrast to the Law-teachers as an example of right action and right priorities.
She is an example of sacrifice - just as she gives all that she has to live on, so will the Christ give all he has, so should Christ-followers.
The funny thing is that Jesus never uses her as an example of giving. He's not shy about telling people to give (all through Luke he's telling people to give and to sell their possession and give to the poor). But Jesus instead focuses on her sacrifice. We never find out what happens to her. Though elsewhere Jesus says that if we seek God's kingdom first then he will provide for our needs, here we see a widow giving all her money away - we don't know if God provided for her (though we hope and trust that he did).
Why is this story here?
Jesus has been firing back at those trying to trap him. With his question about Psalms he gets them to be silent, but now he tells them that they will be punished for their excess. The exclamation point is the widow who out gives them all. They can say nothing else against Jesus in the face of such an act.
Or perhaps Jesus is tired of this endless debate about the minutiae of the Law and he want to re-focus the discussion. Here sit a bunch of rich people arguing their intellectual positions while there is an anonymous woman who is on the brink of starvation. How can they think anything else is as important as a widow who needs food? How can they think the temple is so important when a woman is about to die? She is about as low as one can be on the social ladder and still enter the temple, but she is the one that Jesus notices when he look up.
What does this look like today?
How much money goes to fighting political battles over prayer in the schools or evolution vs. intelligent design? How many people die for want of that money?
How many books are published about the wrong position of other religious groups? How many books are published about working to help the outcast?
I am so guilty.
How would you visualize this?
What pictures, videos, songs would capture this message?