Sunday, November 8, 2015

What Can You Get for A Penny?

Homily By The Rev. Marcia McRae
St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bainbridge, GA
8 Nov. 2015 Proper 27 Year B: Ruth 3:1-5, 4:13-17; Psalm 127; Hebrews 9:24-28; Mark 12:38-44
Did everyone receive a penny when you came in today?
What can you get for a penny?
A reduction to your dental bill!
But more of that later!
We see the haves & the have-nots in our scriptures today. We see God's loving grace to all people. We see in action:
God loves you. No exceptions. All are welcome!
We see God's loving grace in action in our Gospel & in the Book of Ruth, the story of this foreigner who becomes an ancestor of Jesus. Ruth's story opens with Naomi, her husband & their 2 sons leaving their home in Bethlehem during a famine to go to Moab, a foreign country where Ruth lives & where Naomi's husband & sons die.1 This story is one of active loyalty.
Active loyalty, the fidelity in the lives of Ruth, Naomi & Boaz, as the Jewish Study Bible notes,2goes beyond law & duty. We see fidelity when Ruth, the outsider, commits herself to her mother-in-law & becomes part of Naomi's people who worship God3. It is fitting that Ruth & Boaz's son is named Obed, which means “worshipper”.4
We see loyalty beyond law & duty in our Gospel. Jesus' people-watching skills give him examples for the lessons he teaches in the Temple. Today he tells us clearly: appearances can be deceiving. How the well-to-do look & the actions of the crowd pouring loads of money into the collection plate appear righteous. The poor widow puts in 2 puny coins: Jesus says her gift is the most generous.
How much difference in your life could that penny you received make? How much difference could a penny you see on the ground make if you pick it up?
What kind of reminder could it be for your
spiritual growth in God's love?
  • Maybe it will remind you: In God we trust.
  • Maybe it can remind you that, in Jesus' eyes, you are important no matter how little you may have.5
  • Maybe it can remind you that Jesus sees what's in our hearts when we do what we do.
Jesus sees what's in your heart when you do what you do.6
 Perhaps the penny will remind you to pray & give God thanks.
That's what picking a penny off the ground 45 years ago did for Otha Anders of Louisiana,7 whose story is in a recent edition of USA Today.
The 73-year-old former in-school suspension supervisor gives us an example of the ideal commitment & fidelity we hear in our scriptures – fidelity that goes beyond duty.
In October, Anders turned his penny collection into the bank because homeowner's insurance no longer covers the value of his 500,000-plus pennies that filled 15 five-gallon plastic water jugs. [This is a 1-gallon jug. His were 5 times as large & 15 times as many!] The $5,136.14 worth of pennies will help pay a recent dental bill.
Anders says: "I became convinced that spotting a lost or dropped penny was an additional God-given incentive reminding me to always be thankful...There have been days where I failed to pray & more often than not, a lost or dropped penny would show up to remind me."
Anders knows a penny's value is greater than its monetary worth.
Collecting pennies, he says, gave him: “the inner satisfaction that God & I acquired this collection."
What are you acquiring with God's help?
What puny gift, what small grace have you overlooked?
Notice: Jesus sees differently. Instead of seeing the poor widow as an outcast, a problem to attack or to ignore, Jesus sees vast human worth.
Jesus sees with God's Love.
The poor widow gives all she has. Her action, as one commentator says, is like Jesus' self-givingthe pouring out of his love, his life for us8, dying for us on the hard wood of the cross, forgiving us as he dies so that we may have eternal life – the joy of full life in right relationship with God & each other.
How do we live in Jesus' self-giving love when times get stressful?
How do we exercise stewardship of our time &
care of ourselves & each other?
How do we see like Jesus sees?
God's love sees how you offer what you offer of your money, time, & skills.
Jesus doesn’t compare what you give to what another person gives.
The Holy Spirit will guide you in
your stewardship of love.

At the heart of the matter,

what matters is

what's in your heart.9

Benoit, The Rev. Arlette. “Penny for Your Thoughts, Proper 27(B) – 2015”. Accessed: 5 Nov. 2015.
Harper’s Bible Commentary. General Ed.: James. L. Mays. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1988.
Harper’s Bible Dictionary. General Ed.: Paul J. Achtemeier. San Francisco: Harper & Row Publishers, 1971.
Holy Bible with the Apocrypha. New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford University Press. 1989.
Jewish Study Bible: Jewish Publication Society TANAKH Translation. New York: Oxford University Press. 2004.
Lectionary Page. Accessed: 22 July 2015.
Man cashes in pennies he's been saving for 45 years”. http://www.usatoday./story/news/nation-now/2015/10/28/man-cashes-pennies-hes-been-saving-45-years/74727160/ Accessed: 2 Nov. 2015.
What's in Your Heart?” Accessed: 3 Nov. 2015.
Wines, Alphonetta. “Commentary on Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17”. Accessed: 7 Nov. 2015. Note: Author is Pastor, Bible Scholar, and Theologian, Dido United Methodist Church, Fort Worth, TX. She quotes from Kristen Nielsen, “Other Writings (Ruth, Song of Songs, Esther, Daniel)” in The Hebrew Bible Today: An Introduction to Critical Issues.” Eds: Steven L. McKenzie, M. Patrick Graham. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998.

1 Jewish Study Bible. P. 1578.

2 Ibid.
3 Wines, Alphonetta.
 Accessed: 7 Nov. 2015.

4 Harper’s Bible Dictionary. P. 717.

5 “What's in Your Heart?” Accessed: 3 Nov. 2015.

6 Ibid

7 “Man cashes in pennies he's been saving for 45 years” Accessed: 2 Nov. 2015.

8 Benoit, The Rev. Arlette. “Penny for Your Thoughts, Proper 27(B) – 2015”. Accessed: 5 Nov. 2015.

9 Idea from “What's in Your Heart?”

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