Pentecost 25 – Sunday, November 11, 2018

November 11, 2018  

Mark 12:38-44

There’s a story that I read a long time ago that I did an online search for—wondering where the story originated and if the story was true.
The story is about King Louis XIV of France.
If you don’t know anything about King Louis, he was born in 1638. Louis became the king of France in 1643—when he was still only 4 years old! Because he became king at such an early age, he was able to serve as king for 72 years—the longest sovereignty in European history. (All facts from Wikipedia).

The story I was looking for is this:

King Louis was the kind of king who thought greatly of himself. In fact, it has been said that he called himself “King Louis the Great.” He had a magnificent court.
When he died, the body of King Louis the Great laid in state in a golden coffin. One candle burned, the only candle lighting the sanctuary of the cathedral.
Thousands of people attended the king’s funeral, sitting in silence, waiting for the service to begin. Then the Bishop began to speak. Reaching out, he snuffed out the one candle that burned near King Louis the Great’s coffin. It is said that the bishop said as he snuffed out the candle “Only God is great.” (Story found on Bible.org/illustration/only-god-great)

I’ve found no evidence that this really happened. King Louis XIV really was king of France and he really did reign for 72 years. But the story of his funeral may be a gross exaggeration.
Yet the story has been told over and over—and here I am telling the story again.
The imagery is powerful—a man who was king almost every day of his life, laid in a gold coffin that laid in a dark cathedral, surrounded by thousands of people, with only a single candle burning.

What a contrast to today’s gospel reading.

Jesus sat in the Treasury, in the temple in Jerusalem. As he taught his disciples he watched person after person put money in the treasury. He watched rich people put in large amounts of money.
Then he saw a woman, a widow.
The woman put two copper coins in the Treasury. Two copper coins. The smallest coin in Roman currency. Similar to one of us giving two pennies.
And Jesus said: She gave more than all the others. Because she gave everything she had.

Jesus gave his life for us. All that he had, all that he was he gave—dying for us. Dying for our salvation.
For God so loved the world.

Which would we rather be?
The king who thought himself to be great, laid to rest in a golden casket?
Or the widow who gave two copper coins to the temple treasury?

This isn’t a stewardship sermon in the traditional sense. I’m not asking you to give all that you have. I’m asking: who are you? What kind of person do you strive to be?

If what we want to be is great, is it a greatness defined by our culture, defined by wealth and power and privilege?
Or do we yearn to be “great” by giving our “selves” up—by sacrificing ourselves?

Scripture is clear. God wants us… God wants all of us… God wants every aspect of our lives to be God’s.

Jesus told the disciples: If anyone wants to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. (Mark 8:34b-35).

Does God ask too much?
Is God asking too much of us, when God demands that we deny ourselves, that we give our lives to God?

It kind of feels that way.
I mean really. Who wants to give everything–all that they have, all that they are—away?

Well, the widow in the story did.

How could she?
How could she have that much faith in God? How could she have that much trust in God?

There’s no easy answer to my questions.

What we have before us is an expectation- a clear expectation of how God wants us to live.
Our response is up to us.

Amen.