Sermon — Pr. Tony Sikora — When a Widow shames a Nation

Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  AMEN! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. Mark’s gospel account (Mark 12:38-44) the 12th chapter.

Beloved in the Lord,

It is written in our nation’s constitution.  We have the right to pursue happiness.  But in our pursuit of happiness we have allowed the powers of appearance to overshadow substance.  Our persistent preoccupation with surfaces and appearances has subverted the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of the true and living God.  Focusing our hearts on what we see we lose the God who is unseen.  Losing God our vain pursuit lunges after the things of this life.   Thus we live and move and have our being in the hopes of getting things and living comfortably all the while not worrying, not wondering, not being concerned about what happens to us when it all ends, even though we are more than worried and concerned about what happens to us when we lose the things we have.

And so beloved we find ourselves living in a world of surface dwellers, appearance seekers, superficial, shallow, cheap and vulgar idolaters.  We chase after the wrong things, ignore heavenly things, and cling to the things that moth and rust destroy.  When moth and rust visit us we are compelled to hock our children’s future –in order to buy more- thereby binding them to a debt they will never be able to repay all in the hopes of our being “happy” today.

But we never really make it do we?  We never really satisfy our pursuit.  Happiness always seems just out of reach, just a little too expensive, a little too far away, a little stretch here, a sacrifice there, and maybe with the help of the right politician, maybe . . . finally . . . we can get it, have it, keep it at least for today.

When we will we learn?  Our God will not permit His people to go about whoring after idols.  Thus he breaks them, removes them, and reveals their total inability to give joy and happiness, let alone salvation.  And so we have our text this morning.

Behold the widow in the temple.  Where is her heart?  What is her focus?  Why is she praised by the Savior?  She is poor.  She is a widow.  She is alone.  And she is in the temple giving her life.  With those two mites this widow’s faith is made manifest.  She doesn’t give a little out of her bounty.  She doesn’t even give a lot of out her bounty.  She has no bounty.  She is poor beyond our imagination.  And yet, she tosses into the treasury all that she has.  Her whole livelihood is cast before the Lord! Her whole life is cast into His care.  Is she focused on the things of this world?  Is she dwelling on the surface, chasing after shiny things, sweet smelling things, charismatic people, pretty people?  Is she looking to Herod or Pilate to not only make her happy but to provide her with food and shelter and things?  Is she hoping other people will be forced redistribute their wealth to support and sustain her life?  The answer is an obvious NO!

This Widow has come to the temple to worship.  She gives everything she has in worship.  She surrenders her whole person, all her possessions, all that she is in order to receive from the Lord gifts that will endure unto eternity!  Her God is there manifesting His holiness for her that she be sanctified with the Word of God, receive His Name upon Her and be blessed here in time and there in eternity!  She is fixed on the Word.  Her ears are attentive.  Her eyes are focused.  Her heart is made right and clean by the Word.  She is pursuing the right things, eternal things, things that are of heaven, things God wishes to give all people.  No doubt she who is full of faith is also full of Joy and happiness in the LORD.

Thus she is praised by Jesus and set before us who would be His disciples.  Her faith is a great example for us. Her heart is a wonderful picture for us.  Her offering is an exemplary illustration.  Where her heart is there is her God.  Her heart is in the temple not the coins.  Her God is in the Word, in the depths, in the hidden place where all who seek Him by faith shall find Him.

But what shall move us away from the surface and down to the depths of God’s heart?  It must the cross of Christ.  Old Adam loves the surface.  He lusts after appearances.  But down below, down in the depths, under the surface is where the things of substance reside.  Old Adam cannot survive the depths of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God. Old Adam will drown and must be drowned if we are to be saved from this wicked and perverse generation.  Thus the Lord gives His Son into death on the cross.  If we look and listen only on the surface we will fare no better than the priests, the Romans, or the thief on the left.  We will see the ugly death of a condemned man.

We must allow ourselves to be taken captive and hauled into the depths of His passion.  We must surrender our struggle to survive on the surface of this world and dive deep into wounds and Word of this Man, Jesus.  He is for us the unseen God made visible.  He is incarnate.  He is eternal.  He is put to death because Old Adam must die.  Sin deserves death.  With the death of sin goes also the death of sorrow, sadness, anxiety, worry, and all the consequences of this broken and corrupt world.  The death of Jesus undoes death.  The passion of Jesus manifests God’s love.  The suffering of Jesus endures the pangs of hell for humanity.  Thus the resurrection of Jesus raises humanity and all who believe on His name.  Stepping out of the grave He wins for us a treasure that lasts beyond this world.  Paradise is retrieved.  Humanity redeemed.  Joy and Happiness returned.  But this is only in Jesus, and only through His death and resurrection,  only to those who believe and are baptized, who receive such things by faith, who dive deep and indulge in the things of God as given them through Word and sacrament.

It is the power of His cross that is then laid upon our hearts in baptism and the preaching of His Word.  It is placed upon our tongues in the supper encouraging us to stay the fight and remain steadfast in the face of uncertainty, doubt, despair and further hardship.  The cross keeps us in the depths, seeking Godly things below the surface, and finding joy in the right things, resting secure in the love of our God.

Thus beloved, you are not to be like the surface dwellers that surround us.  You are God’s baptized.  You have been immersed in the depths of the riches of the knowledge and wisdom of God’s eternal passion for you.  Since you are baptized seek then the things that are above this shallow, cheap, and vulgar world.  Dwelling in the depths of God’s salvation fix your heart no more on this life, the things that can be attained, the places you can or cannot visit, the experiences you may or may not have.  But fix your heart on things above, the city that is yet to come, the love that wins salvation, the joy the endures in hardship, the confidence of the free forgiveness of your sins and sure and certain hope of the resurrection of your body.  Think beloved on the deep things of God!  For you have died with Christ in your baptism and your life is hidden with Christ in your baptism.

