For the Love of Jesus

Mark 14:3-9

For the Love of Jesus

October 15, 2017

 

          I asked you last Sunday, “What is the greatest gift you’ve ever given . . . or received?” I’ll share just a few now and you can read many more on the bulletin board down the art hallway.

--Not surprisingly, the greatest number of responses were about family.  Some were about family in general:

1. My family—I am blessed.

2. Inclusion in my husband’s family & Inclusion in the Maple Grove family of God

--Many were about children:

3. My kids! Heart. Smiley face!

4. Micah, Suzy, Jaden (I know whose kids those are, Kris & Aaron Shear!)

--And quite a few were about partners and spouses:

5. Greatest gift received? My wife who made all my happiness possible

6. My husband. God put him in my life and I give God thanks every day for this gift.

--  7. This one says simply “Love.”  And there were many variations of God’s love, people’s love, mercy, grace, etc.

--Several were about this:

8. Both given and received . . .  acceptance and forgiveness.

--There were actually multiple cards that for greatest gift ever given said something like this:

9. 133 pints of blood.

--And then there were many very personal responses that simply can’t be categorized.  I encourage you to read them all on the bulletin board.  Here are just four:

10. As I was graduating high school, the pastor and organist convinced me to go to a 4-year college.  I had no money but they convinced me that I’d figure it out.  I did.

11. (I take this one to be a young person’s handwriting.)  My phone.

12. My favorite aunt recently died.  My uncle gave me one of her bracelets that she wore all the time.  Now when I wear it, I feel her presence and know she is with me.

13. Best Gift Given: Caring for my dad weeks before he died.  Received: Visiting my mom one week before she died.

 

Video:  “The Offering”

 

          We pledge to support the ministries of the church with our gifts.  The video offers a laugh at some reasons people might give to their church:

  • There’s pride—wanting the praise of others, our name on a plaque.  Jesus talks about this in the Sermon on the Mount.  He doesn’t say you can’t give to be seen by others.  He just says that if you do, that’s all the reward there is—no inner satisfaction, no spiritual growth, just the plaque.
  • Others give out of guilt.  As the video shows, giving this way is misery, because it’s never enough.  First receive God’s mercy and forgiveness; then you give out of gratitude. 
  • Many people give as that first woman did--or started to--to meet the needs if the church.  There is nothing wrong with this.  We’re all being asked to do that:  to increase our giving in order to add a youth leader to our church staff.  But giving to meet a need has its drawbacks.  It tempts us to compare our giving with others.  How great is the need?  What’s “my share?”  Why aren’t other people giving “their share?”  This might meet the need, but it seldom leads to joy.
  • The last man wanted to give to “say thanks” to God but was sadly unprepared to give.  But that’s a whole different sermon!

 

          Today I want to hold up to you gospel reading, how after dinner one night a woman took an entire jar of costly perfume—worth, some said, 300 denarii—and poured it all out on Jesus’ head.  300 denarii was roughly a year’s pay for a laborer—we might say $30,000 today.  The woman took $30,000 worth of perfume and poured it out on Jesus’ head. 

          $30,000—what got into this woman?  Well, overwhelming gratitude.  John’s gospel says this woman was Mary, whose brother Jesus had raised from the dead.  What’s $30,000 when your brother is alive again?

          What got into this woman?  She seems to have sensed that Jesus was on his way to die.  Nard was used to anoint the dead.  What’s $30,000 when the Lord, the Son of God, is laying down his life for you?

          What got into this woman?  Well, let’s just call it love.  The woman gave this gift out of love for Jesus.  Guilt can pry some contributions out of us.  Meeting needs can prompt some carefully measured gifts.  But it is love that unlocks the heart; it is love that generates generosity.

          Bishop Robert Schnase tells about six members of a church’s Finance Committee dealing with an air conditioning repair bill of $465.  The checking account was too low to pay the bill, so they met to discuss what to do.  Borrow the money? Decrease giving to apportionments? Make yet another appeal to the congregation?  Finally one woman said, “Look, we’re letting our need to pay this bill prevent us from seeing what the church is really for—loving Jesus.  Some of us at this table could write a check for the entire $465 and never miss it.  And she got out her purse, wrote a check for $465 and put it on the table.  “Now you don’t have to give to pay the air conditioning bill,” she told them.  You can just give because you love Jesus.  They all put checks of their own on the table.  The result was that the air conditioner bill was paid that night and the church had $1695 to launch a new ministry to reach children for Jesus Christ.1

         

          When she was in grade school, my daughter’s school did a fundraiser for leukemia.  Part of the money went to medical research and part went to the family of a girl from the school who had the disease.  We were asked to collect change, so our family had a jar on the dining room table and we’d put change in it every now and then.  When it was time for Rachel to take the money to school, she came out of her room that morning with a huge plastic bag crammed full of change.  I mean, she could barely carry it!  I began my fatherly investigation.  “What’s that for?”

          “Our class project,” she said.

          “Do you even know how much money is in there?” I asked.

          “No,” she said, “I just filled the bag up until I couldn’t get any more in.”

          I started to object.  I thought to myself, “Now honey, you have to think about saving your money, too.  It’s nice to be generous, dear, but you need to be sensible too.”  She must have sensed what I was about to say.  “But Daddy,” she cried, “I love that girl!”  I didn’t say anything.  I just nodded . . . and cried a little. 

 

          Now even as I tell that story, I can see it from a different angle.  That was fine for her--right?--she had no rent to pay.  She had no mouths to feed, no college loans to repay.  I get that.  And I really hope you won’t put all your money in a bag and bring it here, okay?  But I also hope that love for Jesus will be pounding in your heart next time the offering plate is passed, that love for Jesus will guide your hand as when you fill out your commitment card.  Not pride, not guilt, not even meeting the needs of the church will cause us to break the jar and pour out our perfume.  For that, it’s got to come out of love for Jesus. 

 

1 Adapted from Robert Schnase, Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations (Nashville: Abingdon, 2007), 111-12.

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