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Sermon for Bracken House Aged care in Dubbo this afternoon.


Reading OT:1 Kings 17:8-16
8Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 9“Go now to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and live there; for I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” 10So he set out and went to Zarephath. When he came to the gate of the town, a widow was there gathering sticks; he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, so that I may drink.” 11As she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” 12But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug; I am now gathering a couple of sticks, so that I may go home and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” 13Elijah said to her, “Do not be afraid; go and do as you have said; but first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterwards make something for yourself and your son. 14For thus says the Lord the God of Israel: The jar of meal will not be emptied and the jug of oil will not fail until the day that the Lord sends rain on the earth.” 15She went and did as Elijah said, so that she as well as he and her household ate for many days. 16The jar of meal was not emptied, neither did the jug of oil fail, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah.

Gospel: Mark 12:38-44
38As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honour at banquets! 40They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
41He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. 43Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. 44For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

We have this afternoon two stories of widows—and this is a subject many of you know first hand.

And yet how much harder would it have been in the days of the Old Testament or in Jesus day:

The was no Centrelink then.

No unemployment relief money.

No social security. 

No pension.

Actually we don’t have to go back  all the way to biblical times—this is a time within living memory—hard times many, or dare I say, most, of you would have known.

In fact—in Old Testament times the Law made provisions for the poor, the handicapped and Widows;

The fields were left every third year for the support of the poor and every seventh year one tenth of income was set aside to look after poor and widows.

It was each persons duty to God to look after those less fortunate than themselves. From the top of society to the poorest and most helpless.

In many ways people in Jewish community who had no way of supporting themselves were probably better off than they would have been in 1930s Australia.

The widow in our 1st Kings 17 scripture was unfortunately not living in any Jewish community—she lived in Phoenician territory and things were harsh. So harsh in fact that as we heard—she was going home to make a last meal for herself and her son and then she expected that there would be no more and they would die.

What she gave to this stranger Elijah was not just everything she had -  it was her life.

It is interesting that the biblical word ‘chera’ we read as widow was a term which meant ‘robbed’ Her husband was gone—her livelihood had been stolen from her.

As I said—this Old Testament woman lived  in Phoenicia but in Jerusalem it should have been different.

Widows should have been looked after.

Jesus came and saw that these pumped up upstarts of scribes were, as he puts it ‘devouring widows homes’, abrogating their responsibilities, treating those who should be honoured so callously and all the while putting on such a show of piety.

He not only gave them a serve—he then went and sat right by the temple treasury where he knew what was going to happen—it wouldn’t have been just one widow but possibly a number of them had this in common—they had been robbed and now the very ones who should help were robbing them again.

So our widow comes and furtively puts in two tiny coins—two mites. Two halfpennys—a total of a penny I guess you could say. It was all the money she had.

Giving into the temple was to support the priests AND the poor and widows. This woman was supporting the very institution which should have been supporting her.

How could they allow such a travesty—those who should be looked after are being robbed over and over and the very ones who should be helping are instead devouring.

Righteousness and justice in the bible are interchangeable terms—it is about setting things in the proper order—putting right what is not right. These scribes strutted their righteousness but didn’t do justice.

This was important stuff—and the lesson was applied by the Christian Church right from its earliest days.

So much so that the early church set up deacons whose job it was to oversee help to widows, the handicapped and the sick.

William Temple said “The Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.”

If our church sat an exam, I wonder how our report card would look?


Another good sermon, Don.

It's not the amount that the big givers give, but the small amount that is given by ones who can't afford to give.


To be able to help anyone at all the Church needs both big and tiny givers but it should never treat one as more important and neither should anyone expect special treatment because of the size of their gift.

I totally agree.



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