See this widow in our text. See how she tosses what is an idol to so many, even so many amongst us.  Her offering reveals her faith.  The LORD is her God, not her money.  Her two mites, though small by the standards of the surface dwellers, is great in the eyes of the Lord.  She gives her all and trusts the LORD.  If we are not drawn to and encouraged by her example we ought then to be ashamed.  What are clinging to if we withhold our offerings? What are confessing to God and our neighbor if we worry about the wrong things?  What are we revealing about our hearts, about our faith, if we love what’s in our pockets, our banks, our world more than God’s house, God’s Word, God’s sacraments?  And what are saying when our anxiety steals away our joy?

Beloved, do not be anxious like the unbelieving world, nor fearing what is yet to happen during your days on earth.  Do not set your heart and your mind on this life, this world, these things.  Stop writhing under that which would compel you to the depths of heavenly things, quit shifting under your cross and bear it up with faith.  Stop chasing after this nation’s idols and rejoice in the good gifts your God has given you already.

That which looks good, most likely is not.  That which appears fun, most likely leads to hell.  That which promises happiness in this world, seeks only your money, or y at the very least our vote.  Your money is not your God.  Politicians are not your savior.  Life is not meant for fun, fun doesn’t mean happy.  The happiest place in the world is not named Disney.  Such surgary sweet things only deceive us into thinking and believing that there is no true happiness without them.   To prove this truth, the God who loves you beyond your wildest imagination, takes them away, crucifies them and buries them so that you may rise out of them on the last day.

Beloved in the Lord, it is becoming more and more evident that our nation’s pursuit of happiness – whatever that means – will only result in the pursuit of sin and therefore death.  Behold the widow in our text.  She is pursuing the right things.  She hungers for the right things. She thirsts for the right things.  Righteousness and holiness are her pursuit, gifts that only the true God can give, gifts that are given by grace and received through faith.  These gifts are for you as well.  Seek ye first the kingdom of God.  Pursue the right things.  Set your hearts on the depths of God’s heart and crave the substance of the righteousness of your God.  For these things are not shallow, cheap, nor vulgar.  But the depths of His love for you cost Him the Life of His only Begotten Son, so that you may become the righteousness of God.  Therefore in your pursuit of happiness, pursue God’s means of Grace.  Receive His gifts of life, mercy, forgiveness, HIMSELF, and then return to your vocations.

Your vocations are place where you put His gifts into action, in Word and in deed, what God has done for you.  Receiving His gifts and doing His bidding; worshipping God and serving your neighbor, loving your husband or wife, caring for your children, doing your duty at work and doing it well, these are the things that matter, the things that are of substance, the things that endure for eternity.  You have been redeemed out of sin, death, devil and hell, and into the marvelous light and life of Jesus Christ.  You have by faith what the world wants most by works – eternal life and salvation.  And therefore you can give away what the world works for – the things of this world – and you can still rejoice, give thanks and sing.  Your life is not hidden in money. Your hope is not in politics, or politicians.  Your joy is not found on the surface nor in the powers of appearance but in the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of the living and true God who suffered sin, death and hell and is risen from the grave to all eternity.  This is most certainly true not because it is written in some national constitution, but because it is written in Holy Scripture!  AMEN!

 

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!


Comments

Sermon — Pr. Tony Sikora — When a Widow shames a Nation — 3 Comments

  1. Just a quick correction – the “right to pursue happiness” is in the Declaration of Independence, not the Constitution.

  2. Rev. Sikora repeatedly refers to the “pursuit of happiness” (which Tom notes correctly is in the Declaration of Independence), and at one point states, “Beloved in the Lord, it is becoming more and more evident that our nation’s pursuit of happiness – whatever that means – will only result in the pursuit of sin and therefore death.”

    The “pursuit of happiness,” which replaced the third part of John Locke’s phrase, “life, liberty, and property,” in the Declaration of Independence, was not meant as a substitute, alternative or perversion to what Lutherans refer to as the Kingdom of the Right or to the Gospel. It was, in fact, part of what Jefferson and our Founding Fathers were explaining as the basis for their actions in that Declaration within what Lutherans refer to as the Kingdom of the Left.

    And the term most likely originated from a Lutheran, Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, a philosopher and mathematician, who developed differential calculus in the late 1600s, as well as wrote a book, On Natural Law (c1690), in which he stated: “The most perfect society is that whose purpose is the universal and supreme happiness.”

    Later, Emerrich de Vattel, a Swiss philosopher who was greatly influenced by Leibniz’s writings, wrote his book, The Law of Nations or the Principles of Natural Law (1758), further explained the meaning of “the pursuit of happiness” in his Book I, Chapter 11, To Procure the True Happiness of the Nation, including this excerpt :

    “It is an incontestable truth, that the virtues of the citizens constitute the most happy dispositions that can be desired by a just and wise government. Here then is an infallible criterion, by which the nation may judge of the intentions of those who govern it. If they endeavour to render the great and the common people virtuous, their views are pure and upright; and you may rest assured that they solely aim at the great end of government — the happiness and glory of the nation. But if they corrupt the morals of the people, spread a taste for luxury, effeminacy, a rage for licentious pleasures — if they stimulate the higher orders to a ruinous pomp and extravagance — beware, citizens! beware of those corruptors! they only aim at purchasing slaves in order to exercise over them an arbitrary sway.”

    Le droit des gens (The Law of Nations), was available to the Founding Fathers in 1775, and Benjamin Frankin noted that Vattel’s book, “has been continually in the hands of the members of our Congress now sitting.”

  3. Tom, Thanks for the correction. It will be noted before Sunday. Carl thanks for the additional background info on the “pursuit of happiness”.

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