Worth every penny – sermon on Mark 12.38-44

It is not often that you will hear me use the King James Version of the Bible. This morning, I will proclaim the Gospel using that version, because the one in your bulletin (NRSV) doesn’t use the word–MITE to translate the Greek word –lepta — the 2 coins Mark 12:38-43King James Version (KJV)

38 And Jesus said unto them in his doctrine, Beware of the scribes, which love to go in long clothing, and love salutations in the marketplaces, 39 And the chief seats in the synagogues, and the uppermost rooms at feasts: 40 Which devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayers: these shall receive greater damnation.41 And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. 42 And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. 43 And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury


It wasn’t worth as much as he thought. One of my favorite episodes of the show Pawn Stars is from 2009. A man comes into the pawn store with what he thinks is an antique set of little pewter figures of King Arthur and the knights of the round table. It’s from London, England, and he’s hoping to sell it at the Pawn Shop for close to $2,500 dollars. That’s close to what was paid for it years ago. However, it only takes Rick, the owner of the Pawn shop a quick look and a minute to break the bad news. Rick doesn’t offer him a penny; he’s not going to buy it. It’s not that it is so priceless. He can’t afford it or be able to sell it. No it’s actually worth just it’s weight in tin. To the obviously shocked and disappointed man, Rick suggests he should just give it to his grandkids to play with. It’s sad, but what the man thought would get him $2,500 was practically worthless.

Worthless, like big donations done to buy influence. Worthless, like prayers and piety performed to impress people. That’s what Jesus says. And that’s so contrary to popular opinion–still today. We would rather judge worthless, those two little coins thrown into the offering plate. Our culture calls a poor widow who tosses in her last two pennies–worthless.  
But, imagine for a moment how she might have felt going to the temple treasury that day with her two last little lepta–how desperate, knowing that’s all she has, knowing others will probably see her, see her poverty. She knows her little bit, her mite will be judged, and judged worth-less than other offerings. She knows she will be judged as worthless. 

Have you ever experienced that empty feeling being judged worthless in the eyes of those around you? Judged insufficient, dismissed, worth less than all those around you. No one should have to feel that way. And maybe, just maybe, might it be that’s what she is counting on as she throws the last little bit of her life in a big metal pot. Might she be hoping that the clink of her too few coins might be heard–how absurd this all is. That she pays with her life, while others get glorified. That she is at the mercy of her community, her people. Where will they see her tomorrow? What will the religious do when she has to stand on the street corner to feed herself, or God forbid her children? Might the widow’s mite condemn the world that sees her worthless. Oh my, doesn’t sound like a good stewardship sermon does it?

Perhaps that’s what Jesus is thinking as he sees, as he watches the widow toss in her two little coins. Jesus will soon be at the mercy of this world. His life will be on display for all to see, for the crowds, for the religious leaders to judge. What will they see? A man whose words can threaten the status quo, but a man whose followers abandon him, a man who claims a different reality, a different kingdom than Rome. A man whose life is not worth the trouble. A man who is judged a rebel, a criminal to be executed and thrown away as worthless.  

That’s one way, that’s persistent perception of a system that glorifies the power of gold, guts, and guns. It would work–except Jesus didn’t stay thrown away. Jesus didn’t stay down. God’s love isn’t destroyed by death, and that’s what Jesus is. When we see Jesus, we believe, we hold onto, we see God’s love that is different–so deep, so strong, love that is so committed that Jesus throws his life entirely in with ours from joy to sadness, and from birth to death–not because of anything we do, not because of our big bank accounts, but because when Jesus looks at us–he sees us as worthy. Jesus is willing to be nailed to the cross for us because God says we are worth it.
We are worth every breath; we are worth every tear; we are worth every drop of the blood of his life. Not just the rich and wealthy, not just the holier than thou who parade their piety, not just the powerful politicians who steer states and cities. Each one of us, each and every one even and especially those who this world judges as worth-less. And you know what that belief, that faith, that relationship that God has with us does? It stretches us, it reaches into our hearts and pulls us up and out of ourselves, out of being stuck in the muck of this worldly system-. God’s love moves God’s people, moves us to live lives that are all in, all into God’s way–a way so that No one should have to gather twigs to cook their own last meal, no one should be at the point where they have just two pennies. No one is judged worthless
We do not have to just be the tiny insignificant church on the corner. We are the ones who speak God’s Word, God’s declaration, God’s judgement, and you know what it is. It declares that the people who come to the food pantry are worth every penny, the people who wouldn’t step foot in a church, who might not feel welcome in a church but come to a Windfall production, are worth every penny. The refugees the men, the women, the children who have had to leave their homes in Burma–they are worth every penny. We are the ones who with Common Ground declare that the children of this city are worth every penny–well worth–they deserve millions of dollars that will instead be spent for business and billionaires when a new arena goes up a couple of blocks from us. It’s through the choices we make– what we do, what we say–these are our prayers–and in God’s eyes they–we are worthy–worth every penny.
Today as you step over to the table, you will be given just bite or a mite of bread. It is love. It is Jesus. Jesus who goes all in for us. It is Jesus who dies for us. This mite of bread holds God’s mighty love, forgiveness, healing. In this cup it is all poured out for us. God gives it to us, this love this power, this peace broken down into bits, bites, and mites for us week after week. It declares you are worth more than your portfolio, your credit score, your grades. You are worthy. Worth more than what you’ve ever done–worth more than whatever’s been done to us. Today–God says you are worth every penny. You are worth it all. Amen.


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