Monday, November 9, 2015

Sermon: Economy of God

 Hearts, Love, Fractal, Abstract, Yellow, Design, Light

The 24th Sunday after Pentecost

(RCL Proper 27, Year B) 8 November 2015
A Sermon preached in 
Christ Church, Grosse Pointe, Michigan
by The Reverend Vicki Hesse, Associate
 In the Name of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

listen here 

Good Morning!

Thank you for welcoming me to CCGP! 

This last week has been an exciting time

to meet so many of you,

to sense your eagerness,

to learn of your faith, and

to hear of your gratitude

for this parish community.

Thank you for inviting me to serve with you and

for the opportunity to be transformed and to grow together in God.

A few years ago, as a seminarian,

I was invited to participate in weekly

“house mass” and potluck supper

hosted by one of the seminary professors. 

Anyone was invited,

and there were people from nearby churches

who came each week.

The service was very meaningful,

but quickly it became apparent

that I could not afford to bring a fancy dish

and the kitchen in my basement apartment

was too sparse to make great dishes.

It seemed the potluck “system” that existed

supported those who could provide big dishes;

I sensed that perhaps my

embarrassingly small contribution to the potluck would not be sufficient. 

I decided to stop attending.

Gratefully, a friend of mine invited me

to step back and notice.

“Can’t you just be the recipient?” she said

“Allow yourself to participate and

to eat with joy…

All those people who made big casseroles

and hot dishes need someone to eat them!” 

How liberating! 

My part was to give my presence and prayers, and

to “receive” the offered dishes with gratitude.

In that exchange, I learned something

about the economy of God:

that giving and receiving

is grounded in movement of Love

in movement of Love.

And in our gospel text today,

Jesus teaches something

about the economy of God.

It’s not an easy teaching because

we want to feel good

about the widow who gave everything.

Jesus also invites us to look critically

at the scene, with perspective.

We enter this reading

as Jesus teaches the crowds

to notice and to beware of the scribes – the ones,[1]

– “who love: to walk about in long robes,

to be greeted at the market,

to sit in the best seats and

to eat with prestige at banquets.”

Jesus describes a group of people

who participate in social life and system

in order to gain privilege and status.

And for anyone in the crowd

who has been paying attention,

the scribes’ acts of gathering distinction

are opposed to Jesus previous instructions

– you know, the lessons about

being the “last” and “servant” of all,

renouncing one’s own desires,

taking up the cross and following him.

Recall earlier in the gospel,

Jesus commissions his disciples and says[2]

to take nothing:

no bread, no money, sandals but only one tunic, and

not to accumulate wealth.  

Jesus’ critique of the scribes is harsh –

but he gets even harsher…

Jesus takes a seated position

“facing” the temple treasury.

This positional description

anticipates that shortly in this gospel,

Jesus will be “facing” the temple mount

and predict its demise. 

Facing the temple treasury,

Jesus pays attention. Perhaps:

·        He sees the trumpet-shaped chests placed around the hall of the court

·        He sees people throwing money in and

·        He hears the coins, clanging when they land

·        He hears voices declaring both the amount and the purpose for which the offer was intended. 

As Jesus watches,

a poor widow put in two little coins,

the smallest coins in circulation.

(pause) clink. clink.

Wait, what?

At this critical point,

Jesus calls the disciples (and us)

to the teachable moment.

See, while the widow’s action

can be interpreted as admirable

and particularly pious

compared to those who are

putting lots of money in the treasury,

Jesus invites us to pause and notice more...

Jesus does not teach

about the measure of the gift.

Jesus does not

offer the widow special approval.

And what else does Jesus point out?

Jesus does call attention to the contrast:

“they gave from their abundance”

and “she gave out of her poverty, all she had.”

Jesus does allow that scene’s contrast to sink in.

Sometimes we need to stop and notice.

In addition to affirming the poor widow’s gift, there is another perspective.

In his remarks about the contrast,

Jesus critiqued the system

that motivated the widow to give and

Jesus condemned the social conditions

that made her poor.

The system that was supposed to

protect the widows, the most vulnerable,

did not do so. And worse – it exploited them.

This system was not God’s reign.  

The lesson that Jesus was teaching?

To notice. To recognize. To pay attention. AND

To open our hearts to be transformed

To ask what is God’s desire

To respond with love and compassion.

When we notice,

when we pay attention,

when we pause and consider another context,

perhaps we can recognize God’s activity.


Sociologist Marcel Mauss

researched a market system

that exists with tribal cultures in Polynesia. 

He paid attention to how

giving, receiving, and reciprocation of gifts

bound people together in the social fabric. 

“To refuse to give,

to fail to invite,

to refuse to accept,

is to reject the bond of alliance and community.”[3]

Other researchers have named

a striking characteristic of such an economy:

the mobility of the gift.

“Whatever has been given

is supposed to be given away and not kept…

If kept, something of similar value

should move in its stead.

The only essential is this:

*the gift must always move.[4]

In this way, social connections

of alliance and community between all persons

are celebrated, strengthened, and affirmed.

The gift must always move.

In contrast to a dominant market economy

of buying, selling, and concentration of wealth,

God’s economy is about

the circulation of wealth.

And how liberating this is! 

When we notice and pay attention,

we recognize that giving is first and foremost

the activity of God the giver –

and we humans are the receivers of that gift –

giving gifts that always move

God’s giving allows life

to emerge, flourish and be sustained.

God’s giving provides

abundance of earth and ecological richness. 

God’s gifts move

with love

and flow through our lives;

Our role is participation: re-giving and gratitude.

Together, we notice. 

We pay attention. We participate.


We praise God from whom all blessings flow and flow and flow...


[1] Ched Meyers, Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus, (Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, 2008), 320
[2] Gospel of Mark 6:8-10
[3] Matthew Colwell, Sabbath Economics: Household Practices (The Church of the Saviour, Washington DC, 2009), 41, quoting Marcell Mauss, The Gift, (W.W. Norton, 1990), 13
[4] Colwell, 41, quoting Lewis Hyde, The Gift: Imagination and the Erotic Life of Property, (Random House, 1979), 4